TRG launches bao virtual brand; appoints Farrer as head of change: The Restaurant Group (TRG), the Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s operator, has added a further virtual delivery brand to its portfolio called Bao Now, Propel has learned. The new pan-Asian concept, which offers “steamed buns and range of tasty fillings”, is understood to have been launched through its concession’s restaurant and bar site 1751 at the Hilton Hotel near More London. The new virtual brand is available through Deliveroo and UberEats. Speaking to Propel last week, TRG chief executive Andy Hornby said he believed there was more in the delivery and takeaway market for the company’s leisure division to go after, especially with Frankie & Benny’s, and that the sales mix for delivery and takeaway could grow to 20% during the next year. The company has developed and launched a number of new virtual delivery brands over the past 18 months, although it is thought not all will be revived. At the same time, TRG has appointed Rebecca Farrer, formerly of SSP and PizzaExpress, as its new head of change. Farrer stepped down as brand director at PizzaExpress in 2014 to join SSP as its new international head of brands. Farrer left the then Hony Capital-owned pizza chain after six years after holding the positions of head of brand activation, head of brand development and head of business innovation. Previous to joining PizzaExpress, she was head of consumer marketing at Alton Towers and a senior marketing manager at McDonald’s.
McDonald’s UK CEO – crisis has ‘taught us a lot about ourselves’: Paul Pomroy, McDonald’s UK chief executive, has said the coronavirus crisis has taught the business “a lot about ourselves and I learnt [about myself] as a leader”. According to Marketing Week, Pomroy described the pandemic and subsequent lock-downs as “quite refreshing” for the business after more than 50 consecutive quarters of growth in the UK. Speaking at the Festival of Marketing, Pomroy said: “It’s given us a new agility and emphasis to come back to where we were before. Everyone says to use a crisis to your advantage and we certainly are at the moment.” Speaking about how McDonald’s worked through lock-down, Pomroy said “we all thought closing would be the hardest decision but opening was the harder part”. In terms of planning marketing, he said: “We’ve been doing four-week chunks and now we need the confidence to look six-to-nine months in advance. That means leadership from me to give the confidence to the team that we will make mistakes and we will waste some money because no one knows if there will be a local lock-down.”
Turtle Bay opens earlier for breakfast offer: Turtle Bay, the Caribbean restaurant brand backed by Piper, has started opening up at 8.30am with a new breakfast offer, Propel understands. The 42-strong business is now opening its doors at 8.30am in 28 of its sites across the country. In these sites, the company is offering two-for-one on all breakfast and brunch dishes every day until 11am as part of its Bay Breakfast Club. In the remainder of its sites, the Bay Breakfast Club runs from 10am to 11am.
Qoot to focus expansion on outer areas of London as it uses delivery kitchens to ‘test the water’: Scot Turner, vice-president of operations at Qoot Restaurant Group, which operates a number of fast-growing brands in London, has told Propel it plans to concentrate expansion on the outer areas of the capital and is using dark kitchens to “test the water” in those locations. Qoot opened its second The Lebanese Bakery site in London, within department store Harrods, in September following a five-month delay due to the coronavirus outbreak, but has begun looking for further stand-alone sites for the concept. During lock-down, Qoot opened a number of delivery kitchens in the capital – including in Clapham and Crouch End – and Turner said not only had they helped “keep the cash flow” coming in, they were helping identify “unexpected” opportunities for the company. “The demand we are seeing has shown concepts such as The Lebanese Bakery can work in areas that we might not have perhaps thought of. As a result, we are exploring a number of opportunities in north and south London where we might open permanent locations. It’s a similar picture for our plant-based concept By Chloe. The Crouch End delivery site has been incredibly successful and we’re now looking to open a site in that area – and we would not have looked at that previously. It’s giving us a chance to learn about these communities. We still see growth in central London as a key strategy, but quite clearly coronavirus is having an impact on footfall in the heart of London, so we are adapting our focus, at least for now.” Turner said the changing footfall patterns meant the company’s plans to bring Kuwait chef Ahmed Al Bader’s hot sandwich concept 77 Josper Bar to the UK were on hold “for now”. He added: “When we look at the market it attracts, it is one that is built for central London rather than the suburbs.” Turner said, eventually, he would love to take some of the concepts outside the capital, but London remains the focus. “I’m a northern lad so it would be great to see and something that is in the pipeline,” he said.
Neat Burger lines up Soho opening: Neat Burger, the Lewis Hamilton-backed, plant-based concept, plans to open a third restaurant site, in London’s Soho, Propel has learned. The company, which launched its debut site in Mayfair last year, is understood to have secured the former Herman Ze German site in Old Compton Street. Earlier this year, it opened its second site in Lock Place, Camden Market. It also operates Deliveroo Edition sites in Battersea and Whitechapel. Kit Alexander at Etch acted on the Soho deal.
