Boparan starts hunt for franchise partners to expand brands into Europe: Boparan Restaurant Group, which owns Giraffe, Ed’s Easy Diner and Harry Ramsden’s, has said it is looking to expand the brands into Europe and is seeking master franchisees or area developers. The company brought the brands together in early 2017 following a series of acquisitions, rebranding and relaunching them with new menus and designs while adding assisted service and quick-service options. Boparan Restaurant Group franchise director Brett Boyers said: “We are delighted with the success of these brands and have decided the time is right to expand further overseas. We are targeting master franchisees or area developers in Europe that have the necessary funds and experience behind them to launch these brands and replicate and build on the UK success. Europe is an exciting, growing market place with huge potential. Investment levels will vary depending on criteria such as seating capacity and range from circa £280,000 to £1.1m per unit plus a master/area developer’s fee and local training provision and marketing development costs. Last month, Boparan Restaurant Group partnered with Slim Chickens USA to bring the fast-casual, fresh chicken brand to the UK market, with a London opening scheduled for spring.

Giggling Squid plans eight openings for 2018, evolves brand: Thai restaurant group Giggling Squid, which is backed by the Business Growth Fund, has revealed it will open a further eight sites this year, taking the group to 30. Following the recent launch of its 23rd venue, in the new Saw Close development in Bath, Giggling Squid is set to open a 200-cover site in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, in early April. That will be followed in the early summer by a restaurant in Cheltenham with the site, which will have capacity for 110 diners inside and 50 outdoors, opening in the upmarket Montpellier dining district. Further confirmed sites in the immediate pipeline are a 5,500 square foot venue in Eastgate Square in Chichester, West Sussex; a 3,500 square foot site in Amenbury Lane in Harpenden, Hertfordshire; a 3,700 square foot restaurant in North Street in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire; and a 3,000 square foot site in Thames Street, Windsor. Andy Laurillard, who owns the business with wife Pranee, said: “All our restaurants are ahead of last year apart from one – an amazing result. Recent openings have been particularly successful proving demand for our offer is stronger than ever. We look forward to bringing our fresh take on Thai food to more people as we spread our tentacles at an accelerating rate.” Giggling Squid also began evolving the brand towards the end of last year. The recently opened restaurants in Wimbledon and Bath have a refreshed design with various floral wallpapers combined with intricate stencil work and handcrafted artwork. Meanwhile, the Bath venue features two large, Thai-style aviaries that offer guests a semi-private, quirky dining experience. With bigger sites, informal versatile zones have been introduced with Bath and the upcoming Beaconsfield restaurants hosting separate bar lounges with a “bar bites” menu – a first for Giggling Squid. The company, which secured a £6.4m investment from the Business Growth Fund in 2015 to support its expansion plans, opened its first site in Brighton in 2009.

Arc Inspirations boss – casual dining market slowdown will provide us with ‘superb opportunities’ for expansion: Arc Inspirations chief executive Martin Wolstencroft has told Propel he believes the slowdown in the casual dining market will provide the company with “superb opportunities” for expansion during the next 18 months. Wolstencroft said the company, which has just secured its second Banyan Bar & Kitchen venue in Manchester, was ready to take advantage as operators looked to shed sites. He added: “There’s going to be some superb opportunities for us. The next 18 months is going to see the market levelling out, with a slowdown in openings. Companies have been paying high wages and looking to secure the best staff – paying over the odds is going to slow too. We’ve seen the problems encountered by the casual dining market and some of those businesses are going to go to the wall. What we have been about for probably the past four to five years is making sure that as well as providing great food, drink and customer service, we provide a fantastic atmosphere and experience. It means that while other operators are closing or slowing their expansion plans at present, we’re ready to take advantage. We’re like vultures hunting our prey. Existing restaurants are ideal because you only have to invest about 50% of what you need compared with a fit-out from a shell and, because the facilities are there, you can also get the sites open quicker. We’ve brought in Nik Lowry as property director as we look to continue opening four to five sites a year for the foreseeable future.” The latest Banyan Bar & Kitchen in Manchester, which the company announced earlier this week, will be in a former office block in Spinningfields. Wolstencroft said there was scope for further expansion in the city and he was looking at sites in the suburbs. He added current trading was “going very well” and the company is on course for another record year of turnover and profit.

