The Restaurant Group appoints new people and finance directors: The Restaurant Group (TRG) has appointed Bridget Hutchinson, formerly of Whitbread, Bill’s and Prezzo, as its new people director, Propel has learned. Hutchinson joins the Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s operator after brief stints as interim people director at both Bill’s and Prezzo. Previous to that, she was interim head of HR shared services at Sainsbury’s and at Whitbread. TRG has also appointed Matt Crumpler as its new finance director. Crumpler only joined the business as financial controller in January, before being promoted at the start of this month. He was previously financial controller at Virgin Active for more than five years and before that a senior group reporting manager at Whitbread for more than two years. TRG is currently seeking a new chief executive, after announcing earlier this year current boss Andy McCue was to leave the business. One new name linked to the search process is former Spirit Pub Company chief operating officer Alan Morgan, who will leave the Rank Group later this summer. The listed casino and bingo operator confirmed the departure of Morgan as managing director of its UK retail business earlier this month. Morgan tendered his resignation to the board and will be leaving the business on Wednesday, 31 July to pursue other opportunities.

Domino’s Pizza avoids shareholder revolt: Domino’s Pizza has avoided a shareholder revolt at its annual meeting, with all resolutions being passed. The company has been under fire from investors, who have been piling pressure on chief executive David Wild to take responsibility for a dispute between management and the company’s franchisees and step down from the business. The company’s remuneration report had also been criticised over executive directors’ pension payments and Domino’s Pizza has also come under scrutiny for its male-dominated board. However, shareholders approved the re-election of Wild and chairman Stephen Helmsley. Wild received support from 92.91% of shareholders while Helmsley was backed by 94.55%. The company’s remuneration report received support from 93.18%. Domino’s revealed in its annual report last month it was drawing up plans for the departures of Hemsley and Wild. The company has extended Hemsley’s term by an additional year to “facilitate orderly succession planning”. Senior independent director Helen Keays, who is the only woman on the nine-strong board, was also re-elected after receiving 99.17% support from shareholders. Domino’s has started a formal search to replace Keays, who has served on the board for almost eight years.
Leon hires ex-Taco Bell UK and Europe head Nick Dawson: Nick Dawson, former general manager of Taco Bell UK and Europe, has joined natural fast food brand Leon, Propel understands. Dawson led the US Tex Mex quick service brand since its re-entry into the UK market in 2010 at Lakeside shopping centre in Essex. Under his leadership, the Yum! Brands concept has grown to 22 UK sites plus a further circa 70 sites across Europe. He stepped down from Yum! last year after 18 years with the KFC and Pizza Hut owner. He joins Leon under the title of director of mission control, charged with overseeing new projects, plus operations internationally, including both company-owned and franchise. Propel revealed earlier this month Leon is planning to open up to 30 sites in the next 12 months. The company is looking to open between ten and 15 company-owned outlets and a “similar number” with its franchise partners as it continues to see “huge demand” for new restaurants, especially in London.
Cairn Group has ‘considerable’ capital for acquisitions after agreeing new £201m loan facility: Newcastle-based hotel and bar operator Cairn Group has said it has “considerable” capital for acquisitions and refurbishments after agreeing a new £201m loan facility. The company said it expects to report further increases in turnover and Ebitda as it continues making significant investment in its estate. It comes as accounts for The Station Hotel (Newcastle) showed turnover increased 37% to £93,919,000 for the year ending 30 April 2018, compared with £68,532,000 the year before. Ebitda was up 43% to £16,138,000, compared with £11,245,000 the previous year. Profit before tax fell to £1,119,000, compared with £3,903,000 the year before. Since the year end, the company has secured a new loan facility of £201m, repayable in 2024, to replace existing debt and provide “considerable” capital for acquisitions and refurbishments. The value of the group’s property portfolio now stands at an estimated £329.1m, up from £298.6m the previous year. It spent £13.4m during the year on the development of its new and existing hotels. During the period, Cairn Group purchased two Holiday Inn hotels in Aberdeen out of administration, while refurbishment works continued across a number of the group’s sites, including six-figure makeovers of Spy Bar in Jesmond and at historic Redworth Hall in Durham. The company manages more than 30 hotels, bars and restaurants across England and Scotland, employing more than 1,500 staff.
