Andreas Karlsson – being surrounded by high-quality operators helps rather than hinders Sticks ‘n’ Sushi: Andreas Karlsson, group chief operating officer of Japanese restaurant brand Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, has told Propel he believes being surrounded by high-quality operators is proving helpful rather than a hindrance to the business. Karlsson said the company, which has reported turnover rose to £15.6m in the year to 30 June 2017, was trading ahead of last year in terms of both revenue and customer numbers in what was a difficult time for the casual dining market. He added the company’s latest sites, which opened in Oxford and the Nova development in Victoria in November and December respectively, were doing “well”. “We are not seeing a drop in sales despite the increased competition, particularly in places such as Canary Wharf,” said Karlsson. “I think competition actually helps – if you have neighbours that are doing well then you do well. We need each other. Not everyone wants to eat pizza or sushi every time for example – the places that are doing the best have variety. Trading wise, we are in a solid place. It’s a pretty simple recipe for success – a nicely designed restaurant, a consistent high-quality product in a good location where every guest is the most important. If you have that and look after your team then you have a chance of survival.” Karlsson said the company remained on track to open sites in Beak Street, Soho, and the Radnor Walk development in King’s Road, Chelsea, this summer while it was now looking at building a cluster of sites in Berlin following its debut site in the German capital last year. He added: “I think the cluster approach works really well for us. It makes it easier from an operational point of view of having restaurants quite close together rather than dotted around the country and we’ll take a similar approach in Germany as we have done in the UK. I think the two London restaurants will be our only openings this year and we’ll look to do one or two more in 2019. While we are looking to open 15 restaurants in London and the south east, we may end up with a few less. I’d rather have fewer good-performing restaurants than a larger estate with a handful of underperforming ones.”

Deep Blue Restaurants looking to acquire eight sites a year, run rate turnover to hit £14m: Deep Blue Restaurants chief executive James Low has told Propel the company is looking to acquire at least eight sites annually over the next three years as the fish and chip market continues to perform “robustly”. Low also revealed the company, which last week reported sales increased 26.4% to £7,541,402 in the year to 26 September 2017, was on course this financial year to hit run rate turnover of £14m having made a series of acquisitions. Run rate Ebitda is also set to increase to £1.4m, including central costs, due to organic growth and the contribution from recent acquisitions. At the end of last year, the company acquired the six-strong Harpers chain in Yorkshire and a third site in Southsea, Hampshire. Meanwhile, this month it bought The Fish House in Notting Hill, north west London, and it is close to securing a deal for another site in West Sussex. Low said the company, which has 31 sites in the UK, was also “going to expand” its two-site franchise in Spain with partner Airfoods in the next 12 months. Low added: “We’ve got off to a good start in 2018 and over the next three years we want to add another eight sites per year – depending, of course, on the right opportunities being available. We’ve got two sites in London and I’d like to open more there but want to get a better understanding of the London market first. However, there is always demand for a good-quality fish and chip proposition. Airfoods operates in eight airports so there’s scope to expand our franchise following the latest opening in Alicante.” Low said for its most recent period to 31 December 2017, like-for-like sales were up 3.5% and added: “While consumers are cutting back on their spending they continue to buy fish and chips – the market is pretty robust.” Meanwhile, Low said he expected all the recent acquisitions to be rebranded as Deep Blue restaurants by the end of this year.

Boparan to open first UK site for American fried chicken franchise Slim Chickens next month: American fried chicken franchise Slim Chickens is to open its first site outside the US next month with the launch of a flagship site in London’s West End. The restaurant will open in James Street, Marylebone, on Thursday, 15 March offering Slim Chickens’ signature hand-breaded chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches, marinated wings and 12 homemade sauces. Exclusive items on the UK menu will include Texan toast and fried pickles. Boparan Restaurant Group, which owns Giraffe, Ed’s Easy Diner and Harry Ramsden’s, has partnered with Slim Chickens USA to bring the brand to the UK market. Slim Chickens co-founders Tom Gordon and Greg Smart launched the brand 15 years ago and it now has 60 sites across the southern US including its native Arkansas. Gordon said: “In the past few years, London has established itself as a bustling hub for foodies. We are excited to finally bring a taste of true and authentic southern USA fried cooking to the UK and stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the leading players within the industry.” Last month, Boparan Restaurant Group chief executive Tom Crowley said: “We have firm plans to open restaurants around the UK over the coming months and years securing Slim Chickens as a renowned market leader.”