Abokado gears up for growth with appointments: Healthy eating chain Abokado, which is backed by Kings Park Capital, is gearing up for growth as it appoints a new operations director and operations manager, promising further senior hires in 2018. The company has appointed Kara Alderin, formerly head of operations at London brewer and retailer Fuller’s, as its new operations director. She replaces Richard Zivkovic, who is leaving to pursue other interests. The company has also appointed Stuart Macnab-Grieve, formerly of Wildwood Restaurants, as operations manager and has invested further in the segment by creating two new roles that include a brand standards executive. Abokado chief executive Mark Lilley said: “Kara believes passionately in our vision and values and I’m sure she will add enormously to our business. She heads up an operations team that has seen considerable investment over the past few months, which is already translating to an improved customer experience and positive sales momentum. I’d like to thank Richard for his contribution to Abokado over the past three years. Further senior hires are planned for 2018 as we look to take advantage of a weak trading and property environment and gear up for growth.”

Inn Collection Group appoints Sean Donkin as managing director: Pub operator The Inn Collection Group has appointed Sean Donkin as managing director. Donkin has been promoted from his role as operations director after joining the business as general manager of the group’s Bamburgh Castle Inn in Seahouses in 2008. His focus will be to lead the group’s expansion within its heartland in the north east and further afield. Group founder Keith Liddell will move across from chief executive to executive deputy chairman. Donkin said he sees the group’s 250-strong workforce as a key component for growth. He will lead the roll-out of a new staff academy, which will introduce an intranet for online training and development. He said: “Having been promoted through the ranks of the company myself, developing our people to meet their full potential and enjoy long and successful careers with us is close to my heart.” The company, which is backed by Kings Park Capital, operates eight pubs with rooms. It will open The Amble Inn in Northumberland in October following a £4.2m investment, while it recently acquired properties next to The Bamburgh Castle Inn that will add 13 bedrooms to the site.

K10 opens third takeaway unit, in legals over two more sites: London-based K10, the sushi brand led by Chris Kemper and Maurice Abboudi, has opened its third takeaway unit and is in legals over another two sites. The company has launched its latest venue in Fetter Lane, Farringdon. It features the brand’s core menu alongside new items such as poké, bao buns and udon. A spokesman told Propel: “It’s the first K10 site outside the heart of the City but we have been surprised quite a few people know us already. We are in legals over another two sites but we’re not rushing into anything in this environment where we see great operators unable to cope with the margin pressures the industry is under. We are focused on serving great food and giving great service. We won’t skimp on the quality. In fact, we are doubling down on the quality and service.” Last month, K10 revealed it was looking at funding options to develop its Beer & Buns concept as it closed in on a second site.

Cabana and Rub Smokehouse & Bar shut Newcastle sites: Cabana, the Brazilian barbecue group founded by Jamie Barber and David Ponte, has closed its “unprofitable” Newcastle site. Cabana spent £1m to fit out the restaurant in the Co-op Building in Newgate Street, which became its third venture outside London and seventh in total when it opened in April 2016. A spokeswoman told Propel: “We made a significant commitment and investment in Newcastle but unfortunately the restaurant wasn’t profitable. We’re looking to assign the unit.” Meanwhile, Rub Smokehouse, which opened in The Gate in October 2016, has also closed. The company, which also has restaurants in Birmingham and Nottingham, invested a significant sum into the 150-cover venue, which no longer appears on its website. The concept is the brainchild of Luke Billingham, Sean Singer and Jason Rowe and features “huge plates” of meat smoked over hickory alongside burgers, desserts and inventions called Epicspecials such as the Burshake – a burger and beer shake with a waffle.

