Cake Box maintains positive sales growth: Cake Box, the specialist retailer of fresh cream cakes, has reported it has maintained its positive sales growth into the second half of its financial year. Franchisee like-for-like sales were up 12.7% in October and 2% for the first two weeks of November following the imposition of a second national lockdown. Following the launch of its Cake Box home delivery service to complement its existing partner offer, online sales have continued to increase in the second half, up circa 56.5% in the six weeks since the end of September versus last year. Five new stores have also opened since the end of September, with encouraging initial trading, including a new first-week sales record, in Staines. Cake Box provided the update as it reported revenue jumped 30% to £8.6m for the 20 weeks to 30 September, compared with £6.6m the previous year. Ebitda was up 0.5% to £1.98m over the six-month period from £1.97m the year before, with pre-tax profit down 4% to £1.66m from £1.74m the previous year. Gross margin improved to 48.4% over the half-year, up from 45% in March. Like-for-like sales in franchise stores grew 12.1% in the 20 weeks to 30 September, with total franchisee turnover up 23% to £17.1m. All 139 of its franchise stores were shut for six weeks during the six-month period due to lockdown restrictions. Cake Box said much of its success was down to a 51% jump in online sales during the pandemic, after the group debuted on delivery apps. Chief executive Sukh Chamdal said: “We have shown considerable resilience during an unprecedented half-year period and have emerged a stronger business for it. This is demonstrated by the strength of our trading momentum since reopening the business. This gives us confidence the momentum in our national rollout will return to pre-covid levels.”
Cineworld secures £560m to weather covid-19 so long as it can reopen by May:Cinema operator Cineworld, which shut all 660 of movie theatres across the UK and US in October, has secured financial support worth $750m (£560m) to weather the pandemic. The group said the financial agreements mean it has enough liquidity to make it through next year – as long as cinemas are allowed to reopen by May. The company has agreed financial measures with lenders including a new $450m debt facility. Other agreements include a waiver on all covenants on payments on its debt – which stand at $4.9bn – until June 2022 and an extension on its $111m revolving credit facility to 2024, according to The Guardian. In addition, Cineworld has accelerated the closure of its US tax year, which will generate a $200m tax refund early next year. Cineworld chief executive Mooky Greidinger said: “The measures we are announcing deliver more than $750m of extra liquidity to support our business. Over the long term, the operational improvements we have put in place since the start of the pandemic will further enhance Cineworld’s profitability and resilience.” Cineworld operates 127 sites across the UK.
Leon partners with green energy supplier in bid to become carbon negative:Natural fast food brand Leon has partnered with green electricity supplier Ecotricity in its bid to become carbon negative. Leon sites will be powered by Ecotricity, which is dedicated to tackling climate change through energy, food and transport, and will help the brand reduce its energy use as the business works to be carbon neutral by 2030. Every customer who signs up to Ecotricity will receive a £25 Leon voucher while Ecotricity will donate £25 to its regional Wildlife Trust. Leon sustainability and values director Kirsty Saddler said: “Being kind to the planet is an important part of our mission so we’re excited to take a step forward towards a greener Leon and partner with Ecotricity, the world’s leading green energy provider.” Ecotricity founder Dale Vince added: “It’s fantastic to be working with Leon. Switching from fossil fuels is one of the biggest and easiest steps anyone can take to reduce their carbon footprint.”
North east pub operator adds site to portfolio: Pub operator David Whitehead has added north east site The Woodmans Arms, in Whickham, to his portfolio. Whitehead also owns The Jolly Fisherman in Craster and Rosie’s Bar in central Newcastle. He said: “The Woodmans Arms has a long track record of success and it’s a great venue, so I’m really pleased to have been able to complete the purchase. These are very uncertain times and I must confess to thinking long and hard about whether to proceed, but it remains a strong investment so I decided to take the plunge.” Whitehead plans to turn the site into a wedding venue and adds letting rooms. He added: “This is a very tough year but it isn’t going to last forever. People will always want to go out to eat and drink, people will always get married and there’s no way weddings are always going to be restricted to 15 guests. We are preparing and investing now for when that business comes back.” Law firm Sintons acted on behalf of Whitehead.
Taco Bell opens 49th UK site, in Leicester: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell has opened a site in Leicester city centre – its 49th in the UK. The company has opened the venue in Gallowtree Gate, in the former home of Game, which closed in April this year. The restaurant is open for takeaway, click and collect, and delivery, but when dine-in is once again allowed, it will have capacity for 57 diners, reports Leicestershire Live. There are more than 7,500 restaurants across the globe with Glen Bell having opened the first Taco Bell in Downey, California, in 1962.