Soho House to open Mollie’s motel and diner on outskirts of Bristol: Soho House has earmarked a site on the outskirts of Bristol for its Mollie’s motel and diner concept. The company is planning to build the 123-bedroom hotel and 118-cover restaurant with a drive thru in place of the demolished Cribbs Lodge Hotel, near to The Mall at Cribbs Causeway. A site in Bristol was thought to be in the pipeline for Mollie’s and plans lodged with South Gloucestershire District Council have revealed the applicant for the site as Quentin Restaurants, the restaurant arm of Soho House. According to the application, work is due to start on the development this month. Soho House launched Mollie’s in Buckland, Oxfordshire, earlier this year. In her review, The Guardian restaurant critic Grace Dent described Mollie’s as “Happy Eater meets Crossroads” but said it has the recipe to succeed.
Aiden Byrne pulls out deal to buy Steven Gerrard’s restaurant: Chef Aiden Byrne has pulled out of a deal to buy former Liverpool FC star Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool city centre restaurant, the Vincent Cafe & Cocktail Bar. It was announced in early April that Byrne would be taking over the Exchange Flags venue immediately and would continue trading under the Vincent name before later renaming it The Metropolitan Bar & Grill Rooms. However, in a statement Byrne’s company, Medusa Hospitality, said: “It is with regret we confirm we are unable to progress with the deal to acquire The Vincent Cafe, after undertaking due diligence.” And on its Facebook page the Vincent, owned by Rangers manager Gerrard and his business partner Paul Adams, said: “Further to the press release recently issued, and due to unforeseen circumstances, Aiden Byrne and his team will no longer be operating from The Vincent Cafe & Cocktail Bar Liverpool. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.”
Flip Out to launch Total Wipeout-inspired aqua park in Northampton, first of 25 planned across Europe: Trampoline park operator Flip Out is to open a Total Wipeout-inspired aqua park in Northampton this month – the first of 25 such venues planned across Europe in the next three years. The debut site will open on Saturday (27 April)at Billing Aquadrome, creating 25 jobs. The 30,000 square foot floating aqua park will feature slides, a climbing mountain, jump towers, blast bags, stepping stones, trampolines, half pipe, rockers and giant Wipeout balls. Billing Aquadrome is a leisure park in Northampton. Existing facilities on the 235-acre site include a marina, fun fair, crazy golf, escape room and swimming pool. Flip Out chief executive and founder Brent Grundy told Insider Media: “This is an awesome, innovative leisure experience for families to enjoy. It’s an experience that brings people of all ages and communities together in a fun, safe environment. This will encourage people of the UK to have family fun, get active and most of all have fun outdoors. Flip Out already has trampolines parks around the world and our aqua park is a natural progression and compliments our trampoline parks offering very well.” Billing Aquadrome operations director Gordon Walker said: “The aqua park will bring an exciting contribution to Billing Aquadrome and the whole of Northamptonshire. It is the first Flip Out aqua park in the world.”
Wrap it Up! makes debut in India: Wrap it Up!, the healthy eating chain, has made its debut in India, with the launch of an outlet in Gurugram at the Central Plaza Mall. The company, which already operates an international site in Lahore, Pakistan, has teamed up with FranGlobal to make its entry into India, with plans to open up to 200 outlets across the country in the next five years. Gargi Aggarwal, master franchisee of Wrap it Up! Delhi NCR, said: “I am delighted to be a part of this popular brand. I think of myself as a person who loves food and I always wanted to explore something in this segment. We have signed for the brand’s development rights for Delhi NCR, with an aim to make it a new destination for food lovers as we serve the best of the flavours from around the world.” Wrap it Up! founder Tayub Mushtaq added: “As the quick service restaurant space continues to thrive, we are very excited to enter the food market in India with a differentiated product to offer. We are hoping for a strong organic presence with our healthy and fresh ingredients. We have an ambitious business plan for India and we hope to penetrate multiple cities very soon.” Wrap it Up! currently operates 20 sites in the UK, including 17 in London.
