Company News:

Tortilla appoints former Azzurri Group MD Jason Thomas as COO: Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed fast casual Mexican concept, has appointed Jason Thomas – formerly of Azzurri Group, Shake Shack and Loch Fyne Restaurants – as its new chief operating officer. Thomas was previously a managing director at Zizzi and ASK Italian operator Azzurri. He most recently worked as a business director for AlShaya in the Middle East, and for a year and a half headed up Shake Shack in the UK. He was also previously an operations director at Loch Fyne Restaurants. Tortilla managing director Richard Morris said: “Having worked previously with Jason at Loch Fyne, I know he’s the right cultural fit for the business, and will be able to get stuck into the many exciting projects we have planned for this year and beyond.” The company also confirmed previous Propel reports it was to open in Exeter, in High Street, and Edinburgh, at the St James Place development. The 43-strong group is also set to open in Windsor, in the town’s Peascod Street, and add to its dark kitchen’s estate with an opening in the Deliveroo Editions in Manchester next month. The brand said it was also exploring “several other exciting opportunities to be announced soon”.
Brewhouse & Kitchen reports ‘very strong’ start to trading, sales up 30.2% on 2019: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the 23-strong brewpub group, has reported a “very strong” start to trading again. The group opened seven garden sites, and over the six-day week it saw total sales “significantly” exceed both budget and forecast. Compared with sales on the same days in 2019, the group saw growth of 30.2%, despite Good Friday being in this week in that year. Chief executive Kris Gumbrell said: “We have been astonished by the extraordinary levels of trade. Next week we will move to the next phase of reopening with our Poole and Dorchester brewpubs, as well as the company’s largest garden site in Cardiff, which is subject to the more challenging Welsh Assembly rules. We are confident our business, like the rest of the sector, provides a safe and well controlled environment for guests to socialise and re-engage with their communities.” Gumbrell said spend per head has grown, through the brand’s order and pay at table “B&K on Tap” solution. He added 83% of orders last week were placed through a digital channel. In addition to on-premise trading, Brewhouse & Kitchen’s online web shop has been an “early and significant success”. The company’s new online beer masterclass has consistently sold out. Gumbrell said: “We have been overwhelmed by the loyalty and support of our guests, they are working proactively with us, our teams have returned and excited and energised for the challenge and we look forward to opening our entire estate, including our brewpub and hotel in Worthing, on 17 May.
Albion & East launches £350,000 crowdfunding campaign to support growth: Albion & East, the Imbiba-backed, London-based bar business, has launched a £350,000 fundraise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it looks to fund its next stage of growth. The four-strong, Sarah Weir-led, business is offering 1.25% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £27.6m. The campaign is now open to selected investors ahead of its public launch in about a week. The business currently operates four bars – Martello Hall in Hackney, Canova Hall and Cattivo in Brixton and Serata Hall in Old Street. A fifth bar, Allora Hall, will open on the former Monkey Nuts site in Crouch End, in May, which will mark the company’s debut in north London. It wants to accelerate growth by acquiring new sites during the next three years, and aims to have a ten-strong estate by the end of 2022. It believes “there has never been a better time to do this because consumer demand is expected to remain high and market supply likely to be reduced”. Propel understands one of these sites is set to open under an “experience-led concept – an urban distillery and tasting room”. It is thought to have a site in the pipeline for this concept, with a target opening in late 2021. It is also thought the funds raised will also go towards the further development of its Tiny Tower Liquor offshoot. Propel revealed last month, Albion & East was set to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support its growth.
Boparan Restaurant Group launches virtual delivery brand Rebel Vegan: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG), the owner and operator of brands including Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Giraffe, Ed’s Easy Diner, Carluccio’s and Slim Chickens, has launched a new virtual delivery brand called Rebel Vegan, Propel has learned. Launched with the tagline: “All plants. No bull”, the new delivery brand is available through the Ed’s Easy Diner sites in Birmingham (Ladywood) and Cheshire Oaks, Giraffe in Cheshunt and the former Carluccio’s unit in Upper Street, Islington. The menu includes vegan burgers priced at £8.49 to £9.49, chicken-less burgers at £8.49 to £8.99, and tenders (barbecue, buffalo or habanero sauce) at £4.99.