New World Trading Company to launch The Florist in Bristol this month: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group New World Trading Company is set to launch new concept The Florist in Bristol this month. The venue will open in a grade II-listed building in Park Street that was formerly occupied by cafe, champagne bar and rooftop restaurant Goldbrick House on Monday, 26 February. The three-storey space will feature an “abundance of flowers” and rustic textures. The concept offers a cocktail menu inspired by three styles of floristry – English summer garden, ikebana and modern contemporary – alongside 60 beers. The food menu will feature deli, rotisserie and grill-inspired dishes. The Florist will also host masterclasses on cocktails, floristry, photography, gin and ale. DJs will play every evening, joined by musicians from Thursday to Sunday. New World Trading Company is looking to open a second site for The Florist, in Liverpool. The company, which also operates The Botanist, The Oast House, The Trading House and The Canal House, was acquired by Graphite Capital for £50m in June 2016.

Plant-based brand By Chloe opens Covent Garden site for first venue outside US: Plant-based brand By Chloe, which operates ten sites in the US, has opened its first site outside America, in Covent Garden. The fast casual brand has opened the restaurant in Russell Street seating 70 diners and offering a takeaway service. By Chloe has partnered with TGP International to bring the brand to the UK, Europe and the Middle East. Further sites are in the pipeline, including a venue secured at One Tower Bridge in London that is due to open soon, with partners being sought for expansion across all regions. The entirely vegan menu will include quinoa taco salad, matcha kelp noodles, and vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, alongside dairy-free ice cream, baked goods, sandwiches, salads and soup. The brand launched in New York City in 2015 and has grown to six locations in New York, one each in Los Angeles and Providence, and two in Boston, as well as a standalone bakery, Sweets By Chloe. TGP International managing director Simon Wright said: “With the brand so established in New York, we saw London as the perfect market for its expansion.” By Chloe is an operating partner of New York-based group ESquared Hospitality, which co-founded the concept with chef Chloe Coscarelli.

Franco Manca to replace Grillstock restaurant in Bath: Pizza brand Franco Manca, which is owned by Fulham Shore, is set to open a site in Bath – in place of American-style barbecue restaurant Grillstock, which has closed. Franco Manca has applied to Bath & North East Somerset Council for a premises licence for the venue in Brunel Square. Grillstock went into administration in November after owing more than £445,000 to HM Revenue & Customs and was bought out by a group of former company directors. The Bath restaurant was expected to remain open but has now shut, with some staff relocated to the company’s Bristol venue, reports the Bath Chronicle. The Grillstock branch in Bath opened in June 2014.

Nando’s signs for new Didcot shopping centre extension: Nando’s has signed to open a unit at Hammerson’s extension of the Orchard Centre in Didcot, Oxfordshire. The 2,604 square foot restaurant will form part of a new dining offer for the town centre. The £50m shopping centre expansion will deliver an additional 21 shops, seven restaurants and 325 car parking spaces. Nando’s joins other major names already signed up for the 150,000 square foot extension including Costa Coffee and Starbucks, with the first stores due to open in the spring. The expansion is part of wider plans to transform Didcot into a garden town, creating 20,000 jobs and 15,000 homes in the next 20 years. Andrew Berger-North, UK director of retail parks at Hammerson, said: “Nando’s will complement and enhance the town’s growing restaurant offer.” Nando’s has more than 1,000 restaurants across the globe, with almost 400 in the UK and Ireland. Last week, the company agreed to open a site at the Rushmere Shopping Centre in County Amargh, Northern Ireland.

Neil Rankin to open third Temper site next month, in Covent Garden: Neil Rankin is set to open a third London site for his Imbiba-backed concept Temper next month, this time in Covent Garden. Following on from his Soho and City sites, the third Temper will launch in the Mercers Walk development in Seven Dials. Whereas the debut Temper in Soho featured modern barbecue and Temper City focused on curry, the new site will turn the spotlight on pizza. The menu will offer two types of pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven and a range of ragu using game, goat and pork with gnocchi. In a Temper first, the site will also be open for breakfast, including freshly baked croissants and home-cured bacon and sausages. Continuing Rankin’s aim to eliminate factory farming from the production line, Temper will continue to work with small farms and breeders so the meat is 100% traceable. There will also be an extensive range of vermouth, The Handbook reports.