Halewood earmarks former Jamie’s Italian site in Bristol for cafe, restaurant and on-site rum distillery: Halewood Wine and Spirits has lodged plans for a cafe, bar and restaurant with its own on-site rum distillery in Bristol. The company has applied to the city council to open the venue in the former Jamie’s Italian premises in Park Street. Jamie’s Italian closed in March last year and the site has remained vacant since. Halewood Wine and Spirits said it wanted to “create an experience beyond the usual cafe and bar leisure offer”. The premises would include enclosed copper spirit stills, one of which would be visible to passers-by in Park Street, reports Bristol Live. The restaurant, cafe and bar would be located on the ground and mezzanine floor, and the first floor would be available for private dining and industry training. There would also be a chance for customers to sign up for rum distillation courses.
Tabure team opens third site: Turkish Kitchen & Bar concept Tabure has opened its third site in Hertfordshire, and first under new concept Tahini. The company, which is the brainchild of husband and wife team Mark and Hulya Pearse, has secured a site in Harpenden High Street for the new Turkish Barbeku concept. The couple launched their first Tabure site in St Albans in 2015. They opened a second in 2017 in Berkhamsted High Street. The company said the concept is based on “offering a unique dining experience with a closer taste of the London dining scene”.
Chicken and beer concept Coqfighter set for Soho: Coqfighter, the chicken and beer concept, is set to make its central London debut next month, after securing a site in Soho. Propel understands the concept, which is the brainchild of Troy Sawyer, Deacon Rose and Tristan Clough, has secured the former Ma Plucker site in Beak Street. Originally from Melbourne, the trio moved to London in 2013, and in 2015 launched Coqfighter as a pop-up in The Star by Hackney Downs. From there it moved on to pop-ups and residencies in pubs across London. It opened its first semi-permanent site in Boxpark Croydon, which was followed by further sites in Boxpark Shoreditch and at The Prince in West Brompton. The concept’s offer includes vodka-battered wings and Panko fried whole chicken leg burgers.
SSP opens north east-inspired restaurant concept at Newcastle airport: UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP Group has opened a new restaurant at Newcastle airport, which showcases produce from north east-based suppliers and takes inspiration from regional favourites. The company has launched Quaystone Bar and Kitchen in the departure lounge, replacing the Flying Hippo. The menu features a variety of traditional dishes, including pizzas, pasta and sharing platters, as well as a selection that are being introduced for the first time – including the north east-inspired chicken parmo served with Newcastle Brown Ale battered chips. SSP UK & Ireland chief executive Simon Smith said: “We’re pleased to be serving passengers more of the authentic flavours of the north east at Newcastle airport.” Dean Ward, head of commercial at Newcastle Airport, added: “For local passengers, the Quaystone Bar and Kitchen will give them a last taste of home before they jet off on their travels. For overseas tourists leaving Newcastle, this will be one last chance to sample some of the region’s finest produce and favourite dishes before they depart.” As part of the departure lounge redevelopment, Burger King has introduced self-serve kiosks to help minimise waiting times.
McDonald’s phasing out premium signature crafted burgers: McDonald’s is phasing out its premium signature crafted burgers. The company said the decision had been made based on customer feedback and its revamped line-up of fresh beef Quarter Pounder burgers would, instead, bring “customers more of the craveable, customisable and delicious tastes they love”, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. The signature crafted line had many iterations over the years as McDonald’s made a push to create custom burgers for guests using premium ingredients. Since Steve Easterbrook became chief executive in early 2015, McDonald’s has made several moves to improve its menu. The company has added all-day breakfast, added table service and introduced fresh-never-frozen, beef patties to its Quarter Pounder. Earlier this year, the company introduced two other Quarter Pounder options – The Quarter Pounder Bacon, which includes three pieces of applewood-smoked bacon; and the Quarter Pounder with Cheese Deluxe, which is topped with lettuce, onions, Roma tomato slices and two slices of cheese. Earlier this month, McDonald’s revealed it was trimming its late-night menu to eight items to improve speed.
