Tonkotsu secures new investment as it eyes next phase of growth: Tonkotsu, the Emma Reynolds and Ken Yamada-founded ramen restaurant group, is planning further expansion after securing new investment from YFM Equity Partners, Propel has learned. YFM, which also backs healthy eating brand Friska, is investing £5m in the ten-strong Tonkotsu for a minority stake in the business. Reynolds and Yamada, who founded Tonkotsu in Soho in 2012, will continue to be involved in the business. At the same time, Propel understands entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den star Sarah Willingham, formerly of PizzaExpress and Bombay Bicycle Club, will become chairman of the business, which is led by managing director Stephen Evans and operates nine restaurants in London and one in Selfridges Birmingham, with two more due to open later this year in Peckham and Shoreditch. The company, which hopes to add a further three sites next year, is believed to have generated full-year turnover close to £7m. The company appointed advisers in October as it looked to secure new investment to fund its next stage of growth. The group appointed Grant Thornton and Will Baxter, of Dow Schofield Watts’ London office, to oversee the funding process. Propel revealed earlier this year that YFM, which also backs Bagel Nash and leisure brand Go Outdoors, was in advanced talks to take a stake in Tonkotsu and back its expansion. Yamada said: “This partnership will allow us to grow our business, enabling us to open a handful more Tonkotsus. Our commitment to the quality of our food, homemade noodles and the way we treat our people, who are the heart of this business, has been fundamental from day one. We chose YFM as our partner as we felt it shared our ambition to grow the business in the right way to maintain the culture and brand.” Evans added: “The casual dining sector is experiencing some well documented issues but the partnership with YFM is proof that well-run brands with a distinct and value-led offering continue to attract investment. This is an exciting time for us, our financial performance over the last 12 months has been strong and this additional investment from YFM will allow us to continue to grow and bring our ramen to a greater audience.” Willingham said: “Tonkotsu’s ramen is the best I have tasted and I’ve been a huge fan for many years. I love the culture and look forward to working with Emma, Ken and the highly-motivated management team, led by Stephen.” Mike Clarke and Jamie Roberts led the investment for YFM. Clarke said: “The team have done a fantastic job in building the company, a unique brand and a loyal customer base despite real challenges to the restaurant sector. We are delighted to work with Tonkotsu to support its continued growth.” YFM acquired a minority stake in Friska for £3m in summer 2017 to support its expansion plans.
 
Flight Club to double presence in the US: Flight Club, the social darts concept, is to double its presence in the US later this year with an opening in Boston, Propel has learned. The company, which operates the concept in the US under an agreement with Social Entertainment Ventures, has secured a site in Seaport Boulevard in Boston for an opening this autumn. It currently operates a site in Chicago, which it launched last spring. Flight Club secured £15m of new growth funding in September as it looks to expand its core brand and launch new concept Electric Shuffle. The new round of funding featured existing investors including TDR Capital founder Manjit Dale, who also joined the company’s board. The group operates sites in London (Bloomsbury, Shoreditch and Nova Victoria) and Manchester, with an opening in Birmingham’s Temple Street set for this summer. At the start of the year, the company applied to secure a site in Spitalfields for Electric Shuffle, while a site in London Bridge was also previously under consideration for the new concept.
Carluccio’s appoints new head of food operations: Carluccio’s, the Italian all-day restaurant group owned by Dubai-based investment group Landmark, has appointed Matt Dale as head of food operations as the brand continues to strengthen its “Fresca” transformation team. Dale previously held a senior food operations role at Bill’s restaurants in London, including involvement in the group’s most recent refurbishments. Before that, he spent ten years as group chef at Oceanico Resorts in Algarve, Portugal. Carluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones said: “Revitalising our menu is an essential component of our Fresca programme and we look forward to elevating this part of the business with Matt’s help.” Dale added: “Antonio Carluccio’s food legacy is one of authentic, fuss-free Italian recipes using the best-quality ingredients. I look forward to carrying forward this ethos as we update and modernise the menu in line with the brand’s revitalisation programme.” The appointment comes in the wake of a number of strategic hires to drive the £10m Fresca programme, including Graham Ford, from Bill’s, as commercial director; Hilary Ansell, from Gordon Ramsay Group, as marketing director; Marco Barletta, from Franco Manca, as operations manager; Lee Goodridge, from Busaba Eathai, as operations director; and Dominika Rusnak, from The Ivy Collection, as Fresca openings manager. Last month, Carluccio’s announced it would roll out Fresca to at least five further sites in the coming months following a pilot at its Richmond restaurant.