Launch date and menu revealed for Gordon Ramsay Burger at Harrods: Gordon Ramsay has revealed his eponymous burger restaurant will open in Harrods on Friday, 4 December and what diners can expect to eat when the only site outside Las Vegas is open. On the menu is Wagyu Burger (£80) – beef patty, seared wagyu sirloin, truffle pecorino cheese, cep mayonnaise and fresh black truffle; Lobster and Shrimp Burger (£42) – pan-seared lobster and rock shrimp patty, pickled vegetables, herb aioli and frisee; Hell’s Kitchen Burger (£25) – mozzarella cheese, roasted jalapenos, avocado, roasted tomatoes and jalapeno aioli; Forest Burger (£25) – beef patty, gruyere cheese, saute mushrooms, fried Arlington white egg, rocket and cep mayonnaise; and Blue Cheeseburger (£24) – beef patty, cashel blue cheese, balsamic-glazed onions, rocket, blue cheese dressing and crispy onion ring. There will also be extras such as truffle mac and cheese croquettes and hot dogs.
Team behind Portsmouth-based hotdogs and beer concept eyes Chichester for fourth site: The team behind hotdogs and beer concept Bangerz ’n’ Brewz in Portsmouth is eyeing Chichester for its fourth site. It has lodged licensing and planning applications with Chichester District Council for the former Game premises in South Street. In a post on Facebook, the team wrote: “Positive vibes from Chichester District Council so far for our South Street project. We continue to push forward and, all being well, we may begin some shop-fit and artworks within the next few weeks. If it’s safe enough, we’re aiming for an opening date the week before Christmas. Not sure if that’ll be dining in or just delivery yet but we are excited for Chichester. We’ve got some really fun ideas for the menus and shop design.” The company has two sites in Portsmouth – Bangerz ’n’ Brewz and Burgerz ’n’ Brewz – as well as Bangerz ’n’ Burgerz in Brighton.
‘First Dates’ TV show restaurant owned by D&D London announces relocated site opening date: D&D London will open its relocated Paternoster Chophouse – which is used by Channel 4 for its “First Dates” show – at 35 Old Bailey on Thursday, 3 December. The chophouse is currently located in Warwick Court in Paternoster Square and will move to its new home no more than 250 metres to the west. The site will feature British produce, a vibrant bar, an outdoor terrace for alfresco dining all year round, and plans for December include weekend brunches, festive food and drink menus, plus a New Year’s Eve dinner menu. It is also running a competition to give away five “first date” meals at the new site to five couples who recount the tale of their successful first date and share their experiences to the restaurant’s Instagram page. Under the guidance of general manager Hannah Naughton, the food menu at the new site, curated by head chef El-Shazly El Shazly, includes meat cuts cooked on open charcoal grills, in Josper ovens or on spit roasts; a 900g whole grilled turbot; and a 1kg 12-day aged Gloucester Old Spot Pork “tomahawk”. The bar, situated at the back of the restaurant, will serve signature cocktails such as the Sloe Bramble and Pretty In Pink. The current site is closing because the building in which it is located is being renovated.
Pepe’s Piri Piri Grill opens Wellington site: Flame-grilled chicken chain Pepe’s Piri Piri Grill has opened a site in Wellington, Shropshire. The company has opened the outlet in Bridge Road and is currently offering click and collect and delivery due to lockdown restrictions, reports the Shropshire Star. Pepe’s specialises in piri-piri chicken, serving wings, chicken strips, fried chicken and lamb burgers, wraps, pitta and vegetarian options. Pepe’s opened its debut site in Watford in 2007 and there are now more than 100 outlets in the UK.
Escape to Freight Island project expands with £2m investment: Escape to Freight Island has invested £2m in the second phase of its food, drink and entertainment project. The scheme, which brings together individual restaurant, bar and music businesses, is part of the regeneration of Broadwick Live-operated Depot Mayfield in Manchester. Its second chapter – Ticket Hall – focused on expanding the space into the building’s interior. Ticket Hall has given the inside and outside venue a joint capacity of 1,200. The development has created more than 1,000 jobs, including full-time hospitality staff, on-site builders, event crew, artists, DJs and performers, and has seen more than 80,000 visitors since its launch in July. Freight Island creator and owner Gareth Cooper said: “We are really proud and excited to have taken on this ambitious project in the middle of a pandemic. Part of the adventure was to create something unique but also it was very important to me that we always had an eye on helping out Manchester and its people.” Depot Mayfield is part of a £1.4bn transformation of Manchester’s Mayfield District.
