JD Wetherspoon slows Irish expansion as property prices rise: JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin has reported rising property prices in Ireland has led to a more cautious approach to expansion there. Wetherspoon entered the Republic’s market in 2014, but rising property prices put paid to ambitions to open dozens of pubs in the first five years. Five pubs have been opened to date and work is scheduled to begin on three more sites shortly – two in Dublin, including a planned hotel in Camden Street, and one in Waterford. Another site in Carlow is a little further away from opening. “Ireland [before the crash] had become one of the most expensive places probably in the world to buy a property,” Martin told the Sunday Independent. “And then of course prices went down – some people in Ireland thought they were cheap, we thought they were reasonable – so that gave us the impetus to have a look and we bought six or seven sites. But no sooner had we done so then property prices shot up again like a rocket. So it gave us pause as they say. It’s a boring thing to say but what we’re going to do is wait to see how the next three do. We’ve done pretty well with the first five, but having opened those five, the investment in the next ones is very big, particularly the two Dublin ones. So if they go well we’ll start having a hard look again, and try and convince the property owners of the Republic to take very low bids from us – I’m sure they’ll be all ears.”

Leon reveals gender pay gap of just 0.1%: Natural fast food brand Leon has reported its gender pay gap is just 0.1% as a median average. Women made up 55% of its workforce in April 2017 and its senior team has changed noticeably in the past 12 months in favour of women (up from 30% to 45%). Founder and chief executive John Vincent said: “If I was to resign – hypothetically speaking, of course – our gender pay gap numbers would drop further. One of the female role models I have had all my life is my mum, and Leon’s wife, Marion. Mum is 81 and still works as a French teacher. Before she went into teaching, there was nothing out of the ordinary for me about watching her run a high-performing all-female department – 50 years on she can’t believe how little progress we’ve made. Both Leon and our country will prosper if we create a true meritocracy where talent, hard work and results are rewarded.” All UK employers with more than 250 employees have been required to publish their gender pay gap.

Caffe Nero increases total investment in US expansion to almost £12.5m: Accounts filed at Companies House showed Caffe Nero invested a record £5,921,000 in expanding its US operation in the year to 31 May 2017. The investment saw an additional seven sites opened in the year, bringing the total US estate, all based in Boston, Massachusetts, to 13 sites. Caffe Nero invested £4,114,000 in 2016, bringing its total US investment to £12,451,000. The company reported its US investment is “trading in line with expectations”.

Cambridge-based vegan restaurant Stem + Glory closes crowdfunding campaign to open third site, in London, after raising more than £630,000: Cambridge-based vegan restaurant Stem + Glory has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open its third site, in London, having raised more than £630,000. Founder Louise Palmer-Masterton hit her initial £350,000 target within five hours of the campaign launching, offering a 15% stake in return for the investment. Now she has closed the campaign with 771 investors pledging £631,530. Stem + Glory opened its first site in Cambridge in October 2016 after raising more than £97,000 in a campaign on Crowdfunder. The restaurant has experienced an 84% increase in turnover year-on-year and Stem + Glory opened a second site, in Cambridge city centre, in November 2017. It now plans to open a site in Old Street, London, in July before preparing the brand for roll-out. Palmer-Masterton also founded yoga brand Camyoga, while fellow director Jim Masters was part of nightclub Ministry of Sound and was instrumental in setting up its record label, now the biggest compilation label in the world. The pitch stated: “Demand for plant-based food is seeing huge growth in the UK. Last year, Ocado saw a 1,500% increase in plant-based food sales and Just Eat a 987% increase in demand for meat-free meals. Despite this growth, vegan restaurants are hugely under-represented. Of 18,302 restaurants in London, only 0.1% are fully vegan.”