Burger King announces ambitious new targets to reduce carbon emissions:Burger King UK has set ambitious new targets in its bid to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. A reduction in meat will play a key role in the business’ sustainability ambitions, as well as waste reduction and supplier engagement. On meat reduction, the restaurant plans to expand its meat-free menu offerings and sustainable sourcing of key ingredients, including soy. Burger King UK has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 100% under certain schedules, in addition to reducing emissions from its value chain by 41% per restaurant by 2030, from a 2019 base year. This includes those emissions from purchased goods and services, capital distribution, waste and franchises. Developed with industry expert Carbon Intelligence, Burger King’s targets have been approved by the Science Based Target initiative in line with current best practice and placing it among the top tier of UK businesses for commitment to sustainability. Nicola Pierce, head of strategy and responsible business at Burger King UK, said: “We are making transparent, scientifically sound and crucially important changes to our business, in order to achieve the necessary strides to limit global warming. Sustainability is at the core of Burger King UK’s values and the way we operate will continue to reflect those beliefs.”
Sunderland-based Theatre Leisure to open £6m new concept sports bar in former Revolution premises: Sunderland-based hospitality company Theatre Leisure is to open a £6m concept sports bar in the city. The group, which runs The Rabbit bar has secured a lease for the historic Victoria Buildings in Low Row, which was previously home to Revolution. The four-storey space will feature a world sports bar called Streetbar SR1 in the downstairs area, with the upper levels becoming an “exclusive” bar area with a roof terrace named Victoria’s Loft. The venue, which will create 50 jobs, will open at the end of May. Theatre Leisure co-founder Lee Robson said: “When the opportunity came up to take a lease out on this important and substantial space, we just couldn’t pass it up, and the timing is fortuitous with the easing of restrictions. I have no doubt there will be an appetite for a new one-of-a-kind sports bar in Sunderland.” Giles McCourt, of law firm Muckle, negotiated the lease on behalf of Theatre Leisure.
Eight Stony Street founder to begin rollout of wine bar, restaurant and shop concept with Oxford launch next month: Kent Barker is to begin the rollout of his Somerset-based wine bar, restaurant and shop concept with an opening in Oxford next month. As revealed by Propel in February, Barker, who launched Eight Stony Street in Frome in 2019, is opening Wilding on Wednesday, 26 May, in Little Clarendon Street in Oxford. The former Cafe Rouge premises is being transformed into a restaurant offering 80 covers, with an additional 16 in a private dining room, 20 at the bar and a garden terrace for up to 60. The kitchen will be led by Dominique Goltinger with a menu that “prioritises seasonality and local provenance”. It includes dishes such as hand-dived scallops with seashore vegetables and wild capers; and char-grilled asparagus with Caerphilly cheese and hogweed shoot dressing alongside an extensive wine list. Wilding will offer a retail space where guests can buy from more than 400 bottles of wine. Barker previously held senior positions in wine merchants such as Bibendum, Oddbins and Enotria before co-founding Beckford Bottle Shop and then launching Eight Stony Street. Everard Cole acted on behalf of Barker while Cluttons acted on behalf of the landlord on the Oxford site.
Atherton to launch The Cafe Biltmore in Mayfair with relaxed cafe-style menu:Chef Jason Atherton will launch The Cafe Biltmore Restaurant & Terrace on Wednesday (21 April) within luxury Mayfair hotel, The Biltmore Hotel. The menu has been designed by Atherton and head chef Paul Walsh for the diners on the terrace, which has capacity for 70 diners. Having opened fine dining restaurant, The Betterment, at The Biltmore Mayfair in 2019, Atherton, of The Social Company, has brought together a seasonal menu with a more casual take on world favourites. Customers can expect the likes of cured Loch Duart salmon with ponzu dressing, lime, coriander and chilli; buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with Churchill sauce in a brioche bun; and grilled Dover sole with capers, lemon and parsley and citrus hollandaise. There is also a cocktail list to choose from, highlights being The Biltmore Spritz with Amaro Mondino, Belsazar Dry, lime, rosemary water and tonic and Sebastian’s Sunset with Gin Mare, Pedro Ximenez, dry vermouth, bitters and tonic. Atherton said: “I hope people will enjoy the relaxed cafe-style menu we have created, whether it’s for a casual meet-up or to celebrate a special birthday that was missed. We cannot wait to bring people back to Mayfair.” The Cafe Biltmore Restaurant & Terrace will open with outdoor seating only on 21 April from Wednesdays to Sundays at midday until 10pm. Indoor dining will follow from 17 May.