Whitbread submits plans to convert police station into Hub by Premier Inn hotel:Whitbread, the owner of the Premier Inn and Hub by Premier Inn hotel brands, has submitted plans to convert grade II-listed Snow Hill Police Station in Farringdon into a 220-bedroom Hub by Premier Inn hotel. The station was decommissioned by the City of London Police earlier this year ahead of a move to a state-of-the-art facility on Fleet Street. It will be the third Hub by Premier Inn hotel in the City if planning consent is granted. Proposals involve retaining the historic police station building fronting with the hotel’s bedrooms designed around a new atrium and remodelled building to the rear. It will create circa 50 new jobs on opening. If planning permission is granted by the City of London Corporation, Whitbread will be on-site in 2021 with the hotel targeted to complete in the 2023-24 financial year. The Hub hotels feature “compact” bedrooms with smart TVs, and light “Lounge” dining and a bar offer.
Independent Indian food operator opens site at Intu Merry Hill: Family-run restaurant The Indian Tavern Bar & Grill has joined the line-up of independent businesses on The Waterfront complex at Intu Merry Hill, in the West Midlands. Run by childhood friends Harmohan Sood and Gurjit Bains and their families, The Indian Tavern is serving takeaways and deliveries during lockdown and opened a day before the lockdown began. Intu Merry Hill general manager Rachael Jackson said: “We love bringing different cultures and cuisines to Intu Merry Hill and look forward to seeing Indian Tavern welcome customers to the restaurant when, of course, it is safe to do so.” The Indian Tavern chief executive Harmohan Sood said: “Although this is not the opening we had planned for, years of hard work and passion have gone into this, so we couldn’t wait any longer.” Other independent businesses at The Waterfont include The Garrison “Peaky Blinders” themed bar, Dr Eamers Gin Distillery and Ten Steps Coffee Lounge.
Mindful Chef launches Christmas menu recipe boxes for nationwide delivery:Healthy recipe box service Mindful Chef has introduced a Christmas menu available for free nationwide delivery. The “stress-free” food boxes include stand-out dishes such as Christmas turkey with sprouts and cranberry sauce; venison with roasted chestnuts, parsnip and carrots; and pecan stuffed mushrooms, potato gratin and red cabbage. All come with recipe cards and are nutritionally balanced, free-from refined carbs, gluten and dairy, with no additives. Mindful Chef co-founder Giles Humphries said: “It’s been an unprecedented year and we hope we can help spread some festive joy by offering a menu with a festive twist and deliveries running up to the big day.” Recipes are available to pre-order for delivery from Sunday, 13 December to Wednesday, 23 December. Mindful Chef is also donating one school meal to a child living in poverty through the One Feeds Two charity. It is also running its annual Reverse Advent Calendar initiative where customers are encouraged to donate one non-perishable food item each day from 1 December until 20 December. Empty boxes can then be returned free of charge to Mindful Chef, which will top up each box with four additional items. Customers’ donations will be distributed via The Felix Project charity.
Qbic Manchester hotel to open in March: Qbic Hotels has announced it will open a site in Manchester in March 2021 that will create 62 jobs. Qbic Manchester will be situated in John Dalton House on Deansgate. The 261-bedroom site will be pet-friendly and boasts king-sized beds, high-speed Wi-Fi, water-efficient power showers, sustainable toiletries and complementary tea and coffee, at what it claims are affordable prices. Room rates will start from £72 per night for a small double. The hotel is recruiting for 42 roles but once in full operation, it will need 62 members of staff. Qbic operations director Jon Walters said: “Supporting local communities is at the core of the Qbic Hotels’ ethos and we are proud to be creating employment opportunities in the Manchester area. We are confident better times lie ahead and that Qbic Manchester will be at the heart and soul of those better times in this fantastic city.” Qbic’s restaurant brand Motley will operate a 180-cover all-day diner with a “waste not” section that uses leftovers. Qbic Manchester will be the business’ fourth site, joining Qbic London, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
Dishoom launches vegan sausage naan roll: Indian restaurant Dishoom has launched a vegan sausage naan roll for nationwide delivery. Symplicity Foods’ Neil Rankin has devised the £16 make-at-home kit, which contains “everything required to enjoy two naan rolls, plus an extra naan dough ball for experimentation”. The sausages feature fermented vegetables (beetroot, mushroom and onion), mixed with a blend of spices for deep, rich umami flavours. The kit also comes with Dishoom’s tomato-chilli jam, fresh coriander and vegan cream cheese, plus chai spices and loose-leaf darjeeling tea. For every kit bought, Dishoom donates a meal to charity Magic Breakfast.