Crate Brewery closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £925,000:London-based Crate Brewery has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising more than £925,000. Crate was originally aiming to raise £500,000 to fund a major refurbishment of its Hackney Wick home that will also see zero-waste Brighton restaurant Silo move to the capital. Crate’s founders, brothers Tom and Jess Seaton and Neil Hinchley, were offering 4.21% equity in return for the £500,000 investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £12m. It has now closed the campaign with 1,381 investors pledging £927,450. Part of the refurbishment of its home in The White Building will see the team develop a restaurant space with Silo founder Doug McMaster, who will also host workshops in a new space next to the restaurant alongside talks on food, beer, art and culture. Crate achieved £3.95m turnover in FY2018 with Ebitda of £88,000. Last week, Meantime Brewing Company co-founder Lars Huser became a non-executive director of Crate and invested £130,000 in the crowdfunding campaign.
Moe’s Grill secures third site: Northern Ireland-based barbecue restaurant Moe’s Grill has secured its third site, at The Boulevard shopping centre in Banbridge. Moe’s Grill is investing £900,000 in the venue, which will open in early summer after agreeing a deal with landlord Lotus Property. The 6,000 square foot unit will be located next to the centre’s existing dining facilities, the Omniplex cinema and Ninja Boxx – a recently opened assault course for both adults and children. The family-owned Moe’s Grill currently operates sites in Antrim and Magherafelt. Director Darren Clarke said: “The transformation that has taken place at The Boulevard, from the roll out of the rebrand, to the growing number of high-end retailers, made it an easy choice for us when we were considering a suitable location to open our third restaurant. There is a natural synergy between the typical shopper at The Boulevard and our target diner.” Lotus Property managing director Alastair Coulson added: “We are proud to welcome a locally owned family restaurant to the centre and are committed to providing the best retail and leisure experience to our customers.”
BrewDog reveals further details of Berlin brewery plans: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has revealed more details about its plans for its new brewery in Berlin. BrewDog acquired the brewery and taproom in the Mariendorf neighbourhood of Berlin from Stone Brewing earlier this month. Now it has revealed its plans for the site, which includes a 2,500 square metre taproom and 5,000 square metre beer garden. The brewery will shut on Wednesday, 1 May for a revamp that will include moving the bar to the centre. BrewDog is installing eight 50-litre brewkits that can be hired while it will also feature a co-working space. The company is also putting in a vintage arcade games area as well as shuffleboard tables. The outside area will feature ping pong tables and giant games. The site will also feature a craft beer museum.
Robin Gill to open restaurant at Embassy Gardens development next month:Chef entrepreneur Robin Gill will open a restaurant at the Embassy Gardens development on London’s South Bank next month. Darby’s, named after Gill’s father Earl “Darby” Gill, will launch on Monday, 27 May next to the new £1bn US Embassy in Nine Elms. Irish chef Gill will pay homage to his heritage at Darby’s, which will differ from his other projects – Sorella, The Dairy and Counter Culture – which have focused on modern British and Italian food. Darby’s, which will feature an oyster bar and bakery, will reflect his father’s time spent touring America in the 1950s and early 1960s, reflecting the Manhattan bars he frequented on his travels. Dishes such as Lady Hamilton cod on the bone and Dexter Beef with Worcester and mustard will be cooked over open fire. Drinks will include cocktails, house-made vermouth, Guinness and champagne. Gill said: “My dad certainly knew how to have a good time, and a lot of that time was spent frequenting the bars of Manhattan. Darby’s is his kind of downtown place – somewhere for life to be lived to the fullest, with oysters on ice, pints of black, freshly made bread and the best ingredients we have at our fingertips in Britain and Ireland.” The restaurant will be on the ground floor of the development, which will include 2,000 apartments and the SkyPool, a 25-metre outdoor swimming pool 35 metres up between two residential towers.
