UFC star takes 25% stake in Graffiti Spirits restaurant: Graffiti Spirits, the Liverpool-based independent bar and restaurant group owned by Matt Farrell and John Ennis, has revealed UFC star Darren Till has bought a 25% share in city restaurant Santa Maluco. Along with MMA fighter Mark Scanlon, they will make up 50% of the business. Till has been a regular visitor to rodizio-style Santa Maluco for the past year, while he and Scanlon used to visit a similar concept every week while they trained in Brazil. Till said: “I have known the guys from Graffiti Spirits Group for a while now and have been really impressed by their impact on the Liverpool food and drink scene. John and Matt have been a great support to me over the years, so it’s really great to be able to partner up with them with Santa Maluco. It has been a favourite for me and my friends since it opened so it feels good to finally be a part of it properly.” At Santa Maluco, all pizzas are cooked in a hand-made, wood-fired oven. All pizzas are 18 inches and made from scratch. Till recently headlined UFC Fight Night 130 in front of his home crowd when Liverpool hosted its first UFC event. Till has continued his climb up the welterweight rankings to second in the world after recording a fourth straight UFC victory against Stephen Thompson. The Liverpudlian is now preparing for his next fight at UFC 228 in Dallas, Texas, where he will challenge Tyron Woodley for the world welterweight title.
Aston Manor founder steps down from board as company makes changes at top: Doug Ellis, founder of Birmingham-based cider-maker Aston Manor, has stepped down from the board as the company undergoes a number of changes at the top. The company has appointed Ludovic Spiers, director general of Florette owner Agrial, as its new chief executive. Agrial’s Yves Jacobs has been named chief financial officer, the same role he holds at the French business, while Marc Roubaud, chief executive of Eclor, Agrial’s beverage division, has been appointed general manager. The moves come as Aston Manor, which also has operations in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Devon, has been searching for new investment for some time. As well as Ellis leaving the board, commercial director Kevin McGrath, sales and marketing director Glen Friel, and engineering and manufacturing director Paul Clifford have also stepped down. Head cider-maker Rodney Clifford and secretary Marion Stringer have also left the board. A spokesman told Insider Media: “Aston Manor Cider was clear it had been exploring opportunities to bring in additional investment. That work continues.” Aston Manor was established in 1983 and exports its products to more than 20 countries across the world. In its most recent accounts, for the year to 31 December 2016, the company increased turnover by 4% to almost £113m. However, pre-tax profits fell from £5.2m in 2015 to £4.4m. France-headquartered Agrial’s UK arm, Agrial Fresh Produce, is based near Lichfield, Staffordshire. The parent company operates in dairy, beef, poultry, vegetables and fruit. It was founded in 2000 and is headquartered in Caen in Normandy.
Tom Kitchin to launch neighbourhood bistro concept Southside Scran in Edinburgh: Kitchin Group, led by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin, will open its latest restaurant, Southside Scran, in Edinburgh in November. The venue, which will be in the city’s Bruntsfield district, will feature an open rotisserie in the middle of the dining room. The neighbourhood bistro’s menu will incorporate the best of Scottish produce with hints of Kitchin’s passion for French cuisine. Diners will also be offered a daily seafood selection. It will be the first time Kitchin Group has brought the “from nature to plate” philosophy to the south side of the city following The Kitchin in Leith, Castle Terrace nestled underneath Edinburgh Castle, and The Scran & Scallie in Stockbridge. The space and interiors will incorporate shades of dark green and rust-coloured pink. The restaurant will feature twists on classic bistro banquette seating using a variation of textures, materials and fabrics, with bespoke lighting features throughout. The drinks list at Southside Scran will have a strong focus on wine, while cocktails will change seasonally. Kitchin said: “We have often been asked when are we going to open a restaurant in the south side of Edinburgh? Bruntsfield is charming and feels like the right place for us to create a neighbourhood restaurant where people can enjoy a meal with their family and friends. The open rotisserie has long been a dream of ours and we can’t wait to showcase new dishes and ways of cooking with Scotland’s incredible produce.”