Pret A Manger makes US airport debut as it expands to West Coast: Pret A Manger is expanding into airports across the US, including its first site on the West Coast. The company has opened its first US airport location, in Las Vegas’ McCarran International airport. Pret will also land at Los Angeles International airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal and Charlotte Douglas International airport in the coming weeks, with other locations to follow soon. The openings are in partnership with HMSHost. Pret A Manger US president Sarah Lee told QSR Magazine: “We are thrilled to have opened our first airport shop.” Stephanie Havard, HMSHost executive vice-president of restaurant development, added: “We are thrilled to debut Pret in US airports from coast to coast. It is an exciting time for HMSHost and our airport partners as we continue to lead the way in elevating travellers’ dining experiences.”
Hickory’s to open in Wilmslow on site of M&B pub: American-style smokehouse and barbecue brand Hickory’s is to open a restaurant in Wilmslow, Cheshire, on the site of a Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) pub. Hickory’s has agreed a deal to take over the lease of the Boddington Arms, which had been operating as a Harvester restaurant since 2016. The pub was originally part of the Orchid estate, which was acquired by M&B in 2014 along with 172 other pubs across the UK. An M&B spokesman told Wilsmlow.co.uk: “We constantly review our estate and look for new opportunities for our locations. The Boddington Arms will close and the site will be leased to Hickory’s Smokehouse. The team has been consulted and we hope to redeploy as many employees as possible at other businesses we operate nearby.” For Hickory’s it marks a long-awaited push into Wilmslow. The company applied to extend the Unicorn Inn in Adlington Road and convert its use from A4 (drinking establishment) to A3 (restaurant) in December 2014. However, the company withdrew its planning application three months later after a residents’ campaign, Save The Unicorn, collected more than 1,000 signatures and the application was rejected. In April, Hickory’s revealed it would open a site in Poynton, Cheshire, for its tenth site. Neil McDonnell founded the company in Chester in 2010.
Barbecue pioneer Pitt Cue closes: Wood-smoked barbecue pioneer Pitt Cue Co has closed its site in the City of London. Pitt Cue Co stated on its Instagram site: “It is with great sadness we announce the closure of Pitt Cue. We would like to thank our customers, staff and suppliers for their support over the last eight years. We are very proud of our role in bringing barbecue to the masses in the UK and promoting the cause of proper ethical animal husbandry.” Pitt Cue began as a food truck on the South Bank before its creators, Tom Adams and Jamie Berger, moved into tiny premises in Newburgh Street, Soho, with only five tables and a no-booking policy that resulted in long queues. The award-winning Pitt Cue then moved to much larger premises in the City, in Devonshire Square, with an extended bar and full wine list. In August 2016, Adams and Berger returned to their original Newburgh Street site to launch Little Pitt, a pared-down version under the motto “buns, bourbon and beer”, which only remained open for a short while.
Inflatable theme park operator Jumpin to open three sites this year: Inflatable theme park operator Jumpin is set for expansion by opening three sites this year. Founder Casey Ruse launched the concept in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, last summer, which has had more than 250,000 visitors. The site features obstacle courses, slides and mechanical rides along with its own cafe. Now Jumpin will open sites in Salisbury and Derby in early August, and Bristol in October. The Salisbury venue will launch at Castlegate Business Park in Old Sarum and span 20,000 square feet. This will be followed by an opening at the former Bounce Revolution site in Siddals Road, Derby, which will occupy 18,000 square feet. Jumpin will launch its biggest site to date this autumn, in Bristol. Spanning 35,000 square feet, the venue will be based at Oakwood Park in Lodge Causeway. Ruse said: “Following the huge success of Jumpin in Sussex we are confident people in Derby, Salisbury and Bristol will respond with similar enthusiasm as it is the perfect entertainment for families – promoting health, well-being and quality family time – encouraging all ages to get active while having fun.”