Team behind two east London pubs takes on cafe offer at Hoxton museum: The team behind east London pubs, the Anchor & Hope in Clapton and The Clarence Tavern in Stoke Newington, are to open their third site. Rob Webster-Shaw and Jonathon Jones have taken on the cafe offering at the Museum of the Home – formerly known as the Geffrye Museum – in Hoxton. They are launching Molly’s Cafe in the former Marquis pub in Cremer Street, which is within the museum complex, reports Hot Dinners. The all-day space consists of two parts. There will be a bistro and bar open in the evening with street access, with a museum-facing canteen, offering dishes such as kedgeree and rabbit lasagne. Molly’s Cafe, which is named after Molly Harrison, one of the museum’s curators in the 1940s and 1950s, will open its outside terrace on Thursday, 6 May, before full opening on Tuesday, 18 May.
Vietnamese Street Kitchen opens Bullring site after five-month delay:Birmingham-based independent restaurant Vietnamese Street Kitchen has opened a site at the Bullring after months of delays due to the pandemic. After initially being set to open in November 2020, operations manager Oliver Ngo has waited a further five months to open what will be the restaurant’s second site – the first is located at Resorts World Birmingham and it closed a site in Brindleyplace. Set over two floors, there is an upstairs bar with dining space downstairs, plus a heated outdoor terrace and more than 140 covers available, once restrictions come to an end. According to The Business Desk, a £350,000 renovation was completed late last year to convert the space previously occupied by the Handmade Burger Co into the new venue. It has also created 30 jobs while also retaining staff from the former venue. Ngo said: “It’s been a worrying six months but we’re delighted to finally be at this point. We’ve opened up the kitchen, built an outdoor terrace and turned the upstairs into a funky cocktail bar. As one of the oldest sites in the Bullring, we’ve had to do a lot of work to bring the unit up to standard but it’s now a bright venue that’s well ventilated, spacious and covid-secure – keeping our customers safe is our main priority. This is our flagship location now – all of our dreams and hard work put into one space.”
Whitbread opens Premier Inn hotel in Oxford, second to follow this year:Whitbread, the owner of the Premier Inn and hub by Premier Inn hotel brands, has opened its latest Premier Inn hotel at Botley, Oxford. The 123-bedroom site is eight storeys high with a Thyme restaurant on the first floor. It is the first of two Premier Inn hotels to open this year in Oxford with the second to follow at Westgate. Caroline Burt, estate development project manager at Premier Inn, who is leading the opening of the Botley hotel said: “We talk a lot about ‘strategic’ growth in the business. It’s our approach to investing in locations we are expect strong long-term demand from our guests for our affordable hotel rooms. Oxford is one of our strategic growth markets and an exciting city for us with our first opening in Botley this week and a new 90-bedroom flagship Premier Inn at Westgate to follow this summer.” The Botley Development Company, a joint venture between Mace Developments and Doric Properties, delivered the new hotel for Whitbread.
Pret A Manger co-founder Sinclair Beecham invests in Curtice Brothers, brand launches in China: Pret A Manger co-founder Sinclair Beecham is among a trio of new investors in ketchup start-up Curtice Brothers. Beecham has been joined as a shareholder by William Bray, who was a franchise partner for PizzaExpress in China for many years, and Fritz Schweiger, founder of investment and corporate finance company Q-Advisers. Meanwhile, in a joint venture with Bray and local investor Man On Li, Curtice Brothers has launched in China. Bray will drive the development of Curtice Brothers initially in China and later throughout Asia. The brand has also launched four new organic sauces to retail, including a curry ketchup, sweet chilli sauce and mayonnaise. Curtice Brothers co-founder and chief executive Mario C Bauer said: “For our young, fast-growing company, it is a huge compliment and important signal that, in addition to the founders, experienced industry professionals and investors also believe in its global success. With their support, even more partners in gastronomy and retail can now offer their customers our award-winning organic sauces in our core European markets and now also in Asia and the US.” Simeon and Edgar Curtice founded Curtice Brothers in 1868 in Rochester, New York, but the name was abandoned in the 1940s. Bauer revived the brand in early 2014 and other investors include former Pret A Manger chief executive Clive Schlee and Andreas Karlsson, who heads up Sticks ’n’ Sushi.