Edinburgh-based operator acquires sandwich shop and cafe for third site:Edinburgh-based operator Rouein Hajirpirlou has acquired a sandwich shop and cafe in the city for her third site. Hajirpirlou has secured the lease of Graze in Grassmarket from Helen Fergie in a deal brokered by agents Christie & Co. She plans to continue operating the sandwich shop and cafe, which predominantly caters for “on the go” customers, as it is, with a view to introducing a street food menu in the future. Hajirpirlou operates Mexican restaurant Miros Cantina in Rose Street and The Castle Arms pub in Johnston Terrace.
Punch opens sports-focused pub in Rickmansworth following £800,000 investment: Punch has opened a new sports-focused pub in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, following an £800,000 investment. The company has launched the Western Sports and Social in High Street following the transformation of Druids. The open plan pub features a shuffleboard area, newly built kitchen and cellar as well as a redesigned outside garden. The pub offers a range of craft and world beer as well as a new food menu that includes bucket sharers and burgers alongside traditional pub food. Punch managing director Andy Spencer said: “The Western Sports and Social is one of our biggest investments yet and shows our commitment to creating great community pubs.” New publican Jerry Roldan added: “The pub felt right from the beginning and I know this project will not only be successful, but we are going to have fun with our customers along the way.” The transformation of the pub is part of a £32m investment programme this year by Punch.
C&C Group takes minority stake in craft beer startup Jubel: C&C Group has taken a minority stake in craft beer startup Jubel. Jubel is aiming to use the investment to drive distribution in the UK on-trade through C&C’s routes to market, increase brand awareness and grow the team. Jubel co-founders Jesse Wilson and Tom Jordan have brewed a British version of the demi-peche tradition after discovering it during a ski trip to the Alps. They currently brew two beers – Alpine, which is cut with peach, and Urban, which is cut with elderflower. A third beer, described as its “laid back beer for the summer season”, will launch in June. Wilson told Propel: “The C&C investment gives us a real vote of confidence in what we are doing. We are looking to attract who don’t drink craft beer because they find it too hoppy, too bitter and too challenging to drink. We admire BrewDog and Camden Town and what they have done in driving the craft beer movement, but their mission is very different to ours.” Since launching the brand exclusively in the on-trade with St Austell in Cornwall in April last year, Jubel has secured listings with Fuller’s and more than 50 London pubs. Wilson said Jubel “delivers the refreshment of a fruit cider with the ‘sessionability’ of a crisp lager”, and is bringing mainstream lager, fruit cider, white wine and gin and tonic drinkers into the craft beer category. He added: “Our partnership with C&C tops off a whirlwind of a year for us. We’re excited to partner with C&C for the next chapter, to bring our beer to more people across the UK and grow our team to help make that happen.”
Signature Living aims to open debut Manchester hotel next year almost ten years after first planned: Aparthotels developer and operator Signature Living is aiming to open its first site in Manchester next year in a project that has been in the pipeline since 2011. The site in Liverpool Road, which includes two grade II-listed buildings, has been earmarked for a hotel for the past decade. Developer Iliad secured consent to convert the site in 2011, but the plans never progressed. An application by Iliad and Signature Living followed in October 2017, which included a five-storey rear extension with 39 hotel rooms along with a ground floor restaurant and bar. Signature Living has now resurrected the proposals as the sole developer, and is aiming to open a hotel themed on the city’s Quality Street gang by spring 2020. This will feature 42 bedrooms as well as a bar and restaurant. Founder Lawrence Kenwright told Place North West: “The Quality Street Hotel will become a real destination for history lovers and those intrigued by the mystery surrounding Manchester’s Quality Street men for which there still remains a great interest. Eventually, we would like to operate the equivalent numbers of bedrooms in Manchester that we do in Liverpool, as we have the capability to cater for up to 2,000 guests a night in Liverpool alone, which will soon rise to 2,700 guests a night. Hopefully this will be the start of many more hotels in Manchester.”