Crowdfunding Leeds-based food delivery app Delhop signs deal with Zapaygo: Leeds-based food delivery app Delhop, which is led by former Hungryhouse head of sales Mandeep Singh and last week launched a £500,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, has signed a deal with hospitality payment app Zapaygo. Singh, who founded the company in October, is offering a 20% equity stake in return for investment to expand the app to other major UK cities. So far, 31 investors have pledged £104,020 with 22 days remaining. The day after Delhop’s fund-raise launched, Zapaygo closed its own campaign on Crowdcube after exceeding its £500,000 target for expansion. The app allows users to pre-order and pre-pay for food, drinks or goods before arriving at a venue or have them delivered to their table or home. A Delhop spokesman said: “Delhop will be providing delivery services to Zapaygo. We are pleased to say so after learning all about Zapaygo’s already signed contracts with large companies that will give them many thousands of venues and millions of users. These contracts will now also increase the use of Delhop services nationally and internationally.” Having raised £200,000 from angel investors in 2017, Delhop has delivered more than 30,000 meals in Leeds in its first three months of operation. Through word of mouth and personal recommendations, it said it has accumulated a waiting list for restaurants to join the service. The pitch states: “Delhop is an on-demand delivery app that allows takeaways to request drivers to deliver food to their customers without the hassle of managing their own fleet of drivers. The team is now raising investment to expand to other major cities.”

South Wales-based chef to open rodizio-style restaurant for fourth site: South Wales-based chef Gareth Lee is to launch a rodizio-style restaurant in Penhow, near Newport, for his fourth site. All-you-can-eat Taurus Churrascaria will open in early April at a site formerly occupied by Indian Cottage restaurant. The new venue will operate a card system with customers signalling to staff whether they want more meat by holding up a green card, while a red card will signify they are full. Lee described the concept as a “meat-lover’s dream” with “beautifully seasoned joints of quality meat bought to your table”. There will be four or five beef cuts including fillet, sirloin, rump and rib. Taurus Churrascaria will also feature a salad station, while pork and chicken dishes will be carved at the table, with suckling pig at weekends. Lee told Wales Online: “We have been to churrascos in Spain, Tenerife, Miami, New York and Las Vegas among others so we know the quality we have to deliver.” Lee also operates The Rock & Fountain inn and restaurant in Penhow, tapas bar Los Reyes in Caerleon and The Gate steakhouse in Llanfrechfa.

Zest to start expansion by opening City of London’s only kosher restaurant: Zest is to start expansion by opening the only kosher restaurant in the City of London. Zest, which is based in Finchley’s JW3 Jewish community centre, will launch the site in Sephardi synagogue Bevis Marks in the Square Mile. The concept offers contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine including mezze, sandwiches, cuts of meat and salad. The company also plans to use Deliveroo to cater for busy office workers. Zest manager Joshua Owens-Baigler told Jewish News: “We are proud to be opening the only kosher restaurant in the City of London. The opportunity to extend our social enterprise beyond north west London and offer our food to even more of London’s Jewish community is very exciting.”

‘Chimaek’ concept Wing Wing to open second London site next month: “Chimaek” concept Wing Wing is to launch its second site in London next month. Originally a Korean phenomenon, “chimaek” was perfected on the streets of New York offering Korean-style chicken and ice-cold beer. Wing Wing has secured a 5,000 square foot site in Hammersmith Broadway, which will open on Tuesday, 13 March offering double-fried Korean-style chicken with a choice of three glazes – soy garlic, hot or liquorice. Wing Wing also offers Asian-inspired comfort food such as katsu bao, seaweed fries and kimchi coleslaw, while the venue will offer ice-cold beer via self-serve Bottoms-Up beer dispensers. The new venue will be almost twice the size of Wing Wing’s debut site in Woburn Place, Bloomsbury, which opened last May. The split-level restaurant will feature a dedicated ground-floor takeaway and delivery counter, with a 180-cover dining area downstairs. The venue will also feature two “coops” – private dining rooms for two with 60-inch television screens, karaoke equipment and their own cocktail bars. The Hammersmith location will also see Wing Wing launch a corporate delivery service for local offices.

UK Desserts looks to launch Kaspa’s in Lincoln: UK Desserts, led by Mark Adams and Deepak Patel, has submitted plans to open a Kaspa’s franchise in the centre of Lincoln. The company is bidding to open a dessert parlour in Clasketgate in May following a £500,000 investment that would create 25 jobs. Plans have been submitted to Lincoln City Council for two units underneath Danesgate House that would be combined to create a 154-cover parlour. Kaspa’s offers hot and cold desserts including gelato, waffles, crepes, milkshakes, smoothies, coffees and sundaes – all made from Italian ingredients. Patel told Lincolnshire Live: “We have chosen Lincoln as it’s a great, vibrant city. Our brand fits into the demographics of the city and our investment will attract more people into Lincoln city centre. With the local investment into the area, it will help to create a great hub and Kaspa’s will fit in well.” Kaspa’s was founded in 2010. Last November, UK Desserts announced it planned to open between ten and 20 Kaspa’s venues with a focus on Hertfordshire and Essex. There are currently 46 Kaspa’s sites in the UK, with a further 25 listed as “coming soon” on its website.

Bon Pan Asian opens second site, in Liverpool: Buffet restaurant Bon Pan Asian has opened its second site, in Liverpool. The company has opened the venue in Clayton Square on the former Poundland site. The two-storey restaurant serves more than 150 dishes, taking customers on a “journey through some of the world’s most tantalising cuisines”. The company’s first venue in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, opened in 2015. Bon Pan Asian director Fiona Chen told the Liverpool Echo: “We are very excited to have opened our second Bon Pan Asian buffet restaurant, this time in a very prominent location in central Liverpool. We expect this to be another successful site in our growing group of restaurants.”

