Wahaca becomes first restaurant chain in Europe to allow customers to pay through Facebook Messenger: Mexican restaurant brand Wahaca has become the first chain in Europe to be connected to Facebook Messenger, enabling its customers to pay their bill through the platform. Hailed as one of the best examples of a chatbot on Facebook Messenger at the annual F8 Conference on Tuesday (1 May), Wahaca worked with technology partner Flyt to enable guests to retrieve, split and pay their bill through Messenger. In an industry first, Flyt used its universal hospitality platform to connect the technology giant’s platform used by billions of people to the physical environment of restaurants. Flyt chief executive Tom Weaver said: “Flyt continues to deliver on the possibilities integration offers hospitality and retail businesses. As a key Facebook Messenger partner, Flyt is enabling new services within the biggest platform in the world and is offering operators the opportunity to rapidly innovate. Our universal integration platform is growing in the number of available services a business owner can use to create new experiences for its customers. To have our work showcased at the F8 conference is a watershed moment for Flyt.”
Brewhouse & Kitchen to secure east London site, lobbies Labour leader on industry issues: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the brewpub business led by Kris Gumbrell and Simon Bunn, is about to expand its portfolio in London, Propel has learned. Gumbrell revealed the company was about to exchange on a site in east London that would add to its venues in Highbury and Islington. He also said the group was in legals on three further sites. Meanwhile, Gumbrell and Bunn welcomed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to its Islington site to discuss industry issues. One topic involved the role MPs can play in promoting apprenticeships in the industry – Brewhouse & Kitchen is spearheading the UK’s first advanced brewing qualification, a degree-equivalent apprenticeship. Corbyn was also urged to lobby for the rights of EU migrant workers who are “essential to the success of the UK hospitality sector as a whole”. Gumbrell and Bunn said small businesses such as Brewhouse & Kitchen depended on support from local MPs to keep operational costs down via initiatives such as Small Brewers Duty Relief and the cost of screening televised sport. Gumbrell added: “He spent about two hours with us so it wasn’t just a flying visit and it was great to have the opportunity to speak to him about these issues. He certainly has a way with young people and I think we could also learn something from that, irrespective of political persuasion.” Brewhouse & Kitchen operates 20 sites across the UK and last month opened its largest site to date, in Milton Keynes.
Brakspear set to reopen Cotswolds pub in biggest project in company’s history: Pub operator and brewer Brakspear is set to open the Frogmill near Cheltenham in July, following a major redevelopment that represents the biggest project in the company’s 240-year history. Brakspear purchased the Frogmill, in Shipton Oliffe, near Andoversford, in early 2016, since when it has been closed while plans were developed for the refurbishment, which is now under way. When complete, it will be Brakspear’s biggest managed site, comprising a 100-cover restaurant, bar, 28 boutique bedrooms and wedding and conference facilities for up to 150 guests. The grade-II listed, traditional Cotswolds stone building is believed to date to the 16th century. The redevelopment will retain many of its original features including fireplaces, flagstone floors, exposed beams and, in the grounds, a wisteria-covered stone pergola and a watermill. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “We’re thrilled the transformation of the Frogmill is under way and look forward to seeing the final result after many months of planning. The start of work on the site has sparked a lot of interest locally and we’re already receiving enquiries for weddings and room bookings, so we’re expecting to be busy from day one. The Frogmill’s dedicated wedding and event facilities set it apart from our other managed sites, but we have a great track record of running successful, award-winning pubs with a quality food offer and accommodation. Our managed business is now five years old and we have built a strong infrastructure including estate-wide recruitment, training, menu development and marketing, which will enable us to replicate our success at this larger, more complex site.” The Frogmill takes Brakspear’s managed estate to 12 sites. The division was formed in 2013 with the opening of the Bull in Henley-on-Thames and includes pubs across the Cotswolds and south east. Seven sites – including the Frogmill – currently offer accommodation, with a total of just over 100 rooms. Meanwhile, 13 rooms are being added this summer to the newest acquisition, the Lion in Wendlebury, near Bicester.
