Azzurri Group appoints new finance directors for ASK and Zizzi: Azzurri Group, the Bridgepoint-backed operator, has appointed new finance directors for its two casual dining brands, ASK Italian and Zizzi, Propel has learned. Karen Sweetman has joined Zizzi as finance director from Navitas, having previously worked at Homebase as head of trading finance and business accounting services. The appointment follows the recent promotion of Chris Webb to finance director of ASK Italian. Azzurri chief executive Stephen Holmes told Propel: “Karen’s appointment reflects the brand’s ongoing success in the UK as well as its continued expansion into Ireland and, most recently, China. Chris has worked for Azzurri Group for seven years and his appointment as finance director is a reflection of ASK’s leading position in the Italian casual dining sector and its ability to develop talent through to senior positions within the business.” Both roles continue to report into Lindsay Dunsmuir, Azzurri Group chief financial officer. Dunsmuir joined Azzurri last year from Maplin replacing Jim Pickworth, who had been with Azzurri for 11 years. Pickworth subsequently joined New World Trading Company as its chief financial officer.
Operators secured for new Westfield London food court: The first tranche of operators, including Pizza Pilgrims and Corazon, have been secured for the new food court at Westfield London. Pizza Pilgrims will launch a slimmed-down version of its concept at Cafe Court, while the Laura Sheffield-led Corazon will open Tacos Corazon at the scheme. Master Bao, a concept by the team behind Daddy Bao in Peckham, and chef Pascal Aussignac’s fish restaurant Catch Me are also set to open in the food court. Bleecker Burger has also been linked to an opening in Cafe Court, which will also house units from existing Westfield London-based operators Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho; Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed restaurant group; Comptoir Libanais, the Lebanese canteen specialising in fresh Middle Eastern dishes; and Indian street food brand Indigo. Pizza Pilgrims co-founder Thom Elliott told Propel: “I guess the biggest difference is it will be Pizza Pilgrims as part of a food court model rather than a restaurant. We’re excited about the opportunity to be in such a busy location and looking forward to the challenge of making such a set up a great place to work, as with every Pizza Pilgrim. We are going to focus the menu somewhat to ensure we can deliver the highest possible quality at high volume but, other than that, we are trying to play the Pizza Pilgrims hits where we can – hot pizza, cold beer, lots of smiles.” DCL is understood to be acting for Westfield on Cafe Court.
Steak of the Art sold in pre-pack agreement: Steak of the Art has been sold in a pre-pack agreement, Propel has learned. Stephen Ramsbottom and Craig Povey, of CVR Global, were appointed administrators after the then three-strong Steak of the Art was unsuccessful in its bid to refinance the business and a buyer couldn’t be found. CVR Global worked with Steak of the Art founder Steve Bowen to restructure the business, which resulted in the closure of its Southampton site. Its Bristol and Cardiff venues will continue to trade, saving about 35 jobs. Ramsbottom said: “A combination of factors made the business unsustainable including high rents, a reduction in customer spend, a poor trading location in Southampton and uncertainty in the market caused by Brexit. The company tried to refinance and restructure but that didn’t prove possible and it was forced to enter administration. The goodwill and reputation of the company was tied to the main director and founder and a search failed to reveal buyers for the business. As a result CVR Global, acting as administrators, worked with the business’ existing director and founder to restructure the business to save two of the three sites and protect about 35 jobs, which will see the Cardiff and Bristol outlets continue to trade as normal under the same management.” Former City worker turned chef Steve Bowen founded the concept based on food served in a gallery that showcases quality affordable art. The first restaurant opened in Cathedral Walk, Bristol, in 2013 with a second following in Churchill Way, Cardiff two years later. The Southampton site opened at Admiral’s Quay in Ocean Village in February 2016.
Gaillot leaves Le Pain for Vagabond: Nicolas Gaillot has left Le Pain Quotidien, the all-day bakery and cafe concept, to join Imbiba-backed wine bar business Vagabond Wines as director of operations. In early 2016, Gaillot rejoined Le Pain as director of operations from deli and cafe concept La Bottega, where he had spent two years following three and a half years as director of operations at three-strong Villandry. Gaillot previously spent six years at Le Pain, including stints as operations manager in the UK and director of operations in France. Le Pain appointed former Patisserie Valerie managing director and EAT chief executive Adrian Johnson as UK managing director last year. Vagabond received £3.5m of growth capital investment from Imbiba, the UK leisure and hospitality specialist investor in August. Founded by Stephen Finch as a relaxed bar with informal wine tasting in 2010, the business has developed five sites in London and is looking to expand quickly during the next 18 months.