Pan-Asian street food restaurant launches in Edinburgh: A pan-Asian street food restaurant has been opened in Edinburgh. Ozen Street Food is the brainchild of Chris Thomas and Mahdi Ben Hamou, who both hail from the city and met while working as DJs. Ozen Street Food opened in Rose Street North Lane earlier in April and offers a “contemporary take on pan-Asian cuisine” with dishes including bao buns stuffed with a choice of chicken, prawns, halloumi or cauliflower, and served with a selection of secret recipe homemade sauces. Thomas said: “The flavours, the brand, the energy of what we’re bringing to Edinburgh is totally new. The menu is bold, the presentation is playful but, most importantly, the flavours are fresh and full.”
Galgorm Collection acquires wedding venue in ‘multimillion-pound deal’, also set to open £10m hotel in June: Belfast-based hospitality group Galgorm Collection has acquired wedding venue, The Old Inn Crawfordsburn, in north County Down in a “multimillion pound deal”. The group is also set to open its new hotel in Templepatrick in June following a £10m revamp. All staff members are being retained at The Old Inn Crawfordsburn, where author CS Lewis honeymooned in 1958, and will reopen in line with government guidelines. Galgorm managing director Colin Johnston said: “With an initial strategic investment of £1m, we are planning to build upon the hotel’s award-winning credentials and extend the site to incorporate a boutique spa with infinity pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room, private cabanas and relax space.” Meanwhile, the 33-bedroom Rabbit Hotel & Retreat will launch on 18 June following the purchase and transformation of the former Templeton Hotel in Templepatrick. The property was acquired by Galgorm Collection in 2018. Managing director Colin Johnston said: “After more than 18 months of extensive redevelopment and a challenging year for the hospitality industry, we’re thrilled to throw open our doors and welcome guests to enjoy this unmatched new experience. Not only does this represent a significant investment in the local economy, it cements our long-standing commitment to support and grow our tourism industry.”
Food truck pop-up Tigre Tacos to open first permanent residency: Tigre Tacos, the food truck pop-up at Nine Lives Alley in London Bridge, is set to take on its first bricks-and-mortar space, at The Gunmakers pub in Clerkenwell. Chef Ramon Ramos will serve his Mexicali cuisine, inspired by street-food taquerias, trucks and flavours of 1970s’ southern California, with an exclusively seafood and vegetarian menu, from Monday, 17 May. Ramos, whose family restaurant is a taco institution in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico, first served Tigre Tacos on the cobbled streets of Nine Lives Alley in 2020. Dishes will include baja fish and camarones tacos, a selection of ceviche, tostadas and charcoal-grilled whole fish, all served alongside a cocktail menu.
Coast & Country Hotel Collection to launch as former Shearings sites get new lease of life: The Coast & Country Hotel Collection, a newly formed collection of former Shearings Hotels, is to reopen in the coming weeks under a reinvigorated brand aimed at showcasing the locations of the properties within the portfolio. Shearings Hotels went into administration in May last year but is now under new ownership. Following a hotel management agreement with Bespoke Hotels, 39 of the hotels are set to reopen as lockdown eases. The hotels are spread across 33 leisure destinations in England, Scotland and Wales with many of the sites, as their collective name implies, within areas close to coastal or rural attractions. Portfolio managing director Paul FitzGerald said: “Many of the properties were previously geared towards coach parties and while we are looking forward to welcoming them back, we will also be opening up to other markets. In particular, we are looking to attract those seeking leisure breaks and welcoming local residents to sample the restaurants, bars, and wedding and event venues on offer as we look to create a local hero status and develop a close bond with communities.” Alongside the hotels, the portfolio will also include Derwent Manor Apartments, a set of 19 self-catering apartments in Keswick, Cumbria, which are set to reopen in accordance with government guidelines.
Mellors Group to open new family experience on Skegness Pier: Mellors Group, which operates theme parks, attractions and entertainment businesses, is to open a new family experience on Skegness Pier. Playa at the Pier will offer a “rooftop-style experience”, with a bar and pool pods. Mellors Group head of marketing Paige Harris said: “After such a difficult year for the travel and tourism industry, we’re excited to announce building has commenced on the new pop-up experience, Playa at the Pier. This new family experience is the perfect place for parents to relax and unwind by the pool while the kids play in the many entertainment areas.” Playa at the Pier is one of three new attractions to Skegness Pier, with more information being revealed soon and will add to the pre-existing attractions, including bowling, laser quest and escape rooms. Mellors Group acquired Skegness Pier for £3m earlier this year. The company operates eight brands, including the nearby Fantasy Island at Ingoldmells, which it acquired in 2016.