Costa Coffee plans to move into former KFC drive-thru at retail park: Costa Coffee has submitted plans to move into a former KFC drive-thru in at Victoria Retail Park, Netherfield, Nottinghamshire. The KFC site closed when the UK went into lockdown in March and has not reopened. The plans were submitted to Gedling Borough Council last month. Work is also progressing on a new Nando’s restaurant and Starbucks drive-thru at the retail park.
Spanish deli and restaurant operator Ultracomida launches wine subscription service across UK: Spanish deli and restaurant operator Ultracomida has launched a wine subscription service that delivers nationwide. The Spanish Wine Club will work as a monthly subscription service. Customers will pay £35 a month to receive 12 bottles of handpicked Spanish wines, up to the value of £140, every three months. Wines will be delivered shortly after the third payment is made, with no delivery charges. A welcome bottle of wine will also be delivered at the beginning of the subscription. Ultracomida co-founder Paul Grimwood said: “We are really excited to launch our new wine subscription service, which is all about giving people a chance to try the variety of Spanish wines that we are so passionate about – the same wines we serve in our bars and restaurants. During the first lockdown, our online wine sales really picked up and we now have a lot of repeat customers looking for new styles to try. That’s what gave us the idea to create the Spanish Wine Club.” Each case of 12 bottles will include a variety of styles, and can be tailored to include reds, whites or a mix. Each quarterly box will also be available to buy online for a one-off cost of £105 plus a delivery charge. Ultracomida operates two deli-restaurants in the Welsh coastal towns of Narberth and Aberystwyth, as well as Curado Bar and Vermut bar in Cardiff city centre.
North east restaurateur banned for tax abuse: North east-based restaurant boss Abdul Amin has been disqualified from running companies for seven years after owing tax authorities £130,000. Church View Restaurant was incorporated in July 2014 and traded as Ministers Restaurant in Church View, Sedgefield, in Stockton-on-Tees. Amin, 51, was the sole director of the company and was required to register Church View Restaurant for tax purposes. The restaurant boss, however, failed to register the company and, in 2016, was subject of enquiries by the authorities for unpaid taxes. Despite the scrutiny placed on Church View Restaurant, the company didn’t pay its tax liabilities, totalling more than £133,000, and this resulted in the tax authorities petitioning for Church View Restaurant’s liquidation. Church View Restaurant was liquidated in August 2019 before being referred to the Insolvency Service, which pursued disqualification proceedings against Amin for director misconduct. Amin is banned for seven years from directly or indirectly becoming involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company. Rob Clarke, chief investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: “Directors have statutory requirements to ensure their companies pay taxes. But our investigations uncovered Abdul Amin’s behaviour was deliberate, putting Church View Restaurant at an unfair advantage over their competitors by not paying taxes.”
Mayfair Townhouse hotel appoints Adam Simmonds as head chef: Adam Simmonds has been appointed head chef of Mayfair Townhouse hotel, part of Iconic Luxury Hotels. The 172-bedroom hotel is set to open on Thursday, 3 December. Simmonds was previously executive chef at the Capital hotel and before that held the same position at Belmond Cadogan. He was executive chef of Danesfield House in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, for six years, where he won Chef of the Year (fewer than 250 covers) at the 2011 Hotel Cateys. His earlier career included three years at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, where he worked his way up to sous chef. Iconic Luxury Hotels, which is owned by global private investment group L+R Hotels, also operates Cliveden House in Taplow, Berkshire; Chewton Glen, New Milton, Hampshire; the Lygon Arms, Broadway, Worcestershire; and 11 Cadogan Gardens, Chelsea, London.