Hubbox submits plans to open Barnstaple site: West Country better burger brand Hubbox has submitted plans to open a restaurant in Barnstaple, Devon. The application seeks to change the use of the Gliddon and Squire Building in Tuly Street. The former Natwest branch would be converted into a two-storey restaurant with a bar, with seating on both floors. The proposal includes a new timber-framed main entrance for the grade II-listed building, the North Devon Gazette reports. A design and access statement for the application reads: “The intention is to retain as much of the fabric of the building internally and externally as possible to show appropriate sensitivity to the building’s grade II-listed status.” Hubbox operates seven sites with plans to expand its portfolio to between 18 and 20 sites by the end of 2021. Last year it also moved its Exeter business to much larger premises, while it plans to upsize its flagship site in St Ives, Cornwall, after acquiring a neighbouring restaurant. Founder and chief executive Richard Boon said: “We have pipelined some fantastic sites that will include great bars featuring beer and cider from some of the south west’s finest breweries.”
BrewDog seeks London site to bring craft beer hotel to UK: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is looking to bring its craft beer hotel concept to the UK. The company launched DogHouse next to its US brewery in Columbus last year. Now BrewDog has revealed plans for a second venue closer to home as it starts its search for a site in London to convert into a DogHouse. The US venue opened in August last year, with the 32-bedroom hotel featuring beer taps in each room and a built-in shower fridge. The concept sees the front desk replaced by a lobby bartender, who checks in guests while they enjoy a complimentary beer. There is also a craft beer museum. BrewDog said it planned to replicate the experience on the other side of the Atlantic. The company stated: “The search is on for a location we can convert into the UK’s first craft beer hotel in the centre of the biggest beer city this country has. We are actively hunting for an epic site. We may even fit a Punk IPA Jacuzzi as well! Nothing is off limits at the moment. Once we find a location we’ll make our London hotel every bit as amazing as the one on the other side of the Atlantic. Watch this space – London is going to get a new craft beer destination very soon.”
Benito’s Hat closes Leicester site: Mexican restaurant brand Benito’s Hat has closed its Leicester site. The company has shut the venue at the Highcross shopping centre, which opened in June last year. A Benito’s Hat spokesman told Leicestershire Live: “Sadly the location was no longer working for us. Despite the effort, we had to accept the site wasn’t working any more.” Benito’s Hat now operates nine venues having opened its flagship restaurant last month at the Icon Outlet at the O2 Arena. In August last year, Benito’s Hat raised £1m from existing investors to fuel its next stage of growth. Ben Fordham and Felipe Fuentes Cruz founded Benito’s Hat in London in 2008. Fordham stepped back from the business at the end of 2017 to fulfil a promise to his Texan wife to move to the US, where he is launching new venture Front Page Restaurant & Bar.
Albion and East Group launches fourth London site, in Hoxton: Albion and East Group, which is supported by Imbiba, has launched its fourth London site, in Hoxton. Serata Hall has opened just off Old Street featuring an in-house distillery and bakery, super-fast Wi-Fi and hot-desk spaces with a bottomless coffee offer. The distillery produces small-batch Serata Hall gin and hosts gin-blending masterclasses. The venue also features cocktail trolleys while hosting London DJs and live bands. Customers can create their own cocktails or “book a bartender”. Serata Hall also stocks a range of absinthe, five draught beers and 12 wines on tap, the biggest selection of wine on tap outside the US. The in-house Tiny Tower Bakery produces pastries, cakes, bread and pizza dough for Serata Hall and its sister sites. The menu focuses on pizza cooked in a coal oven alongside pasta dishes. Albion and East launched Martello Hall in Hackney in 2016, followed by Canova Hall in Brixton in May 2017. Cattivo opened next to Canova Hall in October last year.