Five restaurant and leisure brands sign for Drake Circus scheme: Five restaurant and leisure brands have signed for sites at British Land’s new Drake Circus leisure development in Plymouth city centre. Better burger brand Five Guys will open a 2,500 square foot restaurant, while Nando’s has committed to a 4,300 square foot space. Loungers has agreed to a 6,700 square foot unit for its Cosy Club brand, while Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi will open a 4,000 square foot restaurant. Meanwhile, Paradise Island Adventure Golf, which is owned by Brighton Pier Group, has confirmed it will open a 15,000 square foot venue for its first site in the south west of England. These lettings bring the total space let to 68%. The complex, which is next to British Land’s Drake Circus shopping centre and will be anchored by a 41,000 square foot, 12-screen Cineworld cinema, is due to open in October. British Land head of national leasing Ben Grose said: “The commitment of five prominent brands is a reflection of the strength of Drake Circus’ appeal as a shopping and leisure destination and the success of our long-term asset management plan.” Smith Young and Cushman & Wakefield advised British Land on the lettings.
Vagabond opens sixth London wine bar, in Paddington: Imbiba-backed wine bar business Vagabond has opened its sixth London site, in Paddington Central. Vagabond is the first wine bar to open at the canal-side development and has launched in 3,000 square feet of space along the Grand Union Canal. Vagabond features wine dispensers that customers access via a card they top up beforehand. There are 120 wines to choose from, while the venue also offers small plates throughout the day. Stephen Finch, founder and managing director of Vagabond, said: “We looked at several opportunities around London for our next Vagabond, and coming to Paddington Central was a no-brainer.” Vagabond signed for Paddington Central in April alongside independent seafood restaurant London Shell Co and healthy food chain Pure. Tim Haddon, head of Paddington Central for British Land, said: “Our investment in Paddington continues to attract exciting new brands. London Shell Co’s expansion and Vagabond’s arrival provide further enlivenment.” In April, Nicolas Gaillot left all-day bakery and cafe concept Le Pain Quotidien to join Vagabond as director of operations. Founded by Finch in 2010 as a relaxed bar with informal wine tasting, Vagabond is looking to expand quickly during the next 18 months.
BrewDog appoints former Hi-Spirits MD as sales director: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has appointed former Hi-Spirits managing director Dan Bolton as its new sales director, Propel has learned. Bolton joins BrewDog after six years at the helm of Hi-Spirits, which operates a portfolio including Antica Sambuca and the Buffalo Trace Bourbon range. Bolton has a wealth of experience in the drinks industry. He was national account director at Matthew Clark and director of sales at Bibendum Wine before joining Louis Latour Agencies as managing director in April 2011. BrewDog recently 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 15,214 investors have pledged £3,183,700, which means the total amount pledged to date through BrewDog’s six Equity for Punks campaigns is in excess of £70m from almost 108,500 people.
Three Michelin-starred chef Quique Dacosta opens first site outside Spain, in Fitzrovia: Three Michelin-starred chef Quique Dacosta has opened his first site outside Spain – in Fitzrovia, central London. Arros QD has launched in Eastcastle Street with a menu section devoted to rice dishes designed to share. Dacosta’s homage to the traditional paella enjoyed in and around Valencia includes rabbit chop, chicken and butter beans cooked over a wood fire. The 140-cover restaurant is set across two floors totalling 9,000 square feet and features four distinct areas, including a lounge with bar seating, a paella counter and a chef’s table. The wine list focuses on Mediterranean organic varieties, while cocktails are modern takes on classic cocktails from key cities in the region. Dacosta said: “Paella is one of the best-known dishes around yet one of the most mistreated. I am materialising a passion I have been nurturing for decades – to reinstate the rice culture from the eastern coast of Spain.” Dacosta’s eponymous flagship restaurant in Valencia has held three Michelin stars since 2013, while he also operates one Michelin-starred El Poblet and three other venues in the city.
