Flat Iron seeks further restaurant opening before August as it reports turnover boost: Flat Iron, the “single steak” dining concept backed by private equity firm Piper, is seeking a further opening before August while its mature sites are delivering “very strong” sales. Flat Iron said its two most recent restaurant openings – in London’s Caledonian Road and Tooley Street – were both trading ahead of expectations. The company, which has seven sites in the capital, has also made significant investment in its operations team to support growth. The announcement comes as Flat Iron reported turnover increased 23.6% to £14,476,916 for the year ending 26 August 2018, compared with £11,715,100 the year before despite not opening any sites. Adjusted Ebitda was down slightly to £1,303,054 compared with £1,352,083 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross profit margin fell to 31.4%, compared with 33.5% the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “As noted in last year’s report, having witnessed other restaurant operators struggling in the sector the directors decided to slow the opening of sites to monitor the increased availability of prime locations being offered to the company. This, together with construction delays at a proposed site, meant no restaurants were opened during the year. Despite this the company’s sales growth continued, with mature sites delivering very strong sales. During 2018 the company made significant investment in its operations team to support future restaurant growth. As a result, the directors consider the company to be in a strong position to open further restaurants. We are seeking to open a further site during the financial year to August 2019 and our mature sites continue to deliver strong sales and adjusted Ebitda.” In January, Flat Iron secured £5m funding from UK-based SME lender ThinCats to fund its expansion plans for the next three years as it eyes further openings in the capital.
The Restaurant Group plans sale and leaseback of Southwark headquarters: The Restaurant Group (TRG), the operator of Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s, is looking to sell and lease back its head office in Southwark, London. CBRE has been appointed to look for offers in excess of £25.7m for the property at 5-7 Marshalsea Road. The offer figure would reflect a net initial yield of 4.45% and capital rate of circa £1,100 per square foot. On completion of the sale, the property will be let in its entirety to the group for a term of ten years. TRG is also set to undertake a £2.7m refurbishment of the property to create more than 23,000 square feet of creative space, including two large roof terraces on the first and fifth floors. David Fraser, senior director of central London investment at CBRE, said: “The combination of its dynamic location, guaranteed long-term rental income and the £2.7m planned refurbishment by the current owners will make it an attractive proposition to a wide range of investors.”
Tortilla seeks new operations director as Salt steps down: Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed restaurant group, has started searching for a new operations director after Jason Salt stepped down from the role, Propel has learned. Salt joined the then 32-strong business at the end of 2016. He was formerly a regional director of KFC UK and Ireland and has left Tortilla to become a senior director client services at Blue Square. Matt Chapman, who has been with Tortilla for almost four years as a regional operations manager, will assume the role on an interim basis. He will be part of the recruitment process, with a decision due to be made in October or November. The now 37-strong business, which also operates seven sites in the Middle East, opened a second site under its “baby” concept in Southwark earlier this year. The company opened in The Cut, opposite Southwark tube station. The 32-cover unit spans 1,100 square feet across basement and ground floor. The first Baby venue opened in Putney in November 2017. Tortilla, which is led by Richard Morris, reported record sales in 2018, with like-for-likes up 6%. It plans to open a further regional site, in Oxford this year.
Market Halls reveals operators at Intu Lakeside: Food hall operator Market Halls has revealed the line-up of operators at the site it will open at Intu Lakeside shopping centre in July. The Hall will combine local talent with popular traders from Market Halls’ sites in Victoria and Fulham. The 14,500 square foot site will feature six kitchens, a coffee shop, food trucks and two bars championing British beer, spirits and soft drinks. It will form part of the shopping centre’s 175,000 square foot leisure extension. BaoziInn, which is set to open its third London site at the end of this month, will bring its “spicy Sichuan specialities” to the venue, while Fanny’s Kebabs currently operates at two Market Halls sites. Street food operator Burger & Beyond opened its first bricks and mortar site, in Shoreditch High Street in November, while Fundi Pizza builds its own wood-fired ovens and operates at two Kerb sites. Buttermilk-fried chicken specialist Mother Clucker operates two permanent sites and at various street food markets, while Curry On Naanstop will offer traditional Mumbai recipes. The Hall will offer seating for 680 diners. Last week Market Halls said it was close to agreeing a £20m funding deal with private equity firm Bridgepoint to accelerate growth plans. Market Halls plans to open a flagship venue in London’s Oxford Street this year and roll out the Intu Lakeside experience to other shopping centres, with 15 opportunities identified. The company, which is led by chief executive Andy Lewis-Pratt, has also signed for a 20,000 square foot food hall in Canary Wharf. Former property developer Lewis-Pratt and Simon Anderson, a restaurateur known for Pitt Cue Co, launched Market Halls in spring 2018.