Euro Garages to add to F&B mix with Cinnabon link-up: Euro Garages, the forecourt and roadside operator, is to add to its range of food and beverage operators with a link up with US brand Cinnabon. The company is set to open the first site under the new agreement at the Frontier Park development, off Whitebirk Roundabout, near Blackburn. Cinnabon previously operated a handful of sites in the UK, including one at the Trocadero in Piccadilly at the start of the previous decade, before retreating from the country. Euro Garages is also believed to be looking to add new franchise concept NKD Pizza to one of its north west-based sites over the coming months.
Former Wagamama head of innovation to launch Indonesian restaurant concept:Jasmin Ayling, former head of innovation at The Restaurant Group-owned Wagamama, has launched an Indonesian restaurant concept. Ayling is to open the debut site of Rendang + Rice at Buck Street Market in Camden after agreeing a deal with landlord LabTech. Rendang + Rice will have a takeaway focus and offer Indonesian family-favourite dishes such as the eponymous slow-cooked rendang curry with sustainably sourced beef, and an array of bao, both sweet and savoury. Half the menu is plant-based, and in line with Buck Street Market’s environmental credentials. Ayling said: “I have always dreamed of opening a restaurant and I wanted to capture a part of my family story with Rendang + Rice. All the food has been made fresh and from scratch. As a dedicated market for the eco-conscious, Buck Street matches our ethos of sustainability perfectly.” LabTech commercial director Maggie Milosavljevic added: “Rendang + Rice will add another layer of international flavour and authenticity to the already vibrant market.” LabTech acted on behalf of Buck Street Market while Rendang + Rice dealt direct.
Restaurant offering high-end food modelled around ‘greasy spoons’ to go from pop-up to permanent, more sites in pipeline: A restaurant and events business offering high-end food modelled around “greasy spoon” cafes is to go from pop-up to permanent, with more sites in the pipeline. Only Food and Courses, developed by Robbie Lorraine and Martyn Barrett, will open its first site in early November at Pop Brixton in a repurposed shipping container. It follows a series of pop-up events in Kent, where Lorraine and his team offered guests his take on food inspired by his childhood. Lorraine has worked at high-profile restaurants, venues and events ranging from Roux Fine Dining, The Shard, Royal Ascot and Chelsea Football Club. Barrett, who has extensive commercial and operations experience, has led and launched multiple businesses, ranging from major food halls at Selfridges & Co in London and Birmingham; high-end restaurants at London City Airport; as well as high-profile event catering operations at venues such as Goodwood. Barrett has also played a pivotal role in the rollout of hot chocolate shop Knoops. The 28-seater Pop Brixton site is the first of a number of units expected to open, with a London high-street site earmarked for summer 2021. Lorraine said: “I’ve always had a vision for something like this so I’m really excited to be bringing it to life now. Food brings back so many memories for people and I really enjoy tapping into some of these with some modern twists on things we used to eat.”
JKS and Joy at Portobello offer new food delivery services: JKS Restaurants, led by Karam, Jyotin and Sunaina Sethi, and Flora and Pastaio restaurants – led by Steve Parle – located at Joy at Portobello, have launched home delivery services. JKS is offering finish-at-home dishes from its Gymkhana, Brigadiers and Trishna brands. Through its Ambassador General Store, customers can order food from each restaurant and finish cooking/garnishing at home. JKS said: “We offer a selection of ready-to-cook family feast experiences and finish-at-home signature dishes, with all products carefully considered so that each dish is simple enough for any level of home cook.” There is also the option to buy beverages such as collaboration beers, wines and cocktails. Gymkhana offers classic and contemporary Indian cuisine, using seasonal British ingredients with a strong focus on the tandoor and chatpatta sharing dishes. Brigadiers focuses on different methods of Indian barbecue, using tandoors, charcoal grills, rotisseries, wood ovens and classic Indian smokers. Trishna takes inspiration from India’s coastal flavours and cuisine from Mumbai down to Malabar. Joy at Portobello, which houses restaurants Flora and Pastaio, has meals and groceries available for home delivery too. From Flora, there will be whole cooked lobster, chilled and served with aioli, American plum pie, double-baked chocolate cake, jars of freshly made salsa verde to mention just a few items. While Pastaio can deliver its fresh pasta, alongside sauces like 8-hour beef and porcini bolognaise sauce.
American-style restaurant Electric Bar & Diner launches at The Ned: The Ned has opened American-style restaurant – Electric Bar & Diner – in the City of London. As the sister restaurant to Soho House & Co’s Electric Diner Portobello, it has a revamped menu that offers a mixture of diner and deli favourites, such as burgers and bagels to salads and cheesecake, with shakes and cocktails too. Diners can opt to eat at the counter or in one of the red leather booths, or just grab a coffee and a slice of pie to go from the dessert counter. The restaurant is one of eight places to eat at The Ned – a grade I-listed former Midland Bank building – and will replace the space once used by Zobler’s and by Cafe Sou. Serving breakfast, brunch, an all-day menu and desserts, customers can expect dishes such as the breakfast burrito, cheese omelette, guacamole, bacon (£11); lobster roll, spicy mayo, pickled cucumber (£16); flat-iron chicken, roast garlic, chicken jus (£16); electric reuben with corned beef, kraut, swiss cheese, rye (£14); vanilla waffles with salted caramel ice cream, hot chocolate sauce (£8); and Old Fashioned cocktail – Woodford Reserve bourbon, old fashioned syrup, orange (£12).