Charles Wells gets approval for new £13m brewery: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells has had its plans for a £13m brewery approved by Bedford Borough Council. Work will begin at the Fairhill site in August, with the 30,000-hectolitre brewery set to go online in summer 2019. The site will also feature a visitors’ centre, pub and events space. Charles Wells commercial director Peter Wells said: “This new brewery will allow us to meet the changing tastes of the nation’s beer drinkers by developing a new range of beers in a smaller, more artisanal brewing environment than our previous facility. We’ve listened to our pub partners and customers and introduced initiatives such as The Wandering Brewer project, which sees our head brewer collaborating with some of the most innovative young brewers around the country. This new facility will enable us to be more agile, producing beers that customers in our 200-plus pubs want to explore and drink. Its prominent position on the way into Bedford will serve as a great welcome to the town, helping to celebrate its rich brewing history. We are excited to start work later this summer in bringing our vision to life and continuing to be an integral part of the community for generations to come.” Marston’s acquired Charles Wells’ former Bedford brewery and brand sales interests for a cash consideration of £55m plus working capital adjustments in May 2017, relaunching the facility as Eagle Brewery earlier this year.
Whitbread secures 31 UK Premier Inn deals in latest financial year: Whitbread has reported it secured 31 Premier Inn deals in the UK during its 2017/18 financial year, adding 4,300 bedrooms. The deals, struck at an average of one a fortnight, include seven sites in London. Outside the capital, sites were added in core cities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh and Brighton, while deals were also signed to bring the brand to Brecon, the Isle of Man and Porthmadog for the first time. The company said it would focus on establishing Premier Inn in the Republic of Ireland, with Dublin a key location. Whitbread director of acquisitions Jo Moon said: “The pace we are doing deals demonstrates how active we are across the country. We plan to build on this momentum, targeting a similar number of Premier Inn and hub by Premier Inn bedrooms in the 2018/19 financial year. Premier Inn is a strong growth business, backed by the Whitbread covenant, and we have an ambitious and innovative real estate strategy.” Whitbread’s financial year ran from March 2017 to February 2018. The business has more than 14,700 Premier Inn and hub by Premier Inn bedrooms in its committed pipeline and expects to achieve its target of 85,000 bedrooms by 2020. Of that pipeline, 40% will be in areas with no Premier Inns, 30% in catchments with limited Premier Inn supply, and 30% in locations with higher supply and demand.
Tom Kitchin to launch pub with rooms on Scotland’s east coast: Kitchin Group, led by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin, is to launch a pub with rooms, The Bonnie Badger, in the village of Gullane on Scotland’s east coast. The hotel, near Muirfield golf course, dates to 1836 and was previously The Golf Inn. The venue will undergo a full refurbishment to feature a 60-cover dining room, bar and 12 bedrooms. The decor – by Burns Design and Kitchin’s wife and business partner Michaela – will blend Scandinavian and Scottish influences, while the kitchen will only use seasonal produce from local suppliers. Kitchin said: “My wife and I have always loved the feel of the old hotel and want to keep the heart of the building while enhancing the offering. Our aim is to create a welcoming and charming place for guests to enjoy good food and drink, which I hope the local community will embrace and enjoy. It will also be a place to escape for a day trip or weekend break to experience the beautiful setting East Lothian has to offer.” Kitchin operates four restaurants in Edinburgh. He also makes regular television appearances and will publish a cookbook inspired by summer holidays in Scotland this summer.
East London distillery hits £750,000 crowdfunding target within 24 hours:Gin, vodka and whisky distillery East London Liquor Company (ELLC) has hit its £750,000 fund-raise target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube within 24 hours of launch. The company, which is listed in more than 1,000 UK accounts and exports to 20 markets, is offering 4.76% equity in return for investment to drive growth in the UK and abroad. So far, 277 investors have pledged £875,570 and the campaign is overfunding with 28 days remaining. In the three years since it was founded, ELLC has sold 327,764 bottles of spirits in the UK, delivering £4.25m in sales revenue. The company is valued at £15m and will build annual bottle sales to 592,000 bottles in 2022, delivering sales revenue of £9.8m. The company’s five-year plan forecasts 1.8 million bottle sales during that period driven by 30% year-on-year growth. Total sales revenues for the five-year period will be £28.7m. The business will turn over £10.5m by 2020 (2017 turnover was £1.8m, 2018 estimated turnover is £2.5m). The pitch states: “When we started, we were a team of four producing about 1,000 bottles per month for east London accounts and had a bar in Bow Wharf. Now we’re a team of 30 producing more than 12,000 bottles per month, exporting to 20 markets and with plans to launch in New York, Toronto and China before the end of 2018. Sales in 2017 totalled £2.95m (net loss £300,000). We have expanded our base in east London to include a restaurant and bottle shop, with a second bottle shop opened in Borough Market. When our London Rye Whisky launches by the end of 2018 it will be one of the first London whiskies in more than 100 years. Our production is at about 20% capacity so we have plenty of room to grow. Our whisky tastes amazing and we want to produce more of it, quadrupling our production by 2022. We want to expand our sales team to push UK and international growth.” Alex Wolpert launched ELLC in April 2014. Barworks finance director Scott Chillery is also a founding shareholder. Wolpert said: “Established and emerging markets represent a massive opportunity for British brands. Brexit poses a challenge to our industry but the funds raised through this campaign will help us tear down those barriers.”