Hawthorn Leisure appoints Cannons as pub property director: Andrew Cannons, former head of property services at Greene King Pub Partners, has joined Hawthorn Leisure as pub property director. Cannons spent more than three years at Greene King and before that was operations director at Bellrock, which provides smart property and facilities management solutions for retail, healthcare, education, hospitality and corporate clients in the UK and Ireland. Prior to that he spent a decade at Heineken, including three years as acquisitions director for Scottish & Newcastle. He also spent almost three years as head of property for Heineken-owned Stars Pubs & Bars, overseeing 1,300 sites. NewRiver acquired 298-strong Hawthorn Leisure last May for an enterprise value of £106.8m. Earlier this year, NewRiver completed the integration of the Hawthorn Leisure pub business. The integration included combining all IT, finance and HR systems and means all NewRiver’s 671 community pubs – 22% of its portfolio by value – are managed by Hawthorn Leisure.
Duck & Waffle to open first international outpost: Duck & Waffle, the City of London restaurant operated by Orange Brands Management, is set to open its first international outpost, in Hong Kong this year. The restaurant, which offers British cuisine with broad European influences alongside views of the London skyline from the 40th floor of 110 Bishopsgate, opened in 2011. Orange Brands Management subsequently launched Duck & Waffle Local at ground level in St James’s Market. The venue in Haymarket Street is billed as a “local concept” and a “fast-casual, chef-curated restaurant” that also offers a takeaway service. Now Duck & Waffle, which held a pop-up at Ozone in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Hong Kong in 2016, is set to open a permanent site in the country. The venue will launch at the IFC Mall in Central this autumn, reports the South China Morning Post. Orange Brands Management also operates Sushisamba sites in Las Vegas, Miami Beach and Amsterdam.
Former Kettner’s Townhouse chef launches restaurant at Dreamland Margate:Jackson Berg, former chef at Kettner’s Townhouse, the French restaurant acquired by Soho House in 2015, has launched a restaurant at Dreamland Margate in Kent. Berg has opened Cafe Barletta, a 50-cover restaurant inspired by European cafe culture. The menu features seasonal vegetables from the “garden of England” and a concise drinks list featuring vermouth, spritzes and low-intervention wine. The decor includes a “conversation pit” built around an eight-foot olive tree, which acts as a holding area for guests waiting to be seated and a focal point in Dreamland’s concourse. Berg also operated “moveable restaurant” Xiringuito in Margate in 2016. He said: “I am excited to return to Margate, where so many people are doing great things in food and drink.” Dreamland chief executive Eddie Kemsley added: “We loved having Xiringuito on our doorstep. Jackson’s food was widely loved by the community so we’re delighted to give him and Cafe Barletta a permanent home.” Dreamland reopened in 2015 and expanded two years later following additional investment. In addition to its vintage amusement park it hosts a pub, American diner and 1,000-capacity music venue. Berg also worked at Fifteen and St John Bread and was head chef at Bistrotheque before setting up Xiringuito, which operated in Liverpool and Margate.
Pasta Remoli to launch fourth London site, at Wembley Park: London-based casual dining concept Pasta Remoli is to open its fourth site in the capital, at Quintain’s £3bn Wembley Park development. Pasta Remoli will open a 1,050 square foot unit at the development, which is next to Wembley Stadium. The concept promotes “dining in three easy steps”, with customers choosing their homemade pasta and sauce before adding a cheese topping. Using authentic Italian ingredients, the new site will also offer seasonal specials, homemade bread, cakes and desserts. Quintain retail director Matt Slade said: “Pasta Remoli supports our vision to create a new premier neighbourhood for north London and add to the varied retail, dining, leisure and experiential offer.” Rome-born Simone Remoli moved to London and worked at restaurants such as Barrafina, Locanda Locatelli and Bocca di Lupo before launching Pasta Remoli. The brand now has sites in Ealing, Finsbury Park and Westfield Stratford. The Wembley Park development will include more than 500,000 square feet of retail and leisure brands.
