Pret A Manger launches new range of vegan options: Pret A Manger is to launch a new range of vegan options today (4 January) – to meet growing customer demand. A company spokesperson said: “Customers have been asking for more vegan options and Pret chefs have been experimenting with plant-based ingredients and flavours to meet the challenge. The new dishes will sit alongside existing vegan favourites in regular Pret shops.” These options will be available until 5 March. The new vegan dishes include Cauli & Sweet Potato Dhal Tip-Top Hot Pot, Apple & Almond Butter Snack Bowl, and Falafel, Avo & Chipotle Flat Bread. The hot pot (£6.25) is described as a “warming, mildly spicy, coconut dhal with chunks of roasted sweet potato, roasted turmeric cauliflower and baby plum tomatoes”. The Apple & Almond Butter Bowl, which costs £1.99, features “green apple wedges with a generous dollop of almond butter”, while the Falafel, Avo & Chipotle Flat Bread (£3.99) includes sweet potato falafel and sliced avocado with chipotle ketchup. It is topped with pickled onions, crunchy red peppers, fresh coriander and charred corn and black bean salsa. Pret A Manger started offering more vegetarian and vegan options when it opened its first Veggie Pret pop-up in June 2016. A second Veggie Pret opened in Shoreditch in April 2017, and a third at Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, in October. Since then, more vegetarian and vegan options have been introduced and they now make up 51% of the company’s sandwich and salad offering.

Magic Brands Group opens first Denny’s diner in the UK: Denny’s franchisee Magic Brands Group has begun its UK roll-out of the US 24-hour diner brand by opening a debut site in Swansea. Magic Brands Group, owned by Leon Esfahani, has opened the 4,000 square foot restaurant at Parc Tawe, creating 70 jobs. The 200-cover restaurant features Denny’s signature elements, including a children’s dining area. Last month, Esfahani secured seven-figure funding from HSBC to support the national roll-out of additional diners during the next three years. Darron Keinzley, brand manager for Denny’s Magic Diners UK, told Business News Wales: “Denny’s guests have come to our diners to sit back, relax and enjoy delicious, hearty meals for more than 60 years. We hope to bring that same sense of community to Swansea with this new restaurant. From breakfast any time to satisfying lunches and dinners, if hungry fans are in the mood for it, chances are we’re serving it.” The diner’s menu will replicate the US experience while adding British touches such as baked beans and fish and chips. Denny’s was founded by Harold Butler and Richard Jezak in 1953 and currently has more than 1,700 restaurants worldwide.

Charles Wells to expand Pizza, Pots and Pints offering in Cambridge with second site, fifth in total: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells will open a second site in Cambridge for its Pizza, Pots and Pints concept, a fifth venue in total. The concept, based around artisan pizza and beer, launched at flagship site The Salisbury Arms in Cambridge in 2015. Now Charles Wells will open a further site – at The Carpenter’s Arms in Victoria Road. The pub will close for a refit on Monday, 22 January with plans to reopen at the end of March. Operations director Benjamin Smith said: “Cambridge was home to our very first Pizza, Pots and Pints and has proved extremely popular. It made perfect sense to open another on the other side of what is our home city. There will always be something happening at The Carpenter’s Arms that locals can be part of. Pizza, Pots and Pints is about great food and drink that can be shared in a fun, friendly and sometimes crazy place.” Smith recently took on the leadership of Pizza, Pots and Pints after Craig Mayes stepped down last month from his role as director of Charles Wells’ managed houses. The other Pizza, Pots and Pints sites are in Hitchin, Baldock and Peterborough.

Butcombe Brewery submits plans to open hotel and coffee shop in Bath city centre: Butcombe Brewery, part of Liberation Group, has submitted plans to open a hotel and coffee shop in Bath city centre. The company wants to convert a vacant building next to its Pig & Fiddle pub in Broad Street. The coffee shop would be on the ground floor while the first, second and third floors would be converted into a hotel offering 11 en-suite bedrooms, the Bath Chronicle reports. A design and access statement submitted to Bath and North East Somerset Council states: “The proposal would bring a long-term vacant unit back into gainful use, which would enhance the vitality of the shopping area. Coffee shops contribute more to the vitality and viability of a centre than many retailers. They encourage people to spend their time and money in the high street instead of other spending outlets.” In November, Butcombe acquired two pubs in Somerset, which raised the number of rooms in its managed estate to 70. The acquisitions increased Butcombe’s total estate to 45 pubs – more than double its size at the start of 2017. In the same month, Butcombe Pubs & Inns launched Butcombe Academy alongside HIT training, the first stage of a training programme that will also see the introduction of CPL online training throughout the managed and tenanted estates across The Liberation Group.