Gordon Ramsay to bring steak restaurant to Atlantic City: Gordon Ramsay is bringing an east coast version of his Las Vegas Gordon Ramsay Steak restaurant to Harrah’s Atlantic City. The new Harrah’s eatery will bear the same name as Gordon Ramsay Steak locations in Paris and Las Vegas. Ramsay opened his Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesar’s Atlantic City in 2015. Ramsey said: “I couldn’t be more pleased to introduce Gordon Ramsay Steak to Atlantic City. Since first opening Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars, the city has quickly become a true dining destination. I can’t wait for Gordon Ramsay Steak to make its mark on the culinary landscape with a concept that will offer guests the best dry-aged beef, finest seafood and freshest locally sourced ingredients in a uniquely warm and comfortable setting.” The restaurant’s menu features modern steakhouse fare, including a 32-ounce royal long-bone chop for two. The Gordon Ramsay Group operates 33 restaurants globally. Harrah’s Gordon Ramsay Steak is the latest in a partnership between Ramsay and Caesars Entertainment, which owns and operates Bally’s, Caesars, and Harrah’s Resort.
The Ivy Collection opens first coastal site, in Brighton: The Ivy Collection has opened its first coastal site, in Brighton. The venue, which is also the company’s first site in Sussex, has opened in a grade II-listed former post office in Ship Street in the city’s historic Lanes. The Ivy In The Lanes offers breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, light snacks, bespoke cocktails and dinner. Live DJs perform on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and during weekend brunch sittings, while there is also a 20-cover private dining room. The Ivy Collection executive operations director Yishay Malkov told Restaurants Brighton: “We are thrilled to be opening a restaurant in the heart of Brighton’s historic quarter. As a city with a rich cultural, music and arts scene, Brighton is the perfect place to open our first Sussex-based restaurant.” The Ivy brand is expanding rapidly across the UK, with recent brasserie openings in Birmingham, Cheltenham, Guildford, York and King’s Cross. Further launches are lined up for Dublin, Leeds, Norwich and Winchester. This week, The Ivy Collection’s parent company Caprice Holdings reported turnover increased 37.9% to £67,141,606 for the year ending 1 January 2017, compared with £48,669,914 the previous year. Adjusted Ebitda was up to £12,435,400, compared with £8,788,503 the year before. Pre-tax profit jumped to £8,747,033, compared with £2,215,972 the previous year.
 
Jones Bar Group to open second Leeds Roxy Ball Room: Jones Bar Group is to open a second site in Leeds for its Roxy Ball Room brand. The company will launch the bar in Merrion Street in June on a site formerly occupied by Bar Soba, which is moving to new premises in the city. The £400,000 renovation will see the downstairs area transformed to feature ten beer-pong battle stations. Upstairs will feature a second bar, three shuffleboards, three ping-pong tables, three American pool tables and an arcade basketball game. The site will also have a huge projector screen showing all major games, including the 2018 World Cup. Operations director John Crowe told BDaily: “Our new Roxy Ball Room will be in the heart of Merrion Street adding to the rock and indie vibe the street is famous for.” Jones Bar Group’s other Roxy Ball Room sites are in Liverpool, Huddersfield, Manchester and Nottingham.
Dalston Superstore founders to launch karaoke dive bar: The founders of east London gay bar Dalston Superstore are to open a karaoke dive bar in the area on Thursday, 24 May. The Karaoke Hole will launch in Kingsland High Street hosting professional drag queens curated by creative director Emma Kroeger and amateurs alike on a disco ball-clad stage with wind machines. The basement bar will open Thursday to Saturday, with pre-bookable tables from 7pm to 10pm and cocktails such as Total Eclipse and Dancing Queen. The rest of the evening will be devoted to “free-for-all karaoke”, with fancy dress encouraged. Co-founder Dan Beaumont said: “The Karaoke Hole is the perfect way to bring together the holy trinity of karaoke, drag and glitter under one roof.” Kroeger added: “We’re looking forward to making people’s Stars In Their Eyes dreams come true!”