Whitbread to add further sites to fledgling Cookhouse And Pub brand: Whitbread is to add sites to its fledgling Cookhouse And Pub brand by converting four Brewers Fayre units, Propel has learned. The brand, which Whitbread launched in 2017, has grown to ten sites but will be boosted in the coming months with the opening of the King Sedgemoor Inn in Bridgwater; the Potters Arms in Harlow; The Highwayman near St Neots and the Honourable Pilot in Gillingham. The brand aims to reinvent the pub dining experience by combining the “food and service of an all-day casual dining restaurant with the relaxed vibe and affordability of a pub”. The menu features grazers, oven-fired flatbread, grills, lighter options, brunches, pub classics, Sunday roast and desserts. Cookhouse And Pub features rotating specials alongside craft beer, cask ale and cider, draught wine and cocktails on tap or by the carafe. Whitbread is also ramping up the roll out of its Bar + Block brand, with ten sites now open under the concept.
Omnino doubles up in London with St Paul’s launch: Brazilian steakhouse concept Omnino has doubled up in London. Eduardo Barsotti and Ruth Cezar launched the concept in Leadenhall in the City in 2014 having owned an Argentinian steakhouse in Holborn for two years. Now they have added Omnino Barbecue, in St Paul’s. The restaurant in St Bride Street spans two floors linked by a staircase. Guests are served cuts of meat direct at their table accompanied by a selection of tapas sides, which will change fortnightly, followed by Brazilian desserts. There is also a range of South American wine. Having moved to London together in 2006, Barsotti worked as a chef for Gaucho while Cezar ran a number of restaurants before they pulled their finances together to open the steakhouse in Holborn.
Container village Crate St James Street opens in Walthamstow: A new container village, Crate St James Street, has opened in Walthamstow, north London. The venture has launched on the site of a disused car park in St James Street. Walthamstow-based craft brewer Pillars Brewery has opened a bar and bottle shop at the site already, with vegan street food trader The Green Grill also opening a unit for its first standalone restaurant. Other brands set to open at the village in the next couple of months include Amalfi Coast-inspired Italian burger joint Baggio Burger, which operates at markets and festivals across the capital; Vietnamese street food trader Hanoi Ca Phe; single-origin coffee shop Long and Short Coffee, which operates a tearoom in Brick Lane; cupcake brand Shee Bakes; and The Italian Bakery. Crate also offers workspace and is the brainchild of entrepreneur Adam Walker, who launched Crate in Loughton, Essex, in April 2017 with plans to launch 20 schemes in the “next seven years”.
JD Wetherspoon takes three Scottish pubs off the market: JD Wetherspoon has taken three Scottish pubs off the market that were among 16 sites put up for sale. The company was proposing to sell The Alexander Bain in Wick, The Bourtree in Hawick and The Cross Keys in Peebles – but Wetherspoon revealed it has now removed the trio from the list of 16 sites it put up for sale in March. Spokesman Eddie Gershon told The Press & Journal: “Our intention was to sell all 16 pubs but it was always open to review and, given those at Wick, Hawick and Peebles have all been doing very well, the decision has been taken to keep them. On reflection, we felt they had a very decent future.”
BrewDog passes £3m mark in latest crowdfunding campaign: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has passed the £3m milestone in its latest Equity for Punks crowdfunding campaign. The company is looking to raise an initial £7m with a stretch goal of £50m. So far 14,678 investors have pledged £3,042,200, which means the total amount pledged to date through BrewDog’s six Equity for Punks campaigns is in excess of £70m from more than 108,000 people. BrewDog wants to use the funds from the latest campaign to open two breweries in China, the first before 2020. It also wants to open a hotel, brewery and museum in London after its first hotel, the Doghouse at its brewery in Columbus, Ohio, “exceeded all expectations”. However, its key focus is to open five brewpubs, in Germany, Italy, Spain and France. This week BrewDog has turned its venues into honesty bars by allowing Equity Punks to pay whatever they want for beer. The Honest To Dog initiative is running in participating bars until Sunday (9 June). However, every bill paid below its full value must be accompanied by a feedback card explaining the reason, with all feedback published online once the initiative has finished. Any overpayments will be split evenly between the BrewDog Foundation and staff at the specific bar.