Music bar concept The Piano Works starts expansion with second London site: Music bar concept The Piano Works, which launched in Farringdon in 2015, has started expansion by opening a second site in London, with plans for expansion in the UK and internationally. The new venue – Studio 88 – has opened in Whitcomb Street, off Leicester Square, offering a “non-stop, audience-requested, live music experience”. The concept features two singers who sit at separate pianos and play requested music accompanied by a band. Each table features cocktail napkins on which customers write their request to pass to the band. The food menu is based on Californian bamboo cones, which are filled with Asian-influenced food and served by usherettes, Hot Dinners reports. The venue operates a membership policy and customers who sign up to the “friend’s list” can book a table for £25 and get a glass of prosecco and six cones, ranging from miso-glazed pork with spicy coconut yogurt to shitake mushrooms with kale, garlic, tamari and sesame seeds. Sliders are also on offer at the bar alongside dim sum, dumplings and arancini. The drinks list focuses on cocktails and the venue also hosts cocktail masterclasses and singing lessons. The Piano Works website states the company is looking for other venues in the UK and internationally to create other “full-on flagships in targeted locations”.

Mikhail Investments to turn Southport nightclub and restaurant into boutique hotel and champagne bar: Merseyside-based operator Mikhail Investments has submitted plans to turn the building that houses its restaurant and nightclub Khepri in Southport into a boutique hotel and champagne bar. The company, which also operates sites for its Irish pub concept Punch Tarmey’s in Southport and St Helens, plans to build a 27-bedroom hotel in the three storeys above Khepri while turning the venue itself into a champagne and wine bar with live music. The group also operates Southport’s Bold Hotel, which underwent a multimillion-pound renovation in 2016 resulting in a “dramatic increase in popularity”. Mikhail Investments has submitted plans to Sefton Council and, with some building work under way, aims to open in the summer. Chairman Andrew Mikhail told the Visiter: “We saw great potential in the town when we first came across the Bold Hotel at the start of 2016. Since acquiring that and bringing it up to the standard it is now, we have opened another three venues within a very small radius as we know the customer base is there for the right type of business. We know there is a demand for another high-quality hotel in the town.” The group opened its first hotel, the Eccleston Arms, in St Helens in 2015 before beginning its expansion into Southport.

Wadworth closes Devizes wine shop to refocus on pub estate in the town: Wadworth, the Wiltshire-based pub operator and family brewer, is to close its traditional wine shop – Edwin Giddings – in the centre of Devizes to refocus on its pub estate in the town. In recent years a cafe and delicatessen had been added to the wine store but Wadworth has confirmed the venue will close on Saturday (6 January). Chief executive Chris Welham has been carrying out a major review of Wadworth’s estate and is investing heavily in two pub refurbishments in Devizes – the Bell By The Green will undergo a £250,000 refurbishment to create a “more sports-focused environment”, while £270,000 will be spent to upgrade letting rooms at the Black Swan. Welham told the Gazette & Herald: “We have traded Edwin Giddings for some years but the time has come for us to refocus our efforts on our core pub and beer business. I’d like to thank the team at Giddings for the great work they have carried out. We will support the whole team as we look to provide new roles for them within our pub estate.” Devizes-based Wadworth operates more than 200 pubs across the south west.