Co-owner of Michelin-starred Harwood Arms to open restaurant and bar in Stratford-upon-Avon this month: Mike Robinson, restaurateur and co-owner of the Michelin-starred Harwood Arms in Fulham, is to open The Woodsman in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, this month. The restaurant and bar will launch at the 93-bedroom Hotel Indigo Stratford-upon-Avon on Tuesday, 16 April. The restaurant will have its own entrance off Church Street. Robinson will work with head chef Jon Coates to bring his “field to fork” philosophy to The Woodsman, with a focus on sustainability, seasonality and locally sourced produce. A large wood-fired oven and charcoal grill will be the restaurant’s focal point, with guests able to watch chefs at work. The Woodsman will also house an on-site butchery. Robinson and Coates will also oversee The Falcon, the hotel’s original tea room. Guests will be able to choose sweet and savoury treats paired with champagne. In the evening, The Falcon bar will offer a seasonally rotating cocktail list. The grade II-listed, 16th century building has been closed for a year.
Hertfordshire-based McDonald’s franchisee opens fourth site: Hertfordshire-based McDonald’s franchisee Compassco has opened its fourth site. The company, owned and managed by Alan Butchers since its inception in 2012, has opened the outlet at Maylands Gateway Retail Park in Hemel Hempstead following a £1.09m funding package from HSBC UK. Compassco’s other three McDonald’s restaurants are also in Hertfordshire – in Apsley, Bourne End and Jarman Fields Leisure Park in Hemel Hempstead – employing more than 400 staff in total. The new restaurant spans two floors and includes eight self-service tills as well as table service. The 160-seater restaurant also features phone-charging ports and tablets. Butchers said: “We are excited to open our fourth site, in Hemel Hempstead, and look forward to welcoming long-standing and new customers.” Russel Merchant, HSBC UK’s area director for business banking in east London, added: “Alan is a successful entrepreneur with an impressive portfolio of restaurants across the Hemel Hempstead area. Having worked with him and his company for more than five years, we were happy to support his plans for a new site and the business’ longer-term expansion.”
Whitley Bay Brewing Company lines up new bar: Whitley Bay Brewing Company has lodged plans to open a second bar under its Gilbert and Smiths concept in the north east seaside town. Founder Gavin Hattrick has applied to Gateshead Council to convert an empty property in Durham Road. The new venue would focus on high-end cocktails, gin, real ale and craft beer, reports Chronicle Live. A planning statement accompanying the application reads: “We currently operate several bars within the Whitley Bay area and operate Whitley Bay Brewing Company, where we brew our own craft beer. One of our bars in Whitley Bay, Gilbert and Smiths, is a small bar that sells high-end cocktails, gin, real ale and craft beer aimed at a clientele aged 40 and upwards. We want to create another Gilbert and Smiths at Durham Road.”
Flat Iron Square founder launches eating, drinking and arts space in London Bridge: Flat Iron Square founder Benj Scrimgeour has launched an eating, drinking and arts space in London Bridge. Vinegar Yard has opened in St Thomas Street featuring street food traders, bars, pop-up shops, art installations and large indoor and outdoor spaces with seating for hundreds of people. Open seven days a week, the initial food line-up includes My Million Pound Menu winners Baba G’s, which operates at Pop Brixton and Camden Market, an eighth coffee shop for The Gentlemen Baristas, Argentinian-inspired steak and chimichurri brand Up In My Grill, which operates at three Street Feast sites (two seasonal), and gravy-dipped burger concept Nanny Bill’s, which operates residencies in Dalton and Boxpark Wembley. Vinegar Yard will also host a vintage flea market at weekends. Scrimgeour launched Flat Iron Square in Bankside in 2016 after taking over seven London Bridge railway arches and grade II-listed Devonshire House. It features 16 traders and an outdoor stage.
Bottega to double up in Birmingham: Italian drinks brand Bottega is to open a second prosecco bar in Birmingham. The company will open the venue on the boardwalk at Arena Birmingham. The new bar will join Ed’s Easy Diner, which is owned by Boparan Restaurant Group, and Costa Coffee, now owned by Coca-Cola, on the canal side of the Arena. As well as prosecco, the Bottega concept offers small Mediterranean sharing plates. Claudia Gambin, global business development manager, told Birmingham Live: “At Bottega we advocate the importance of a healthy lifestyle based on varied and simple food, which is inherent in the Mediterranean diet. We also believe in pairing food and drink, which is why we have created our own food and wine combinations.” The other Bottega bar in the city opened last year at Birmingham airport in partnership with UK transport hub foodservice specialist SSP Group.