Everards starts search for cafe operator at new leisure development: Leicestershire-based brewer and retailer Everards is seeking an operator to run the cafe at its new food, drink and leisure development in the county. The cafe will be a key part of the Everards Meadows development next to the Fosse retail park. The complex will house Everards’ new headquarters and brewery as well as a cycle centre nestled among fields and cycle paths. The cafe will be a natural gathering place and will complement events at the site. Visit www.everards.co.uk for further details.

New York-based all-Welsh restaurant Sunken Hundred to close less than two years after launch: New York-based all-Welsh bar restaurant Sunken Hundred is to close less than two years after its launch. The venue in Smith Street, Brooklyn, offers seafood-based Welsh dishes including Pembrokeshire seaweed, Glamorgan croquettes, braised leeks and summer seafood cawl with laver bread. Celebrating all things Welsh, Sunken Hundred also sells Wales merchandise and features a lending library of Welsh fairy tales. The bar restaurant has a five-star rating on its Facebook page and four out of five on TripAdvisor. However, owners Dominic and Illtyd Barrett posted on Facebook: “With very heavy hearts we have to announce on 3 March we will serve our Welsh food and cocktails for the last time. The incredible reception our little bar in Brooklyn received was as unexpected as it was overwhelming. Unfortunately, despite all the great reviews and fantastic feedback from our customers, we just don’t see a realistic way to make Sunken Hundred a profitable business. So, regrettably, we’ll be closing our doors and looking forward to new adventures.” The venue launched in August 2016, taking its name from the legendary sunken kingdom of Cantre’r Gwaelod, Wales Online reports.

Glasgow-based Pizza Punks heads to Belfast for second site: Glasgow-based Pizza Punks is to open its second site next month, in Belfast. The company will open the venue in redeveloped Longbridge House on the corner of Waring Street and Hill Street. It will join Irish burger restaurant Bunsen at the site. Pizza Punks was launched in St Vincent Street, Glasgow, in September 2016. The restaurant gives customers the option to put as many toppings as they want on a sourdough base for the same price, while also offering wine on tap, tank beer, cocktails, freak shakes and locally brewed coffee. Along with pizza, the menu also features wood-fired roasts, cured meat, cheese boards, breakfast dishes and daily specials, reports the Glasgowist.

Brunning & Price lodges plans to turn 17th century Solihull farmhouse into pub restaurant: Brunning & Price, the gastro-pub division of The Restaurant Group, has lodged plans to turn a listed 17th century farmhouse near Solihull into a pub restaurant. Tidbury Green Farm in Earlswood features four buildings including a cow house, pigsties and barns that were awarded grade II-listed status in 2016. As well as transforming the farmhouse there would be a 58-space car park. Land surrounding the farmhouse in Fulford Hall Road has been sold for housing, with construction work already under way, Birmingham Live reports. Documents supporting the newly lodged planning application state: “The farmhouse and associated farm buildings are considered to be of significance because the group has survived relatively unscathed. The farmhouse will be reinstated as a landmark building on the crossroads as it originally would have appeared.” At the end of January, Brunning & Price told Propel it aims to step up its rate of openings in 2018. The company, which operates 62 sites, has already added a former Greene King-operated Loch Fyne restaurant in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, and Arrow Mill in Alcester, Warwickshire, to its estate, with both sites reopening this summer. A spokeswoman told Propel: “We are always on the lookout for opportunities, especially in new territory for us around the Midlands.”

Greene King opens Farmhouse Inn site in Gloucester: Brewer and retailer Greene King has opened a Farmhouse Inn site in Gloucester. The company has launched Rose Tree Farm in Newhaven Road, Kingsway, creating 70 jobs. The two-storey building features a 225-cover restaurant, while there is further seating outside and a children’s play area, reports Gloucestershire Live. Kingsway, which forms part of the former Quedgeley airfield, received planning permission in 2003 for 3,300 homes, community and leisure facilities, retail and sports areas and a primary school. More than 2,500 homes have been built, along with a local centre, the primary school and a community centre.

M&B reopens former Grantham Harvester as Miller & Carter restaurant: Mitchells & Butlers has opened a Miller & Carter steakhouse in Grantham, Lincolnshire, following the conversion of a Harvester site. The company has refurbished the former Muddle Go Nowhere in Barrowby Road, which was originally part of the Orchid estate. The change in brand comes as part of a commitment by Mitchells & Butlers to complete about 300 remodels of restaurant chains in its UK portfolio this financial year.

Merseyside-based Melwood Beer Company opens first micro-pub: Merseyside-based Melwood Beer Company has opened its first micro-pub. Owners John and Julie Marsden have launched Shakespeare-inspired The Bard in Prescot after converting an empty property in High Street into the town’s first micro-pub. The Bard has room for up to 50 people and offers a selection of real ale, craft beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks, as well as bar snacks, reports Insider Media. The Marsdens launched Melwood Beer Company, which is based on the nearby Lord Derby estate, in 2013.