Company News:

Former MOD Pizza UK chief executive Nelson takes the helm at Chik’n: John Nelson, formerly of MOD Pizza UK and Nando’s, has joined Chik’n, the fried chicken concept from the team behind Chick ’n’ Sours, as its new chief executive, Propel has learned. Nelson joined MOD Pizza UK, the joint venture backed by Sir Charles Dunstone, at the end of 2015, before leaving the then nine-strong business last year, after its parent company was placed into liquidation. Prior to joining MOD, Nelson was operations director at Nando’s and accountable for more than 350 restaurants. Prior to Nando’s, Nelson held several leadership positions for one of Europe’s largest consumer electronics retailers, Dixons Stores Group (formerly Curry’s), including central operations director, divisional director and customer operations manager. He replaces Jon Green at Chik’n. Green, who was previously at Prezzo, joined the David Wolanski and Carl Clarke-led concept, which is backed by Dunstone and Active Partners, at the end of 2019. Chik’n currently operates sites in Angel, Soho and Marylebone, plus operates out of dark kitchens in Battersea, Park Royal and Wandsworth.
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele to make regional debut in Manchester: L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, the oldest pizzeria in Italy, is to open its first site outside London, with an opening in Manchester, Propel has learned. The brand is understood to have secured the former Zizzi site in the city’s King Street for an opening later this summer. The renowned family business opened its first pizzeria restaurant in Naples in 1906 and now has sites all over the world, in locations such as Barcelona, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Dubai and Berlin. It currently operates two sites in London, in Marylebone and Soho. Last year, the business launched at the former Patisserie Valerie cafe in Old Compton Street. The concept focuses on Neapolitan pizza including its Gold Pizza, which features shellfish bisque, caviar and lobster medallions covered with 24-carat gold leaf. The brand also offers pasta, salads, sides and desserts alongside seafood dishes.
Adventure Leisure operator plans rollout of Ninja Warrior UK sites after becoming licensing partner: Burhill Group, owner and operator of 22 golf courses across ten UK golf clubs, as well as ten Adventure Leisure facilities, has become an officially licensed operator of two of ITV’s Ninja Warrior UK adventure parks in England. The appointment sees Burhill Group and Adventure Leisure take over operations at the Ninja Warrior UK venue in Sheffield, as well as the new facility in Southampton, with an agreement in principle already in place to develop three new sites per year over the initial five-year partnership period. As part of the deal, Burhill Group will also explore opportunities to license other ITV Studios programme brands. Ninja Warrior UK sites feature an assault course with obstacles such as ring sliders, carriage wheels, quad steps, spider walls, cliff hanger and ending with the “beat the wall” challenge. The venues also include a merchandise store, party rooms and a food and drink area. Andy Scholey, operations and development director of Adventure Leisure, at Burhill Group, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for us to expand the leisure facility operation side of our business and we look forward to playing an integral part in the rollout of additional Ninja Warrior UK venues in the coming years.” Fergus Campbell, head of commercial development at ITV Studios, added: “In common with our wider network of Ninja Warrior UK licensed operators, the team at Burgill Group will bring ambition, scale and first-class customer experience to the brand so that even more visitors can enjoy their own ninja journeys.” Burhill Group is also looking to build on portfolio of Adventure Leisure sites in the UK.
YO! announces new Food-to-Go trial at 390 Tesco stores: YO!, the multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese and Asian food group, has announced a new trial agreement to supply pre-packaged YO! Food-to-Go products to 390 Tesco stores. The new agreement will see YO! Food-to-Go products available in Tesco front-of-store fridges from late May. As well as YO! favourites such as Crispy Salmon Rolls, Chicken Katsu Bites, the range will include a bespoke product- Crispy California rolls specially made for Tesco. David Hampton, managing director of retail at YO!, said: “We’re really excited to be expanding our partnership with Tesco as part of our multi-channel strategy aimed at introducing more people to Japanese food and sushi. With all of us starting to go out and about more, now is the perfect time to test our ready-to-eat front-of-store range in Tesco, and we are excited to see the response from consumers.” YO! already operates 52 YO! kiosks in Tesco under the YO! brand and 37 kiosks in Asda, under the Panko brand. Meanwhile, YO! Food-to-Go pre-packaged sushi is already available in 600 Sainsbury’s stores, 160 Co-op stores, 100 David Lloyd Leisure Clubs, and a trial partnership is also under way with WHSmith. The group’s Taiko brand is also available in Waitrose.