Heavenly Desserts opens Sheffield outlet for 17th site: Artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts has opened a site in Sheffield for its 17th UK outlet – with more lined up. The company, led by Yousif Aslam, has opened the outlet in Division Street. Heavenly Desserts’ menu includes pancakes, waffles, fondants, cakes and slices as well as tea, coffee and soft drinks. Heavenly Desserts was founded in 2008. Earlier this month it opened its debut Welsh site, in Cardiff, while further outlets are planned in Manchester and Stratford London, as well as a new flagship venue in Birmingham this summer.
Rudy’s Dirty Vegan Diner marks first anniversary by opening larger site at Camden Market: Rudy’s Dirty Vegan Diner, London’s first 100% vegan diner, has marked its first anniversary by relocating to a larger site at Camden Market. Founders Matthew Foster and Ruth Mumma have opened the 45-cover venue, which is three times the size of the original and has longer opening hours. The venue features a shake bar that offers vegan freakshakes made using vegan ice cream and oat milk. There is also a new private dining area that seats 12. Rudy’s Dirty Vegan Diner offers vegan-friendly versions of US fast food favourites, including a weekly changing menu of comfort food takes on meat loaf, buffalo wings and fried chicken. Foster said: “The response to our food has been incredible. The only thing holding us back has been the inability to cater to demand, which we hope the new bigger site and longer opening hours will help us to do. The vegan shake bar was part of our vision from the start so it’s great to see it finally come to life.” The new Rudy’s Dirty Vegan Diner is part of the revitalisation of Camden Market’s North Yard as the market celebrates its 45th anniversary, with other recent additions including My Million Pound winner Baba G’s, fine food grocer and deli The Camden Grocer, and rotisserie restaurant Kuku Riku.
Hotel Chocolat signs for Brighton scheme: Hotel Chocolat has signed for a site in Brighton. The company will open the outlet in the revamped Hanningtons Estate in North Street. Hotel Chocolat has taken a 1,378 square foot unit after agreeing a deal with landlord Redevco. Peter Harris, co-founder and development director at Hotel Chocolat, told the Brighton Independent: “We are delighted to bring Hotel Chocolat to Brighton’s vibrant new cultural and retail quarter. This latest addition forms part of our ever-growing portfolio across the UK, Japan and the US.” Andrew Foulds, portfolio director at Redevco, added: “Hotel Chocolat is a fantastic premium brand, which will sit perfectly alongside existing tenants Habitat, Cath Kidston, Kurt Geiger, Sandro, Maje, Bobbi Brown and White Company. Our vision was to extend the premium retail offer already found in East Street and create something really special and unique in Hanningtons Lane.”
Burslem-based operator opens third Sunset Taverns site: Burslem-based operator Shane Ratcliffe has opened his third site in the town with Staffordshire and Shropshire pub group Sunset Taverns. Ratcliffe has partnered with Dave Berrisford, who operates The Shoulder Of Mutton on the outskirts of Stoke, to run the former Chillz Bar in Burslem, which has been transformed into The White Hart 80s and 90s Bar. The Westport Road venue features a new dance floor, lighting and DJ booth. There are also plans to add retro arcade machines and table football to sit alongside the pool table and darts board, reports Stoke Live. Ratcliffe also runs Ye Olde Crown and the Duke William in Burslem, which are owned by Sunset Taverns. Sunset Taverns, which is based in Shrewsbury, also own pubs in Tunstall, Hanley, Hartshill and Wetley Rocks.
Marston’s to open £3m new-build Wokingham pub restaurant in early autumn:Marston’s is to open a new-build pub restaurant in Wokingham, Berkshire, in early autumn, creating 40 jobs. The company is investing £3m in The Oakingham Belle in Oak Avenue, which will be its fourth pub in Berkshire, with one in Reading and two in Newbury. The pub name is inspired by 18th century poem Molly Mogg, who was also known as the “Oakingham Belle”. Marston’s new-build operations manager Nigel Whitfield told Wokingham Today: “We are really excited to see the Oakingham Belle come to life.” Earlier this month, the company opened a new-build pub and 38-bedroom hotel in Clacton, Essex, creating more than 70 jobs.