Purity Soft Drinks’ profits clipped by Brexit: Purity Soft Drinks, which has been based in Wednesbury, Staffordshire, since 1892 and owns the JuiceBurst and Firefly brands, has reported an increase in turnover from £18.5m to £19.8m for the year to 31 March 2017. However, pre-tax profits fell from £1.3m to £928,961 during the same period. Purity said the decline in profit was because of the impact of the Brexit vote on currency and further investment into its brands. The company stated in its accounts filed at Companies House: “The period under review delivered continued strong sales growth for JuiceBurst across all sales channels. The growth was delivered through a combination of organic and new customer growth. During the period, the JuiceBurst brand saw further investment in its sales and marketing resource to help accelerate distribution and drive increased consumer awareness. There was further consolidation of the Firefly brand during the period with both the product and customer base now on a secure footing to provide a platform for further growth. During the period, the company continued to service its contract packing partners whose volume remained stable but took the decision to cease contract packing on one of its production lines. This was a strategic decision that will improve focus on branded products and key customers together with driving cost efficiencies. As well as revenue investment during the period, the company continued to professionalise its operations through capital equipment and software additions.”

Antic releases plans for fourth pub in Croydon area: Antic, the Downing-backed London pub operator led by Antony Thomas, has released full plans for a new pub in Norbury – although an opening date is still yet to be confirmed. Antic already has three pubs located in the Croydon area, in Crystal Palace and South Norwood, The new pub will be called the Norbonne and Stable and will feature a central courtyard at Norbury Mews, just off Norbury Crescent. Updated plans for the new venue have been submitted to Croydon Council and look to make “fundamental improvements” on the design that was previously submitted in 2016. The plans state: “The design will look to replace the unattractive and underutilised site, to transform it into an attractive complex. The proposal will directly tackle the problem with Norbury’s lack of leisure facilities, by providing a premise for food outlets and an opportunity to expand the existing retail capacity within the town centre.” It is also hoped the courtyard will be used by the public for community events, such as farmers’ markets and outdoor cinemas.

Soho House to open White City House this month: Soho House will open White City House this month in the former BBC headquarters in west London. It will have two floors of club space, a rooftop pool and bar, cinema, screening room, 24,000 square foot gym, and 45 bedrooms within the building’s original grade II-listed central ring. On the tenth floor is a rooftop swimming pool and bar, while the ninth floor is the main members’ space. House Gym, the largest Soho House gym to date, sits in the basement of the Helios Building, with state-of-the-art equipment, studios and a swimming pool with steam room, sauna and hammam, as well as a juice bar. The ground floor of White City House will be open to the public. The Allis will serve food and drinks all day. In the basement, Electric Cinema White City has two screens.

KFC leverages MasterChef crispy chicken controversy: KFC has leveraged the recent controversy over the chicken rendang incident on MasterChef UK, to promote its crispy fried chicken. The incident, which went viral on social media among Malaysian consumers, occurred when Greg Wallace, one of the MasterChef UK judges commented while he liked the flavour, the chicken skin was “not crispy” and “all the sauce was on the skin”. KFC quickly created a cheeky Facebook post that said the only thing that should be crispy is KFC’s fried chicken. The post garnered more than 14,000 reactions, 8,500 shares and 705 comments by noon on Wednesday (4 April).

Fortnum & Mason to take over D&D London Royal Exchange sites: Fortnum & Mason has been lined up to take over the restaurants at the Royal Exchange. D&D London, which currently operates the Grand Cafe, The Gallery, Threadneedle Bar, and Sauterelle, has announced it will exit the site after 15 years this summer. D&D chief executive Des Gunewardena said the company would open a new restaurant in the Square Mile. The dining spaces in the Royal Exchange will be taken over by Fortnum & Mason, the London department store that has expanded in recent years to operate branches in travel hubs – at St Pancras and Heathrow. “Fortnum’s at The Royal Exchange is the manifestation of our message that London remains open, and the world’s most important financial centre in the City remains vibrant,” said Ewan Venters, chief executive of Fortnum & Mason. “The Royal Exchange provides not only an important postcode location, but a culturally important environment bringing together two brands with a shared history in trade.”