White Rabbit to operate three new dining concepts at new-look St Andrews hotel:Three dining concepts are to be launched by White Rabbit Projects, whose hospitality portfolio includes Lina Stores, Kricket and Island Poké, at Rusacks St Andrews – the new luxury hotel as part of Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts. The concepts – 18, The Bridge and One Under Bar – will open in July and be led by Derek Johnstone, who was the inaugural BBC MasterChef: The Professionals winner, in 2008. The 120-bedroom hotel, which overlooks the 18th green at the Old Course, is undergoing a major renovation, including the transformation of its food and beverage offer. Destination rooftop and Scottish restaurant, 18, will specialise “in the very best seasonal local produce”. Using the restaurant’s robata grill, Johnstone’s menu will focus on open flame-cooked dishes as well as game and seafood. 18 will sit on the fourth floor of the new extension to the previous footprint. The ground floor will house The Bridge, a more casual all-day dining option that continues the theme of championing Scottish produce. Completing the new offering is One Under Bar, an underground bar serving pub favourites, beer, whisky and cocktails. Johnstone joins Rusacks St Andrews from Borthwick Castle, where he was twice runner-up in National Chef of the Year and has been shortlisted for Scottish Chef of the Year at the 2021 CIS Excellence Awards. Part of the Marine & Lawn collection, which is owned by Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners, Rusacks St Andrews will be joined by two additional Scottish golf properties – Marine North Berwick in July and Marine Troon when it relaunches and joins the collection in spring 2022.
Gordon Ramsay opens debut regional Street Burger site as part of quartet of F&B lettings in Woking: Gordon Ramsay has opened the first regional site for his Street Burger concept, in Woking. The 3,700 square foot restaurant has launched in Commercial Way, below the Gordon Ramsay Academy, which offers those looking to enter the hospitality industry a place to hone their skills and gain work experience within Ramsay’s restaurant portfolio. Street Burger is one of four new operators that have joined Woking Shopping, which compromises the Peacocks Centre and Wolsey Place. Also taking space is a second site for Island House, the bar and restaurant concept that was launched in Reigate. The company is currently fitting out the 3,514 square foot premises in Jubilee Square for an opening in July. Meanwhile, Carl Whiting-Gorley, who owns the Black and White Coffee Co in Middle Walk in Woking Shopping, has launched Black & Irons Bar & Grill in Commercial Way. The restaurant consists of a 1,307 square foot ground floor and 3,386 square foot first floor. Black & Irons specialises in chargrill fine steaks, but also serves an all-day menu. Duke’s Bar & Deli will occupy a 1,100 square foot unit on the ground floor of Dukes Court, a 224,000 square foot office development. Owned by Roberto Gardetto, Duke’s Bar & Deli will serve a deli-style menu and is due to open in June. JLL and Nash Bond acted for Woking Shopping. AG&G represented Island House while Black & Irons Grill and Duke’s Bar & Deli dealt direct.
Beer + Burger Store opens fifth London site: Beer + Burger Store has opened its fifth venue in the capital, this time located in Walthamstow. Founded by Jonathan and Andy Perritt in Willesden Green in 2016, Beer + Burger Store is a “next generation beer bar with a flavour packed food menu”. It has opened its latest site at 368 Hoe Street. The business said it has one of London’s biggest craft beer ranges available across its five sites. The Perritts launched their debut Beer + Burger Store in Willesden Green in 2016 before opening further sites in Dalston, King’s Cross and at The O2. They also operate The Stag in Hampstead and The Mall Tavern in Notting Hill under their London Pubs umbrella.
Red & Blue Restaurants invests six-figure sum to launch French bistro in July:Liverpool-based Red & Blue Restaurants has announced it has invested a six-figure sum into developing a French bistro that will open in mid July. Group owners Jonathan Poole and Paddy Smith will launch Bouchon at the site that was home to the group’s Rocket & Ruby site in Liverpool city centre’s Castle Street. Poole opened Chez Jules Chester in 1997, which he said is “the original Bouchon.” He said: “I guess I’m best known in trade circles for the Ego brand, which was born out of Chez Jules. Twelve restaurants later and it’s back to my roots. Bouchon is our latest creation and we’re both very proud of the concept and quietly confident that our existing customers across Bacaro, Salt House Tapas and Hanover Street Social will become fans, too.” Smith added: “Bouchon is a French bistro in its truest form, serving comfort food, open continuously morning to night, at moderate prices, housing an active bar where people gather for food, drink and lively conversation.” Bouchon’s menu include oysters, French onion soup, charcuterie, rotisserie chicken, sole meuniere, tarte tatin and chocolate fondant. The restaurant will create 30 jobs, which will bring the total number in the group to 140.