Diageo launches ten-year strategy to reach drink moderation, eco-friendly and diversity goals: Diageo has launched a ten-year plan to reduce carbon emissions to zero, reach one billion people with its message of moderation, increase ethnic diversity of its leaders and use 30% less water for each drink it makes. The “Society 2030: Spirit of Progress” initiative is designed to make a positive impact on the world by 2030, to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The three core areas it will focus on are promoting positive drinking, championing inclusion and diversity, and pioneering grain-to-glass sustainability. Diageo chief executive Ivan Menezes said: “As a global business, we are committed to playing our part to protect the future of our planet and to leading the way for others to follow. This ambitious action plan will challenge us even further to deliver more over the critical decade to 2030.” In promoting positive drinking, Diageo proposes reaching more than one billion people with messages of moderation from its brands, changing the attitudes of five million drivers towards drink-driving and educating more than ten million people on the dangers of under-age drinking. For championing inclusion and diversity, Diageo aims to have 45% representation of leaders from ethnically diverse backgrounds by 2030 and 50% of all leaders being female, and to provide skills and training to more than 1.7m people. For pioneering grain-to-glass sustainability, Diageo has committed to working towards a low-carbon future, harnessing 100% renewable energy to achieve net zero carbon emissions and working with suppliers to reduce indirect carbon emissions by 50% – with its Scottish distilleries of Oban and Royal Lochnagar both becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2020 and Diageo will aim to achieve net zero in India by 2025. It will also ensure every drink it produces will take 30% less water to make than it does today; deliver more than 150 community water projects; support smallholder farmers with farming techniques to regenerate the land and build biodiversity; and ensure it is using 100% recycled content in plastic packaging. Diageo has also launched its “Sustainable Solutions” campaign to provide non-equity funding to start-up and technology companies to help embed sustainability in its supply chain and brands.
Smoke & Salt announces trio of festive menus and gift box: Smoke & Salt, founded by Aaron Webster and Remi Williams, has announced three new menus for dine-in at its Tooting restaurant in south London. Sticking to its mantra of “modern dining, ancient techniques”, each menu uses curated ingredients to create its festive dishes. The two Christmas menus are available to book at 6pm or 8pm throughout December, once lockdown ends on Wednesday, 2 December. Diners can choose between the six-course Seasonal Sharing Menu (£32 per person) or the eight-course Christmas Feasting Menu (£45 per person). Both menus include dishes such as Brussels sprout skewers, pigs in blankets, spiced parsnip, and baked Alaska dessert. Those who go for the Christmas Feasting Menu will also receive dishes such as monkfish Kiev, Creedy Carver duck, and a cheese course. A New Year’s Day Sharing Menu costs £35 per person and offers diners a Bloody Mary or Mimosa on arrival (non-alcoholic versions are available), bread and butter, smoked Chalkstream trout, guacaleeky, chicken and waffles, and a baked apple dessert. The Smoke & Salt team is also offering a Christmas Gift Box, which includes a voucher for two seasonal sharing menus, homemade chocolate truffles and a pre-bottled Negroni for two. There is also a mulling spices kit for recipients to make mulled wine at home. The box costs £64.
Guesthouse offering experiential stay to open in spring: A guesthouse, restaurant and 15-acre smallholding will open in March 2021 that offers an experiential stay for guests in east Devon. Inspired by summer holidays in Italy, Hugo Guest, partner Olivia and son Rufus will offer accommodation of five rooms plus an annexe, a 30-cover restaurant celebrating local produce and a farm with livestock and a polytunnel at Glebe House in Colyton. Guest, who retrained as a chef and has worked at London restaurants such as The Marksman and Robin Gill’s Sorella, has created a changing menu that celebrates seasonal produce and, for anything the area cannot supply, Glebe House’s polytunnel will be used to provide vegetables and edible flowers. There is also a selection of rare breed livestock, including chickens, cows and British Lop pigs, free to roam around the 1.5-acre woodland. A tennis court and swimming pool will be open in summer months while an on-site bakery and charcuterie room will host workshops and cookery classes. Room rates start at £129 per night up to £220 for use of the self-contained annexe.
Heineken hires James Thompson as chief commercial officer: James Thompson has been hired as Heineken’s new chief commercial officer. He replaces Jan Derck van Karnebeek who leaves after 27 years at Heineken, including five years as chief commercial officer and almost nine years as an executive team member. Van Karnebeek has decided to leave Heineken to pursue other interests outside of the company as of 1 March 2021. Thompson is currently head of categories, brand, innovation and stores at Avon. He has extensive experience in the beverages sector from his prior 24-year career at Diageo. The company added: “At Avon, James was part of the leadership team charged with driving its purpose, commercial, marketing, digital and cultural transformation, including its new campaign ‘Watch Me Now’ and leading global and local collaboration across more than 50 markets. During his time at Diageo, he worked globally on three continents – including in North America as chief marketing and innovation officer, in Asia Pacific as chief marketing and innovation officer, and as managing director, Global Reserve. Prior to Diageo, James spent ten years at Unilever in various marketing positions.”