TGI Friday’s to remove plastic straws from its UK restaurants: TGI Friday’s is to remove plastic straws from its UK restaurants by Tuesday, 13 March and replace them with fully biodegradable and 100% recyclable alternatives. The company said the move is in response to staff and guest demands to reduce plastic waste and help protect the environment. Additionally, unless requested by a customer, straws will only be offered to children and those purchasing blended drinks and milkshakes. The move is part of the brand’s wider CSR strategy, which looks at ways to improve guest experience and tackle challenges across the estate, including food and plastic waste. Alyson Scott, procurement and supply chain director at TGI Friday’s UK, said: “We have a responsibility to our guests and our planet to lead the way when it comes to corporate social responsibility and set an example to others when it comes to important issues that affect us all, like plastic waste. We’re always looking at ways to make a difference and the opinion of our guests is incredibly important to us, which is why we’re proud to be taking this step in the right direction.”

St Peter’s Brewery sees 26% rise in on-trade alcohol-free beer sales during Dry January: Suffolk-based St Peter’s Brewery has said on-trade sales of its alcohol-free beer brand Without were up 26% during Dry January, with independents and freehouses seeing the biggest uptake. The range is available in Mitchells & Butlers and Vintage Inns venues nationwide, with both operators seeing increased uptake. However, the brewer said the biggest increase in sales was in independent freehouses and restaurants. Chief executive Steve Magnall said: “Dry January has been a huge success for us and has helped to increase brand awareness of our Without range. There’s growing consumer demand in pubs, bars and restaurants for high-quality alcohol-free drinks and initiatives such as the Dry January campaign prove the on-trade needs to up its game and provide a greater range of products within this category.”

Stonegate Pub Company launches Popworld Loves You campaign for fourth year: Stonegate Pub Company has launched a customer appreciation campaign for its Popworld nightclub brand for a fourth year running. In 2017, the campaign threw a surprise Popworld party for its “number one fan” in her living room, complete with fully stocked bar and DJ. The company has boosted the prize this year so there will be three winners of the Popworld House Party competition. Throughout February, VIP booths and Popworld-branded Smirnoff bottles will be up for grabs from each of the brand’s 24 sites via social media competitions, while events will range from Popworld Loves Boy/Girl Bands to a Love Heart Valentines Party. Alan Armstrong, head of marketing for Stonegate Pub Company’s Venues division, said: “Popworld is one of our most popular brands and we’re lucky to have incredibly loyal customers. We think it’s only right we give back to them and this year we’re going bigger and better.” The 25th Popworld venue will open in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, next month with “many more” openings in the pipeline. The company said the brand had seen a 94% return on investment in the past year.

Scottish hotel operators invest £1m in Loch Lomond site: Scottish hotel operators Niall and Ann Colquhoun have invested £1m to upgrade rooms, suites and restaurant facilities at the Lodge On Loch Lomond in Luss. The hotel’s major refurbishment follows a £6m refinance package that the husband-and-wife team secured from Royal Bank of Scotland. The venue offers 47 rooms, luxury suites, a health spa and restaurant Colquhoun’s, which holds two AA rosettes. The venue is also popular for weddings and can hold up to 200 guests. It offers panoramic views of Loch Lomond, while visitors have included former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. The Colquhouns also operate the Inn On Loch Lomond, three miles north of Luss, employing 128 staff in total. Niall Colquhoun told BQ: “Following our refurbishment, we now have a new bar and kitchen, we’ve renovated all 20 balconies in our suites and our guest rooms have also been upgraded.” Stuart Hamilton, relationship director at Royal Bank of Scotland, added: “The ambition and vision of the family has been key to the Lodge On Loch Lomond’s success.”