Soho House launches White City space: Soho House has opened its venue at the White City development in west London. White City House offers two floors of club space, a rooftop pool and bar, cinema, screening room, 24,000 square foot gym, and 45 bedrooms within the former BBC headquarters’ original grade II-listed central ring. The tenth floor features a rooftop swimming pool and bar, while the ninth floor is the main members’ space. House Gym, the largest Soho House gym to date, is in the basement of the Helios Building featuring a swimming pool, steam room, sauna and juice bar. The ground floor is open to the public, where The Allis offers food and drinks all day. The two-screen Electric Cinema White City is in the basement. Soho House joins a number of other brands at the £8bn development including better pizza brand Homeslice, D&D London’s Bluebird, Indian small plates concept Kricket, and better burger brand Patty & Bun.
Mark Jarvis launches third London restaurant, in Mayfair: Modern British chef Mark Jarvis, chef patron of London restaurants Anglo and Neo, has launched a new concept in Mayfair for his third restaurant in the capital. The concept – Stem – has opened in an 18th century building in Princes Street with room for 35 diners and a six-seat private chef’s table on the lower ground floor. The kitchen is headed by Sam Ashton-Booth, former Anglo head chef. Jarvis and Ashton-Booth have created a menu with dishes such as smoked eel with celeriac and white chocolate, pigeon with coconut and salted peanut, and pineapple with olive oil, lime and salt. An international wine list has been curated by group operations manager Jon Cannon. Jarvis told Hot Dinners: “Stem is a bit of Anglo heading west to Regent Street – informal but precise in terms of its modern British food.” Jarvis opened Anglo in Farringdon in March 2016, launching Neo in Mayfair 13 months later.
Peaky Blinders-themed gin bar and casino opens in Nottingham: A Peaky Blinders-themed gin bar and casino has opened in Nottingham. Inspired by the BBC drama about the criminal activities of the Peaky Blinders gang, run by Thomas Shelby in Birmingham in 1919, Shelby Gin Company And Casino is themed around an illegal gambling den, although bets are placed using play money. Located within The Lacemakers Arms, customers can play roulette, blackjack and poker. The Gaming Academy boss Rob Kidd, who runs the casino, said: “People can start with £50 in play money and, by the end of the night, whoever makes the most will go on the leader board.” More than 50 gins are available at the prohibition-style bar, with dry ice adding to the atmosphere in the bar, which is in a partitioned section in The Lacemakers Arms decked out with gaming tables, a church pew and barrel-shaped tables. The bar itself is crafted out of a 1920s workbench. The gin bar is open Friday and Saturday nights with the casino operating on Saturdays only.
Pipers launches Crispeas range: Pipers Crisps, stocked by a number of sector operators, has launched a range designed to tap into the fast-growing better for you (BFY) sector. Pipers Crispeas are a take on British peas with three flavours – Matar Paneer, Salsa Verde and English Mint – all with fewer than 95 calories. The range is gluten-free, wheat-free, barley-free and suitable for vegetarians. The BFY market is worth almost £125m, growing 9.3% year-on-year, with two-thirds of transactions by repeat purchasers. Pipers marketing manager Katy Hamblin said: “We have looked carefully at trends driving the healthy snacking market. It’s clear there are two key factors – taste and nutritional benefits. Protein as a cited benefit is an important global food trend, with more than 50% of consumers citing the need for more protein in their daily diet. However, taste is still the key driver. That’s why we’ve combined three delicious flavours for our British peas, which are already naturally low in calories as well as a source of protein and fibre.” Meanwhile, Piper has redesigned its packaging under the “live life full of flavour” motto, featuring clearer nutritional messaging.
BaxterStorey promotes hospitality careers at West Lothian farm to fork event: Contract catering company BaxterStorey took part in a farm to fork event in West Lothian, Scotland, which gave schoolchildren a chance to look at career options in the hospitality sector. Pupils from 25 West Lothian schools took part in the event, with a BaxterStorey catering team on hand to highlight the role and responsibilities of a hospitality provider, including training and development opportunities that are available through its academies. The day-long event, organised by Scotland’s Rural College and Lantra Scotland, included interactive workshops. BaxterStorey catering manager Gemma Lilgert said: “It was really rewarding being able to talk to the next generation of potential hospitality stars and to share with them how rewarding a career in this industry can be.”