Qoot opens Chestnut Bakery in London: Qoot Restaurant Group, which operates a number of fast-growing brands in London, has opened Chestnut Bakery in Belgravia. The Elizabeth Street site opened at the space that was formerly the Dominique Ansel bakery that Qoot ran. The Chestnut Bakery team includes senior baker Mauro Gizick who has worked for Princi and Paul Rhodes; chief laminator Charles Leroy trained in France and has worked at Pavilion Bakery, and Rollers Bakehouse in Sydney; and also on board is Yorkshire-born Kevan Roberts who has worked as a senior teacher for Bread Ahead for the past three years, according to Hot Dinners. Menu items include breads and patisserie goods with highlights being tomato, olive and rosemary fougasse and lemon pie croissants to charcoal and olive sourdough. The site is also strong on helping the community and, in the run-up to opening, it has donated loaves to a local school, raised money for the Chelsea pensioners and, for everyone who signs up to its mailing list, it will donate a loaf to a London food bank. The inside area is open and a retractable roof has been added to the terrace area.
Robinsons makes multimillion-pound investment in pub estate during pandemic:North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has continued to invest in its pubs throughout the pandemic, with a multimillion-pound investment programme including 20 significant refurbishments. These investments have been made alongside general repairs and redecorations to the estate, which consists of more than 240 tenanted and 20 managed pubs in north Wales and the north west of England. The work includes introducing safe outdoor areas across the portfolio, revamping original patio areas and introducing outdoor heaters, and creating snug seating and sheltered spaces. Many beer gardens have been transformed with marquees, pods and outdoor dining areas, increasing the number of covers. William Robinson, managing director (Pub Division), said: “Investment, licensee support and training have been key drivers over the past year in particular. As a result, our pubs have traded well when the weather has permitted, with infection rates at very low levels and on the back of the success of the vaccination programme, the government must permit a full relaxation of restrictions from 21 June.”
Haute Dolci to open tenth site in June, first in London: Premium dessert concept Haute Dolci is set to open its tenth site, at Wembley Park, having been originally slated to open in December last year. Having recently opened in Bradford, the dessert bar will open its first London branch – at Wembley Park Boulevard – on 1 June. As reported by Propel this week, Haute Dolci is planning four openings in 2021, including two in the capital. Haute Dolci offers a range of desserts including Belgian waffles, American pancakes and French crepes along with gourmet burgers. It operates sites in Cheshire Oaks, Trafford centre, Birmingham Star City, Leicester, Leeds – The Light, Bolton, Blackburn and Coventry.
Star Pubs & Bars invests £150,000 in its pubs to boost trade during Euros:Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is to invest £150,000 to upgrade facilities at its pubs in time for the UEFA European Football Championships (Euros). The move includes installing 30 large weather-proof TVs and marquees at its selected Just Add Talent pubs, geo-targeted marketing to drive business to 1,120 sites through the MatchPint app and 14 pubs will receive £2,500 to become “hot spots” during the Euros. Star Pubs & bars central operations director Neil Convery said: “We have invested heavily in rent concessions and supported our pubs throughout the pandemic. With restrictions lifting, we want them to be in the best possible place to maximise key trading opportunities such as sport. We trialled geo-targeted marketing during previous international sporting tournaments to drive traffic to our pubs and that was a success.” The tournament runs from 11 June to 11 July.
Taco Bell targets former Frankie & Benny’s site in Gloucester: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell has revealed proposals for its debut site in Gloucestershire. The company has lodged plans with Gloucester City Council to open a drive-thru restaurant at St Oswalds Retail Park in the premises previously occupied by The Restaurant Group-owned brand Frankie & Benny’s. The outlet, which would create 60 jobs, would join other food and beverage brands at the retail park, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola-owned Costa Coffee and Subway, reports So Glos. Taco Bell operates more than 50 sites in the UK. The company has more than 7,500 restaurants across the globe with Glen Bell having opened the first in Downey, California, in 1962.