Former Vinoteca executive chef and Marco Pierre White protégé to open Hertfordshire restaurant: Kieren Steinborn-Busse, former executive chef at wine bar, restaurant and wine shop Vinoteca and Marco Pierre White protégé, is to open his first solo venture. Steinborn-Busse and wife Natasha will launch The Falcon in Buntingford, Hertfordshire, in November. The Falcon will offer dishes that reflect Steinborn-Busse’s love of British comfort food and rustic recipes based around seasonal, local produce, with the menu changing regularly. Housed in a grade II-listed building in High Street, the main dining room will offer 28 covers while there will be two private dining rooms seating eight and ten people respectively. The decor will feature original high wooden beams and exposed brickwork alongside bespoke furniture. Steinborn-Busse said: “We want to provide a great local dining destination, offering a space for people to interact, dine, drink and relax. We strongly believe the greatest pleasure in life is great food and happiness can be found in a homemade, delicious meal served with love. That’s what The Falcon is all about!” Steinborn-Busse trained under Pierre White at Quo Vadis and Alain Ducasse at The Sanderson. He was part of the original team to open St Martin’s Lane Hotel and Asia de Cuba under Richard Phillips. He was head chef at Thackeray’s in Tunbridge Wells when the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2002 before working as executive chef at the Swan bar and restaurant at Shakespeare’s Globe and more recently at Vinoteca, overseeing six London sites.
JD Wetherspoon’s plans for long-awaited Grays pub to be determined this week: JD Wetherspoon is set to have its plans determined this week for its long-awaited site in Grays, Essex (population: 66,843). The company acquired the site of the grade II-listed former State Cinema in George Street for an undisclosed sum in 2015. Now Thurrock Council’s planning committee is set to make a decision on the application on Thursday (16 August). The plans include a beer garden, while the concert organ will be restored and remain on the stage. The cinema opened in 1938 with a capacity of 2,200, one of the largest in Essex. It closed in 1988 but in the same year was used as the location for a three-minute sequence in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which saw the animated character hiding out with co-star Bob Hoskins. JD Wetherspoon purchased the site in September 2015 and promised to invest £3m to convert it into a pub. However, the development stalled following negotiations with Historic England and Thurrock Council over preserving some key parts of the building. As part of the preservation the circle seating area and projector room will remain unchanged but with no public access. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told Your Thurrock: “We are as keen as ever to develop the former cinema into a Wetherspoon pub. We believe a new pub will be a great asset to the town.”
BrewDog staff in line for £22,500 windfall: Staff at Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog could be in line for a £22,500 windfall each during the next five years after the company pledged to give away a fifth of its annual profits. The company said its “Unicorn Fund” could see it donate more than £45m in the next five years if it hits its profit targets. BrewDog’s 1,000-strong workforce stands to share 10% of its annual earnings, with the remaining 10% donated to charities selected by its staff and 57,000 “Equity Punk” investors. Latest accounts show the company, founded in 2007, grew its pre-tax profits 8.2% to £3.8m in 2016 following a 60.6% jump in revenues to £71.9m. Co-founder James Watt told The Scotsman “We care about two things above all else – our beer and our people. We want to make the best beers on the planet, we want to be the best company to work for, and we want to build a radically new type of business we can all be proud of. Giving away 20% of our profits – forever – is not about altruism, it is about impact. It’s not about profits, it is about purpose. This is the biggest community-fuelled, crowdfunded charity contribution in history.” Watt, who founded the company with Martin Dickie, also took aim at what he described as “outdated” corporate social responsibility policies adopted by many companies, arguing such altruism exists “merely for the purpose of an oversized cheque and an awkward photo shoot”. He added: “Our mission for the next decade at BrewDog is not simply to redefine the beer industry but to redefine the industry itself.”
Gusto head office team go back to the floor: The entire head office support team at Italian casual dining group Gusto are heading back to the shop floor on Thursday (16 August) for its inaugural Make A Difference day. All 18 members, including the full leadership team, will take up roles in the kitchen, bar and front-of-house for a full shift working alongside the restaurant team. Managing director Matt Snell said: “This day is based on our company values of sharing passion and knowledge, doing the right thing, and making a difference. Gusto headquarters is the support team for our restaurants and it’s imperative we remain close to what happens in the sites. The desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. Getting out and about and listening to our teams and guests is the best way to really understand what is important for our business, and a great way of forging stronger bonds between the sites and the head office. We’re also putting in place swaps for the restaurant teams so they, too, can gain a real insight into the jobs and roles we fulfil at Gusto headquarters. This will be the first of many Make A Difference days and I’m looking forward to hearing the feedback from across the business. I shall be in the kitchen at Gusto Italian York myself – swing by and say hello!”