South Coast Inns puts American-style bar and restaurant in Uckfield on market for £550,000: South Coast Inns, which is backed by industry veterans Chris and Delia Chapman, has put its American-style bar and restaurant, The Smokehouse, in Uckfield, East Sussex, up for sale as it looks to consolidate its assets. The High Street property, which also features seven en-suite rooms, is being marketed by agents Christie & Co with an asking price of £550,000. The Smokehouse consists of a large bar area for 40 covers and a restaurant area for an additional 40 covers as well as a kitchen and one-bedroom owner’s accommodation on the first floor. Externally, there is a rear patio for up to 24 covers with a dedicated smoking area and parking for up to 20 vehicles. South Coast Inns, which operates hotels and pubs with rooms in Kent, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Somerset and Sussex, has owned The Smokehouse since 2001.

Concept Leisure to launch restaurant and cocktail bar in Stockton this week: Concept Leisure, the north east-based operator behind cocktail bar The Nuthatch, is to open a restaurant and bar in Stockton’s cultural quarter this week. Finkle & Green will open on Friday (6 April) in Finkle Street at the site formerly occupied by Mexican restaurant Mohujo’s. The property has undergone a six-figure refurbishment into a high-end restaurant, offering waterside views. Among the dishes will be smoked haddock and cheese bake, king prawn taco, lamb kebabs, sea bass fillets, beetroot and feta burger, and jerk chicken. Concept Leisure director Simon Hatfield told Gazette Live: “As we start to bring our ideas and our concept together, we can’t wait to open and introduce something to Stockton town centre, which we believe is currently missing.” Concept Leisure operates two Nuthatch sites, in Middlesbrough and Stockton.

Las Iguanas to launch spring menu: Las Iguanas, the South American-inspired restaurant brand owned by Casual Dining Group, will launch its spring menu on Tuesday (10 April). The menu features 15 new dishes alongside classics such as xinxim and moqueca, fajitas, burritos and burgers. New mains include Dominican goat curry with spring onion rice, fried plantain and pink pickled onions; and Peruvian staple, ceviche. There is also a green quinoa salad with avocado, lime, okra, coriander, sultanas and pink pickled onions on a bed of spinach, with a poppy and pumpkin dressing topped with edible pansies. The cocktail menu has 25 new offerings while biodegradable PLA straws will be introduced from May. New cocktails include the Passion Sour Bomb, a concoction of Malibu passion fruit, sour sherbet, orange and soda; and the Rum Julep, a mix of seven-year rum, coconut water, mint and sugar. Las Iguanas is also launching a new range of bookable packages including Buenos Aires Social, Chica’s Cocktail Club and a celebration party menu. Meanwhile, bottomless brunch is being introduced on Sundays.

Son of Indian restaurant pioneer closes Derby site: Mogal E Azam – an Indian restaurant that was one of the first in the UK to use a tandoor oven at its debut venue in Nottingham – has closed its sister site, in Derby. Sujat Sheikh claims to have invented chicken tikka masala at his Nottingham restaurant, which opened in 1977. His son James opened the second restaurant in Midland Road, Derby, in September 2016 but it has now closed. The signage has been removed from outside the restaurant and the furniture has also been stripped from inside, reports the Derby Telegraph. In October, TripAdvisor rated Mogal E Azam the best curry restaurant in the city. Speaking at the time of the Derby opening, James Sheik said: “We are looking for people to try new things. My father is a mentor to me and I have learned how to cook from him.” Midland Road has a number of Indian restaurants, including the Shalimar Gold and the Viceroy.

Fleurets markets Midsomer Murders pub: Agent Fleurets is selling the freehold of The Cock & Rabbit pub in Buckinghamshire – followers of the ITV drama Midsomer Murders will recognise The Cock & Rabbit as The Rose and Chalice public house from the show. Elysia Wilson-Gunn, who is handling the sale for Fleurets, said: “It is easy to see why the property was chosen as a location for Midsomer Murders given its perfect positioning on the village green in the picturesque and affluent village of The Lee. We are expecting high levels of interest for the freehold purchase of this recognised pub.” Fleurets is inviting offers.

Nando’s to double up in Ipswich after taking over Pizza Hut site: Nando’s is set to open its second store in Ipswich – as work begins to revamp the former Pizza Hut site it is due to move into. Ipswich Council planners have approved a raft of modifications to the former Pizza Hut building in The Sandlings, Ransomes Europark. The new Nando’s restaurant will also get an extended roof, and share a car park with the Burger King drive-thru next door. A Nando’s spokesman said: “We are excited to launch our second restaurant later in the year.”