London-based baker Bread Ahead to launch Soho cafe on Friday: London-based baker Bread Ahead is to open a bakery and cafe in Soho on Friday (5 January). The company, which launched in Borough Market and still sells bread from a stall there close to its main bakery, will open a site in Beak Street. Bread Ahead also operates a shop and bakery school in Chelsea, a store in Mayfair and from a stall at the Real Food Market in King’s Cross. The Soho venue will be the brand’s first to offer salads to eat in or take away. The former stable has been converted into a 60-seat eatery with wooden furniture and a long pink marble-topped counter surrounded by high stools. There is also a snug seating area to the rear of the restaurant, The Handbook reports. The cafe will open from 7am offering morning options such as brioche French toast, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on demi-brioche, and a build-your-own porridge menu featuring cashew butter, quinoa and chia seeds. The bakery will produce sourdough loaves, amaretti, cheese and olive sticks, white tin loaves, focaccia and ciabatta, while there will also be a lunchtime sandwich menu. Bread Ahead was founded in 2013 by Matthew Jones and former St John Bakery head baker Justin Gellatly.

Pyrrho Investments buys Broome Park Mansion House: A grade I-listed mansion that was formerly owned by Lord Kitchener has been acquired by a new owner with plans to return the 250-acre Canterbury estate to a hotel resort. The estate incorporates an 18-hole championship golf course. Broome Park Mansion House, which was on the market for £6m, has been sold by Diamond Resorts Group to an associate of Pyrrho Investments, part of Hong Kong-based real estate developer the Bonds Group. Broome Park Mansion House was built in 1638 during the reign of Charles I and has been split into 18 holiday apartments with 14 holiday lodges. Once owned by Earl Kitchener of Khartoum, the famous English historical military figure pictured in the iconic ‘Your country needs you’ poster, the estate also features a restaurant, hall, bar, indoor pool, gym and two all-weather tennis courts. The planned hotel resort would be operated under the management of Countrywide Properties. Bonds Group chairman and chief executive Anson Chan said: “We are very pleased with the acquisition of Broome Park. Its long history and connection to Lord Kitchener are particularly appealing to us. It is my intention to restore it to its former glory over the next few years.” Jeremy Jones, director at Christie & Co, brokered the sale.

Smokehouse and bar concept The Forge Kitchen launches at former Loch Fyne site in Ipswich: Smokehouse and bar concept The Forge Kitchen has launched at a former Loch Fyne site in Ipswich. Greene King closed its venue at the former electricity sub-station in October but husband-and-wife team Grant and Robyn Owen have now launched their new concept, which offers “simple food cooked over flames and coals”. Grant Owen told the Ipswich Star: “This is a lovely position and the building is full of character. We are excited about it and want to see it do well. We have had a massive amount of interest and we’re going to make sure we make it inviting in here and people grow to love it.” Greene King put the site on the market in December 2016, stating: “After an extensive review of the business, we made the difficult decision that the restaurant no longer fits within our core estate.” The 465 square metre venue had space for 150 diners across two floors. It is close to the university and waterfront but a significant walk from the town centre.

New brewery is first in Tamworth for 70 years: Tamworth Brewing Company has launched a brewery tap and shop to become the first new brewer in the Staffordshire town for more than 70 years. The micro-brewery is based in a 16th century shop in Market Street and offers ale brewed on-site from the tap alongside other premium drinks and bottled beer to take away. Owner George Greenaway told the Birmingham Mail: “This street will become a cultural quarter and we can capitalise on that by having a niche offering. There aren’t many town centres with a brewery as most are located at industrial estates. This is a unique proposition for the town and its regeneration.” Tamworth mayor John Chesworth added: “We have some great places to go in Tamworth but a few pubs have shut down in recent years. I think this will take off.”

Warwickshire-based escape rooms company TimeSquared submits plans for debut site: Warwickshire-based escape rooms firm TimeSquared has submitted plans to open its debut site, in Atherstone, near Nuneaton. The company has submitted plans to North Warwickshire Borough Council to launch a venue on Netherwood Industrial Estate. A statement submitted with the proposals, reads: “Most escape rooms are the same every time you play, meaning players will only play each room once. The consequence is there is always a ready market for new rooms and people will travel across the country to play.” TimeSquared plans to call the room The Curlew Study. It would feature two games but the company told the Birmingham Mail it would look to open five further escape rooms at the site within the first three years alongside other interactive activities. TimeSquared was founded by husband-and-wife team David and Hannah Betts.