AmRest Group promotes Christopher Jones to Sushi Shop chief executive:Franchise operator AmRest Group has promoted Christopher Jones to chief executive of its Sushi Shop brand. Jones was previously AmRest Group’s head of franchising and concessions and has worked for brands such as Brasserie Flo, Hippopotamus, Brioche Dorée, Paul and, more recently, Italian restaurant brand Vapiano. He takes over from Gregory Marciano, who founded Sushi Shop with Hervé Louis 21 years ago. Influenced by Japan and California, Sushi Shop has four sites in London and moved to a franchise model in 2006 to boost growth. In the past three years it has opened sites in supermarkets and hypermarkets as well as train stations and airports. AmRest Group acquired Sushi Shop at the end of 2018 in a move to expand in Europe and broaden its brand portfolio in the sushi and home delivery segments. AmRest also hopes the brand will help it to diversify services and strengthen its digital presence. AmRest Group is seeing dramatic growth and now has a strong international presence with more than 2,100 restaurants in 26 countries, including brands such as Starbucks, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut and La Tagliatella. Its total revenue is €1,547bn (£1,369bn). Jones will continue to offer his franchising expertise to AmRest Group.
Ryan Riley opens UK’s first cancer cookery school: Ryan Riley, the food writer and stylist who founded Life Kitchen, has opened the UK’s first cancer cookery school. Riley has launched Life Kitchen at The Lodge in Mowbray Park, Sunderland. Offering free cooking classes for people living with cancer, Riley has hosted multiple pop-up cooking masterclasses at locations across the UK. Now the non-profit organisation has a permanent home in the north east. Riley, who is from Sunderland, founded Life Kitchen last year in memory of his mother Krista, who passed away from small cell lung cancer in 2014. The school will host frequent cooking classes and double up as an outreach space. All cookery classes are free for people living with cancer. Riley has worked with professor Barry Smith, from the University of London, who specialises in senses, to create a menu suitable for cancer patients and their sensitive and changing taste buds.
MeatLiquor opens West End venue: MeatLiquor has opened its flagship venue in London’s West End. The venue has launched in Margaret Street, Marylebone, at a site formerly occupied by cocktail venue Match Bar. The opening is a return home for MeatLiquor, which launched its debut restaurant just down the road. The new MeatLiquor W1 features an additional range of cocktails available in half, one, two and three-litre serves and a “poke for Jäger” button on each table, Hot Dinners reports. The venue also has a late licence and features a stage for live acts. MeatLiquor currently has nine London sites with the others in Shoreditch, Covent Garden, Queensway, Islington, King’s Cross, Dulwich, Croydon, and Battersea.
Nando’s gets go-ahead to relocate Plymouth restaurant: Nando’s has been given the go-ahead to relocate its Plymouth restaurant to the new £53m Drake Circus leisure development. The company has been granted permission by the city council to join the scheme that will feature a 12-screen Cineworld multiplex cinema and 14 new restaurants. The development at Bretonside is now being fitted out ready for opening in October. Nando’s will join Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi and better burger brand Byron at the development. The Nando’s restaurant in Old Town Street – just around the corner – is set to close as part of a multimillion-pound revamp of the area, reports Plymouth Live.
Marston’s wins industry award for kitchen innovation: Marston’s has won the operator of the year for multi-site kitchen projects category at the Foodservice Equipment Journal awards for its management of site and kitchen roll-outs during the past 12 months. The award recognised a “food-led offer that has benefited from ongoing investment in energy-efficient catering equipment and streamlined fridge to table times”. Marston’s has also been refining consistency across its 1,600 sites by looking at everything from provenance to kitchen tasks and processes, ensuring sites and teams are working in the most progressive and eco-friendly way possible. Andy Kershaw, head of group facilities and projects at Marston’s, said: “This is a really great win for us and recognises our major focus on sustainability. We work with a lot of companies nominated at these awards and, overall, we are really proud of the halo effect of positive changes being made in the industry and our achievements together.”