North London-based Redemption Brewing Company launches £300,000 crowdfunding campaign to support growth plans: North London-based Redemption Brewing Company has launched a £300,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to support its growth plans. The company, founded in 2010 by Andy Moffat and Sam Rigby, is offering 10.71% equity in return for the investment. The pitch states: “In 2017 our sales have organically grown to more than £500,000 (net profit minus £48,919). We’ve built Redemption with our own blood, sweat and tears, our small but tight dedicated team, and the enthusiasm of our growing customer base. Our portfolio has expanded to seven core beers, which we complement with seasonal beers and collaborations with our brewing friends. Now we’re settled in our new, bigger, more efficient brewery, we have the capacity and ambition to brew more than two million pints a year. We want to grow our brand and build sales locally, regionally, nationally and internationally by building our team and bolstering our sales and marketing function. We plan to invest in tanks to launch a new keg product and can format. We also want to improve our taproom with the aim of making it a go-to venue for north London’s discerning beer drinkers.”
Fork & Blade Group closes Trawler Trash in Islington: Fork & Blade Group, the company behind The Black Penny Coffee House in Covent Garden, has closed sustainable seafood concept Trawler Trash in Islington, north London. The 50-cover venue opened in Upper Street in May last year on the site of former fish and chip shop Seafish, offering a weekly changing menu and cocktails. But according to web listings it is “permanently closed”, although the restaurant’s website is still available. The “trash” in the title comes from the restaurant’s focus on fish often discarded by the industry such as pilchard, coley, sprat, grey mullet and crayfish. The venue had no freezers so it only offered fish delivered that day, which meant it wasn’t open on Mondays. Trawler Trash retained a fish and chip shop feel but with polished concrete, exposed brick and an open kitchen. The cocktail bar to the rear seated 12 people. Fork & Blade also operates boutique hotel brand Green Walnut in Covent Garden and is developing a sister site in Cyprus.
Former Aspall director joins Wimbledon Brewery: Wimbledon Brewery has appointed Christian Hamilton as sales and marketing director. Hamilton has held various senior roles within the drinks industry, most recently as head of sales and marketing at Aspall Cyder. Previously he worked at Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame, where his roles included heading up the Asahi and Samuel Adams beer brands. Wimbledon managing director David Bateman said: “Wimbledon has been growing steadily since our first brew in July 2015. We are now a 30-barrel facility and we brewed more than one million pints of beer last year. Our cask and keg business is growing strongly and we have packaged beers in Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Oddbins and Co-op with more listings in the pipeline. We’re delighted to welcome Christian to the Wimbledon Brewery. His extensive experience – and previous success with the Asahi and Aspall brands – will be instrumental in realising the potential of the Wimbledon brand within the drinks market, in the UK and internationally.” Hamilton added: “I am excited to join Wimbledon at this stage of its journey. The business is in great shape and I look forward to helping it achieve its considerable potential.”
 
Star Pubs & Bars boosts soft drinks support: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is boosting its support for the soft drinks category. The company has appointed its first dedicated soft drinks buyer, is making Coca-Cola European Partners its official category partner, installing dispense equipment in its pubs, and providing licensees with promotional materials. Paul Hunter, who joined Star Pubs & Bars having previously been Greene King’s category manager for soft drinks and spirits, is undertaking a major review of the category to create a “market-leading consumer offer”. In line with market trends, the new range will include a greater emphasis on premium mixers, low/no sugar and healthier options, and drinks from smaller craft producers. With draught products accounting for more than 50% of soft drinks sales and growing, Star Pubs & Bars is rolling out the installation of draught equipment and increasing draught choice. In addition, the company is providing more promotional materials, such as ice buckets, menu cards and glassware and low/no sugar point-of-sale materials will also be available to licensees. Hunter said: “Soft drinks are hugely important to licensees nowadays with the growth in family dining and one in five adults now teetotal. Consumers are looking for better experiences and higher quality drinks as well as low/no sugar options. A good range is always about consumer focus and balance, having products from smaller craft to leading brands. Our strategy is to offer licensees the right brands for their style of pub and provide market insight on how to make a soft drinks offer exciting and engaging. It’s not just about the drinks available, it’s about the serve. With the right glass and garnish, a soft drink becomes a premium product.”