Leisure group adds to hotels portfolio: An expanding leisure company has bought two hotels, one in Cumbria and one in Scarborough, from The Co-operative Group. The Co-operative Group, represented by international real estate advisor Savills, has sold Gilsland Hall Hotel in Brampton and the Esplanade Hotel in Scarborough to Northern Powerhouse Developments. Gilsland Hall Hotel is a 90-bedroom country estate set in 140 acres of park and woodlands near Hadrian’s Wall that was built in the 1760s before being destroyed by a fire in 1859 and rebuilt in the late 19th century. The Esplanade Hotel is a grade II-listed 70-bedroom Victorian seaside hotel and has a 100-cover restaurant, rooftop terrace and three meeting rooms. Northern Powerhouse Developments now owns and operates a portfolio of 12 hotels across the UK and recently launched Afan Valley Adventure Resort, a multimillion-pound activity park that will be spread over 450 acres in the valleys of South Wales. Gavin Woodhouse, chairman of Northern Powerhouse Developments, said: “We are delighted to have completed on the sale of these two iconic hotels, which further strengthens our position within the hotel and leisure industry and reflects the positive strides we have made on the market over the past year.” Richard Lewis, chief executive of NPD Hotels, added: “Gilsland Hall and The Esplanade are two hotels which, given their history and location, will prove to be hugely successful acquisitions. We look forward to restoring them to their former glory and opening the doors to a new generation of visitor.”

Ei Group launches refreshed national awards scheme: Ei Group, formerly known as Enterprise Inns, has launched a revitalised awards programme. The Ei Group Awards for Excellence are open to licensees who are part of the Ei Publican Partnerships business unit. Categories include best community hub, best marketing initiative, best food offer, best sports venue, best newcomer, best live music venue, and best multiple operator as well as a lifetime achievement award and Ei Group Pub of the Year. The awards will be judged by senior Ei Group executives and industry experts. Paul Harbottle, group commercial director of Ei Group, said: “Our new awards programme is an opportunity for us to celebrate the most outstanding operators across our estate, learn from the best and inspire other publicans to further raise retail standards and business performance.” The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at Coombe Abbey, Warwickshire, on 10 July.

Staycity Aparthotels lines up six new openings in 2018: Staycity Aparthotels has announced a further six new property openings for 2019-2020. Finance director Colm Whooley said Staycity expects 2017 turnover to have grown by 25%, with strong profit margins remaining in line with that of previous years. “Last year’s results will show growth in turnover and profits for the group,” he said. “During 2017 the board signed off on the company’s five-year business plan, which will see us operating 15,000 keys by 2022. Brexit and general economic environment have remained a risk but we have attempted to reduce that risk where possible with a strategy of growing the business across a number of markets and actively managing currency exposure through foreign exchange hedging,” he added. During 2017, the Dublin-based company opened aparthotels in Marseille, Lyon and Manchester as well as revealing details of a new premium brand, Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity, the first of which will open in London this spring, with a second to follow in Edinburgh in 2019. Later this year Staycity will open in Liverpool’s Corn Exchange building in the heart of the city’s commercial region close to James Street Merseyrail Station, Albert Dock and leisure development Liverpool ONE. The property is made up of 212 one- and two-bedroom apartments. New locations for 2019 include a 284-key aparthotel near Disneyland Paris with swimming pool, bar, restaurant, cafe and lounge, 183 parking spaces and lakes and gardens. In early 2019 the company will open 175 units in Venice suburb Mestre, often the starting point for tourists visiting the historic city. The year will also see the opening of a prestigious Wilde Aparthotel forming part of Charlie Living, one of several new buildings at the former Checkpoint Charlie in central Berlin. The 48-apartment building is one of two Staycity properties opening in the German capital. Another site will be added to the group’s Dublin estate in 2019 when it opens in Chancery Lane in the city centre, with 50 apartments. A further 142-apartment building will open in Mark Street in 2020. By 2021, the company expects to have 1,500 keys operating in Dublin. Preliminary work is also under way on a third Manchester property in St Peter’s Square, expected to open at the end of 2019 with 250 apartments