Leeds-based street food cafe Manjit’s Kitchen sees plans for second city site fall through: Leeds-based street food cafe Manjit’s Kitchen has seen plans for a second site in the city fall through. Owners Manjit Kaur and Michael Jameson had entered into negotiations over a site in Kirkstall Road and raised more than £40,000 on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter towards the project. However, Kaur revealed the lease agreement had fallen through. Kaur told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “We uncovered a problem with the electrical supply and couldn’t reach an agreement with the landlord so we are back to the property search. We are wiser on commercial leases and have lost some money on legal fees but it wasn’t meant to be.” Kaur and Jameson have operated a cafe in Kirkgate Market’s food hall since 2015 having previously run the business from a converted horsebox at festivals and other outdoor events. The concept offers Indian vegetarian street food and has won a BBC Food And Farming award.
Piano Works launches singalong party and dining experience: The Piano Works has launched an immersive singalong party and dining experience at its late-night live music venue in London’s West End. SingEasy has been inspired by New York singalong institutions Ellen’s Stardust Diner and Marie’s Crisis Café. The pre-bookable experience takes place in a 100-capacity private room with a stage and offers themes including Open Mic Musical Theatre Monday, SingEasy Goes Drag and SingEasy Goes To The Movies, with guests able to join in with the venue’s singing waiters. SingEasy offers a pre-theatre menu with two courses and a drinks list comprising cocktails, wine and beer. Operations director Tristan Moffat said: “SingEasy is a high-energy feel-good concept that taps into the zeitgeist for more immersive experiences that offer engaging and entertaining nights out.” The Piano Works opened its debut site in Farringdon in 2015, launching its West End venue in January 2018. Both sites are 400-capacity, late-night, live music venues with restaurant and bar. The company reported a record festive period for its sites, with sales of £1.64m for the five weeks to 23 December 2018.
Chelsea restaurant Cheyne Walk Brasserie reopens with new name, chef and menu: Chelsea restaurant Cheyne Walk Brasserie has reopened as No. Fifty Cheyne featuring a new head chef and menu. Sally Greene, founder-director of The Old Vic and proprietor of Ronnie Scott’s, opened the venue in 2003 but has recruited Iain Smith, former head chef at Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House, to create a menu for the new-look venue featuring dishes such as belted Galloway beef ragout with spatzli, spicy sausage and rose harissa. The Sunday menu allows guests to pre-order roast dinners such as whole suckling pig, rib of beef or whole salmon. The refurbished ground-floor restaurant seats 70, with a 50-cover cocktail bar and “drawing room” on the upper floor. Smith said: “I am hugely looking forward to showing Chelsea and the rest of London the enjoyment and passion for my craft that has gone into our menus. It is my hope everyone feels the love that’s gone into every dish and shares that enjoyment.’’
Ei Group enhances management development programme: Ei Group has enhanced its internal management development programme, which is designed to bolster the skillset of its senior managers. The company has joined forces with HIT Training, the national apprenticeship provider to the hospitality industry, to offer a Level 5 apprenticeship in operational management. The two-year course focuses on self-managed personal development and covers areas such as assertiveness, project management, operational management and presentation skills. Ei Group has used its Apprenticeship Levy fund to support the training offering. Apprentices will attend workshops as a single cohort but have access to one-to-one mentoring and carry out research projects and self-directed learning at work. Video conferences will connect participants from across the country and allow guest speakers to provide advice and coaching. Ei Group learning and development manager Sarah Williams said: “Developing and enhancing the skills of our senior managers is hugely important to us as it helps retain talent and build our future leadership team. With support and advice from HIT Training, we have strengthened our management development programme by offering high-level training that is in line with our ways of working.”
Whitbread to open Premier Inn and Bar + Block in Milton Keynes: Whitbread is to open a 180-bedroom Premier Inn and Bar + Block restaurant in Milton Keynes. Dominvs Group has secured funding for the development in Avebury Boulevard. The value of the scheme is £23.7m and was sold to M&G Real Estate through Bidwells. Construction is under way, with completion scheduled for autumn 2020. Lee Saywack, development director at Dominvs Group, told Insider Media: “This is a great opportunity to bring more high-quality accommodation to Milton Keynes city centre.” John Duxbury, head of UK retail and leisure at M&G Real Estate, added: “This transaction is an excellent example of the sort of securely-let investment that fits perfectly into our strategy. We will continue to increase our exposure to sustainable, long-income assets that provide stable returns for our investors.” BNP Paribas acted on behalf of Dominvs Group.