Easyhotel appoints new chief financial officer amid board changes:Easyhotel, the owner, developer and operator of “super budget” branded hotels, has announced the appointments of Gary Burton as chief financial officer and Marc Vieilledent as group development director with effect from 29 October. Since 2016, Burton has been finance director of Nuffield Health, having previously held a variety of senior finance and treasury roles during a nine-year career with Kingfisher, including considerable international responsibilities. Prior to joining Kingfisher, Burton qualified as an associate member of corporate treasurers at Hewlett Packard and as an accountant at Arthur Andersen. Further to the company’s recent announcement regarding strengthening the business’ development team, Vieilledent will have responsibility for leading the group’s development strategy and will step down from the board. Chief executive Guy Parsons said: “I am delighted to welcome Gary as chief financial officer. With his commercial approach and considerable international experience, he will make a great addition to our board. I am also delighted Marc is taking on the role of group development director. In his new role he will have a more direct impact on the success of the company’s strategy. Marc’s considerable experience in the hotel sector in Europe means he is ideally suited to drive this strand of our longer-term vision. Marc has been an outstanding chief financial officer and we are very grateful for his significant contribution to the group in that role to date.”
Robinsons launches beer quality assurance scheme: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has launched a quality assurance scheme – Best In Glass – to improve beer quality across its 260-strong tenanted and managed pub estate. The initiative will knit together the company’s annual beer quality audit, Cask Marque, with training records and Vianet data to create a suite of insights allowing Robinsons and its licensees to collect, analyse and take action on data that will help them improve and optimise beer quality. The new audit checks will be weighted heavily towards areas that have an impact on beer volume. Line cleaning, cellar temperature, product quality, and a zero tolerance for filter pans are all on the agenda along with four training schemes. Director of marketing David Bremner said: “Great-quality beer leads to profitable pints and happy customers who are more likely to return. Just 1% increase in sales is worth around £2,500 to the average pub so improving beer quality is a no-brainer! As a family business, we’re here to give our licensees the support and knowledge they need to succeed. Best In Glass helps them store and serve beer in the best possible condition and, as a result, sell more of it. So far, 207 audits have been carried out with 51 of our pubs receiving a score of outstanding and 43 scoring more than 90%. It’s no surprise pubs that perform better sell on average 3% more beer – that’s an extra £7,500 in their back pocket each year.”
AB InBev announces new head of UK business: Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) has appointed Paula Lindenberg as head of its UK and Ireland business. Currently vice-president of marketing for Ambev, Brazil, Lindenberg will take on her new role of north Europe president in January. In her 17 years at the company, Lindenberg has held a number of roles in South America and the US and has been responsible for some of Ambev’s key Latin American brands, including Skol, Brahma and Antarctica. Lindenberg succeeds Jason Warner, who has held the role of north Europe president since January 2016. Announced as part of a number of organisational changes the company unveiled in its half-year results earlier this month, Warner will become zone president for Europe at the beginning of next year. Lindenberg said: “I am so excited to be joining the UK business, especially as Britain is renowned for having one of the world’s best pub and beer cultures. The variety of beers here is incredible and our own portfolio has never been stronger or more diverse.” Warner added. “As someone who has worked with Paula previously, I can’t think of a better person to lead the UK on to the next level. Paula has contributed hugely to our Latin American business, leading its growth strategy, expanding its premium beers and reconnecting the business with its brewing heritage. I have no doubt she will bring her own brand of creative vision and energy to these shores.” AB InBev’s UK and Ireland business consists of 1,000 employees across three breweries – in Magor, South Wales; Samlesbury, Lancashire; and Enfield, north London – as well as offices in Luton and London.
Mindful Chef reaches 500,000 milestone in charity school meal partnership:Healthy recipe box startup Mindful Chef has donated more than 500,000 meals in support of One Feeds Two since partnering with the charity a year ago. For every food box purchased by a Mindful Chef customer, a school meal has been donated to a child living in poverty. Mindful Chef, which raised almost £2m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube last October, plans to donate one million meals by the end of 2018. One Feeds Two was founded in 2013 by JP Campbell, who paired with established grassroots feeding programmes in the developing world. Mindful Chef co-founder Myles Hopper said: “We are extremely proud of all our customers and staff who have helped us donate more than 500,000 school meals to children living in poverty. Mindful Chef was created to be a socially conscious business and we will continue to push boundaries of what is right and encourage others to follow suit. In very real terms, this initiative encourages children to go to school and enables them to pull themselves out of poverty.”