India’s Azure Hospitality makes delayed UK debut with Fitzrovia restaurant and bar: India-based Azure Hospitality has made its delayed UK debut with an opening in London. Founders Rahul Khanna and Kabir Suri have launched restaurant Pali Hill and hidden cocktail bar Bandra Bhai in Mortimer Street, Fitzrovia. Inspired by India’s diverse culinary heritage, ground-floor restaurant Pali Hill offers a seasonal changing menu of regional sharing plates. The name comes from one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Mumbai. The open kitchen in the 60-cover restaurant features a large grill that will serve dishes such as razor clams with kokum juice and fresh coriander; and grilled middle white pork with sweet tamarind, crushed black pepper and fennel. Meanwhile, Bandra Bhai is an underground cocktail bar inspired by the illicit hangouts of India’s smuggling era. The name is a “playful tribute” to a ring of smugglers who dealt in illicit goods during India’s closed economy. The 40-cover bar is accessed via a “hidden” doorway in the venue’s basement and offers cocktails such as The Don, inspired by the Bollywood movie character’s love of whisky and spice, and the Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy, which honours the “king of Indian disco”. The venues were due to open in May, but this was pushed back as a result of the pandemic.
Crate Brewery and Silo partner to launch sustainability-driven market: London-based Crate Brewery and zero-waste restaurant Silo are partnering to launch a sustainability-driven market to support suppliers. The market, which will be based within Crate Brewery’s home at The White Building in Hackney Wick will open on Thursday, 22 October. Running from Thursday to Sunday, the market will showcase artisanal producers and pioneers selected for their approaches to sustainability within their sectors. The market will also act as a platform for the independent businesses and designers with which Crate and Silo have built close relationships. Crate director Jess Seaton said: “We’re pleased to be building on our vision for The White Building and give a platform for these producers and to showcase such sustainable and beautiful products.” Doug McMaster, chef-patron of Silo, added: “It’s been an extraordinary year and, as a restaurant, we cannot thank our suppliers enough for the support. We’re looking forward to growing and developing this aspect and feel this is an excellent opportunity to introduce these great businesses directly to our friends and customers.”
Bala Baya introduces early evening offer in response to 10pm curfew: Bala Baya, the Tel Aviv-inspired concept in London’s Southwark from former Ottolenghi chef Eran Tibi, has extended its discount scheme in response to the 10pm curfew. The offer will now include 50% off all food and soft drinks up to a value of £10 per person every day for early dinner bookings between 5pm and 6pm. Tibi said: “The 10pm curfew is quite devastating to the hospitality industry but I found the inspiration to adapt. We have decided to launch our #5isthenew7 discount to combat closing early. We’re calling it #EatEarlyToHelpOut. We are going to need all the support to get through these tough days.”
Bairds reports number of plants stop production or running at greatly reduced capacity as coronavirus hits demand: Essex-headquartered malt company Bairds has said a number of its plants have had to either stop production or run at greatly reduced capacity as a result of the drop in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the business pointed out, at no stage, had it failed to meet its obligations to its customers or suppliers. It has also introduced split production shifts as part of safety measures to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus among staff. The company stated: “Volumes of deliveries greatly reduced from mid-March. The result of lower beer and whisky production as a result of covid-19 is indicating 2020 volumes will be more or less the same as 2019. The full extent of the impact on the business is not known at this time.” Bairds, which operates five production facilities in the UK, provided the update as it reported revenue rose to £135.1m for the year ending 30 September 2019, compared with £115.9m the previous year. UK and Ireland revenue was up to £119.6m, compared with £104.6m the year before, while sales to the Americas, Europe and the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific markets were all up. Ebitda from continuing operations increased to £9.4m, compared with £6.8m the previous year. Pre-tax profit jumped to £10.3m from £86,000 the year before. The company has restated the 2018 comparatives as a result of a restructure during the period that saw the trading assets and liabilities of Saxon Agriculture sold to a fellow GrainCorp subsidiary and, therefore, presented as discontinued operations. Bairds stated: “The company experienced a drop in volume in the brewing sector as one national customer contract was lost due to price competition below what the company was prepared to offer. The company experienced an increase in the volume sold in the craft brewing sector due to increased production to meet demand.”
Club Mexicana launches DIY taco boxes and cocktail kits: Club Mexicana, the vegan restaurant concept that offers Mexican and Californian-inspired street food, has launched DIY taco boxes and cocktail kits. They are available to order online with delivery across the UK. The range will change monthly but initially features the Al Pastor Taco DIY kit, which feeds four people and consists of its homemade al pastor seitan, with Mexican chillies and Adobado sauce accompanied by corn tortillas, caramelised pineapple and salsa verde. Also available are loaded nachos alongside cocktails such as the Electric Margarita with tequila, orange liqueurs, and lemon and lime. Founder Meriel Armitage said: “We want to bring a sense of our signature Club Mexicana warmth into people’s homes.” Club Mexicana also operates a restaurant in London’s Soho.