Roxy Leisure reveals super-sized gaming venue: Roxy Leisure has transformed its Roxy Ball Room site in Merrion Street, Leeds, into a super-sized gaming venue. The basement level of the three-floor site features all-new bank shot shuffleboard, duckpin bowling, crazy pool, karaoke, arcade machines and a new bar. Beer pong, shuffleboard, ping pong and pool have also all returned, alongside Roxy’s signature beer, food and cocktail menus. Former sister venue Roxy Arcade has been completely ripped out and refitted as Roxy Ball Room. Roxy brand development manager Joel Mitchell said: “We are excited about taking our Merrion Street venue to another level. Roxy Ball Room is coming back in a big way to help create memories that can make up for all those special occasions that we’ve all missed out on.”
Drinking and dining experience ‘offering modern take on traditional British pub’ to open in Kensington: A drinking and dining experience offering a “modern take on the traditional British pub” is to open in Kensington this summer. Publiq is being launched in Palace Gate by a team whose experience includes Tayēr + Elementary, Pollen Street Social and Duck & Waffle. The 38-cover restaurant will offer seasonal cocktails and sharing plates alongside natural wine and local beer. It will feature a lounge and bar area alongside a covered and heated terrace, chef’s table and a private dining room for up to 18 guests. The food menu designed by head chef, Emilian Craciun – previously of George Mayfair and Ham Yard Hotel – will feature a variety of regularly changing seasonal plates such as beef brisket croquettes as well as cull yaw mutton skewers. The “big piece” on the menu will rotate regularly and include one cut of meat and a sustainably caught fish, both of which can be cooked in Publiq’s Japanese-inspired Hibachi grill. The nine-strong cocktail menu is also seasonally driven, with each cocktail focusing on two to three flavours.
Former City Social executive chef goes from pop-up to permanent with vegetable-centric dining experience at Borough Market: Tomas Lidakevicius, former executive chef at Jason Atherton’s City Social, is launching a permanent site for his vegetable-centric dining experience at London’s Borough Market. Lidakevicius teamed up with Turnips, a family-run stall at Borough Market for the past 30 years, to launch the concept as a pop-up. Now, having operated in the space where Turnips normally trades, it is setting up home there permanently. The menu is driven by Turnips’ daily delivery of fruit and vegetables. An informal sharing plates menu will run throughout the day, along with a six-course fine dining option in the evening. The wine list will initially have a UK-focused nucleus that evolves outward to encompass bottles from further afield. Cocktails, such as a Pea Negroni or Fermented Blueberry Old Fashioned, “will mirror the ethos of the food by focusing on the raw product first and foremost, before building the drink”.
LondonMetric acquires two warehouses for £13.5m to become dark kitchens:LondonMetric, the FTSE 250-listed REIT, has acquired two London warehouses for £13.5m, which will be converted into dark kitchens. The company said it had agreed a new 20-year lease with Jacuna Kitchens across 75% of the combined space. Jacuna will operate 100 kitchens across both locations in Brent Cross and Streatham. LondonMetric will refurbish and upgrade the warehouses to provide enhanced power, ventilation and drainage to the buildings. LondonMetric said the letting of the remaining space was under negotiation with a new delivery start-up. The company’s chief executive Andrew Jones said: “We are excited by the dark kitchen sector and are pleased to be able to work with Jacuna on acquiring these warehouses and upgrading the facilities to their requirements. We are working with them on the rollout of further dark kitchen facilities across London.”
Zip World to take over deep mine tour at its Llechwedd quarry site: LDC-backed leisure company Zip World will take over a deep mine tour site to create an adventure village. Zip World, which operates four adventure parks across Wales, has agreed a deal to take over the Llechwedd quarry in Blaenau Ffestiniog, north Wales – where one of its sites is based. The move would see Zip World take over the deep mine tour and use both underground and over-ground space while ensuring it respects the heritage side of the historic site. It would also include the existing food and beverage outlets, with potential to bring other buildings into play as part of the experience. Zip World commercial director Andrew Hudson told Business Live: “The vision is to create a unique adventure village, potentially bringing in other businesses to further enhance the experience. We will continue to invest in Bounce Below and Caverns but we are also looking at new innovative products not done anywhere.” Michael Bewick, managing director of JW Greaves & Sons, which owns the Llechwedd site said: “We have been working with Zip World for eight years. When I first got involved ten years ago, we had about 46,000 visitors annually, with Zip World, on a normal year, that is now up to more than 200,000.”