Brindisa unveils new Ham School: Spanish restaurant group Brindisa has unveiled a new Ham School, which will teach students the art of carving jamon at its Borough Market home. The school, which will launch next month, will give participants the chance to try their hand at one of Spain’s most respected culinary traditions. The first half of the class will be devoted to learning about, and tasting, the different regional hams produced in Spain, with the second half giving students a chance to get hands-on with the cuchillo jamonero, the foot-long knife used to slice the meat from the leg. Brindisa will introduce students to four different types of artisan white pig and Ibérico hams during the class. Brindisa founder Monika Linton said: “It’s a real thrill to be able to bring the traditions of Spain’s jamonerias to London, and to introduce a new audience to the art. Maybe we’ll even discover some new master carvers!”

Cumbria-based operators to open tapas restaurant and live music venue in Barrow for second site: Cumbria-based operators Andrew and Lisa Turner are set to open a tapas restaurant and live music venue for their second site. The Turners, who operate Hartley’s restaurant in the village of Dalton, have partnered with local musician and businessman Jason Berry for the venture in Barrow. They are opening Odd Frog on the corner of Duke Street and Abbey Road at a site formerly occupied by Drawing Room bar, which closed in January. Work is under way on the venue to create a dedicated stage to accommodate bands alongside space to seat 65 diners. Andrew Turner told the North West Evening Mail: “The main idea is to have a dedicated live music venue and we’ve spent around a year looking in Barrow for the ideal place. When I heard the Drawing Room was closing, I knew it would be perfect.”

Diageo appoints non-executive director: Diageo has appointed Susan Kilsby as a non-executive director with immediate effect. Kilsby has also joined the audit, nomination and remuneration committees. Kilsby joined the board of global biotech company Shire in 2011 and has been chairman since 2014. She is also a non-executive director on the boards of Goldman Sachs International, Fortune Brands Home & Security and BBA Aviation. Prior to this, she had an extensive global career in investment banking, holding senior roles at Credit Suisse, Barclays, Bankers Trust and First Boston. Kilsby served most of her career at Credit Suisse, where she was chairman, EMEA mergers and acquisitions until 2009, and a senior advisor until 2014. Diageo chairman Javier Ferrán said: “I am delighted to welcome Susan to the Diageo board. Her expertise and experience in finance and mergers and acquisitions will serve Diageo well as we work towards our ambition to become one of the most trusted and respected consumer products companies in the world. I am sure Susan will be an inspiration to our people and the way we work.”

County Armagh-based operators to close restaurant because business ‘no longer viable’: County Armagh-based operators Darren and Paula Gilbert are closing their restaurant because rising costs make the business “no longer viable”. The Gilberts are shutting The Planters in Waringstown, which they have been running since 2006. Instead, they will shift the 20 staff – most of whom are part-time – to the Seagoe Hotel in Portadown, which they also run. Darren Gilbert told the Belfast Telegraph: “We have serviced the Waringstown population for a long time and appreciate their support. But the rise in business costs puts far too much pressure on business and it’s just not feasible any more.” The kitchen will close on Sunday (8 April) while the bar will be shut over the next few months.

Durham Distillery reveals location of new home: Durham Distillery, which produces Durham Gin and Durham Vodka, has revealed the location of its new city centre home, which it will move to as part of a £500,000 investment. Subject to planning permission, the company will move to the Riverwalk complex, which is undergoing a £30m redevelopment. Durham Distillery has taken 4,000 square foot of space of the ground floor at the former Gates Shopping Centre and will also produce the north east’s first whisky from the site. The distillery’s new home is expected to open in the autumn and will create 20 jobs. Owner Jon Chadwick told Insider Media: “Since our launch five years ago our gin and vodka brands have gone from strength to strength and our growth will see us expand into a premises with a great deal of potential right on Durham’s riverside – a dream location for me having been born and raised in the city.”