Retail rather than restaurant struggles providing opportunity for Loungers to build pipeline: Nick Collins, chief executive of cafe bar brand Loungers, has told Propel the struggles of retailers rather than restaurants are providing opportunities to build its pipeline. Collins said because the company, which is backed by Lion Capital, targets secondary suburban high street and market towns Loungers has been on a different strategy to most other casual dining operators, which meant there was little on the restaurant property side that was providing real interest. He said: “We are certainly having a lot more properties presented to us including opportunities from other operators but, to be honest, there’s little that has really excited us. But there are certainly more retail opportunities coming on the market as a result of those businesses contracting. The majority of our sites are A1 locations converted to A3. We are very much a neighbourhood cafe bar brand that is a community business and not a casual dining operator.” The company, which currently operates 126 venues under the Lounge and Cosy Club brands, revealed on Monday (25 June) it is on track to reach 140 sites by the end of 2018. The pipeline is building for 2019, with the Cosy Club pipeline particularly evolved and sites now feeding into 2020 as well. Collins said trading in both mature sites and new openings continued to be strong. He added: “I don’t want to go into specifics in terms of sales but in terms of performance I think the fact we are continuing to open sites at a rate of about 25 a year speaks for itself. At the end of the day, we are focusing on providing the best offer we can for our customers. By doing that, the sales look after themselves.” Of a future possible initial public offering, Collins said: “We are only a year and a half into the Lion investment so an exit is not on the agenda. We’ve seen a few deals recently that highlight private equity is still showing good appetite in the market. We are completely focused on the roll-out of new sites.”
Leon unveils US expansion plans: Healthy fast food brand Leon has unveiled details of its plans to launch in the US. Founder and chief executive John Vincent said he would initially open five restaurants, starting with three in Washington DC. The first will launch in August or early September in a “buzzy location” near the White House. Vincent said: “If we’re going to be the winner in naturally fast food or good fast food we really do have to be in the States. Fast food is an international business. The players such as McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King have an international footprint – and so should we. DC is a wonderful city and I can’t wait to begin our American adventure here. Choosing the first American city is like trying to choose from your favourite box of chocolates. After DC we are looking forward to opening in other cities that have a similar culture of dynamism, positivity and possibility.” However, he acknowledged many British companies had come unstuck in America, adding: “I think we’re going to make lots of mistakes. Just because we speak the same language doesn’t mean we have the same dynamic.” After the first five sites, Vincent said he would pause before pursuing faster expansion. Glenn Edwards, who ran Leon UK as its operations director for seven years, is now managing director of Leon US and has moved to Washington to direct the new openings. Edwards said: “We are excited about the challenges ahead. We’ve always wanted Leon to be in many cities around the world. Washington DC is a great city to start our US journey; it’s such a vibrant, fun, positive city to be in.” Last year, Leon, which was launched in 2004, sold a £25m stake to private equity house Spice as part of its efforts to accelerate international expansion. Washington DC represents the fourth international city for Leon, which has grown to more than 50 restaurants, including locations in Oslo, Amsterdam and Utrecht.
East Coast Concepts secures third Victor’s site as The Alchemist shuts Alderley Edge venue: East Coast Concepts has secured the third site for its all-day concept Victor’s, in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. The £1.2m, 2,450 square foot restaurant will open later this year, replacing Palatine Private Equity-backed The Alchemist, which is shifting its focus to acquire bar and restaurant sites in “metropolitan locations”. Managing director Simon Potts said: “We have always had a great relationship with East Coast Concepts and Alderley Edge has long been a key location goal for the group. From our point of view, our venue in the area now sits slightly outside The Alchemist model, which has evolved and refined in recent years, and our focus for new site acquisitions is now in metropolitan locations. Therefore, we were happy to come to an agreement with East Coast Concepts to take over the lease. We believe Victor’s will be a fantastic addition to the village and we wish it every success. We are working closely with our team members to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible. We would like to thank all our wonderful customers for all their support over the past few years and look forward to seeing them in another Alchemist venue soon.” East Coast Concepts established Victor’s in Hale in 2014 and an additional site launched in Oxford earlier this year. Serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner with live music and DJ sets in the evening, Victor’s has a menu of modern American sharing plates complemented by an extensive wine list and cocktails. East Coast Concepts, which also runs the Neighbourhood brand, was backed by private equity firm NorthEdge Capital in 2016 to support its nationwide roll-out. The group was established by James Hitchen, who took inspiration from New York’s dining district. Once Alderley Edge is open, East Coast Concepts will employ 335 staff across its six UK sites. Hitchen said: “We have been looking for the perfect site in Alderley Edge for some time and can’t wait to bring Victor’s to the area. Alderley Edge is a natural step for us. We believe the brand will be a great fit for the area and prove a worthy addition to the vibrant food and beverage offer in the village.”
Gaucho Group managing partner to launch flammekueche concept in Cambridge: Gaucho Group managing partner Alexander Crepy is to launch a “flammekueche” concept in Cambridge with chef restaurateur father Regis. The Crepys will launch their venture, Amélie, at the Grafton Centre’s new food court in August. Flammekueche is a dish from Alsace that consists of thin bread dough that has crème fraiche spread on it with various toppings added. The 55-cover venue will also feature a bar set in an old Citroen van offering wine and beer including the restaurant’s own brew from Nethergate Brewery. Amélie will offer six tapas-style starters, while flammekueche toppings will include salmon with avocado and smoked belly pork with chilli. There will also be dessert flammekueche, with toppings such as meringue and ice cream. The restaurant will be one of the first to open in the £28m newly renovated Grafton Centre food court next to the Vue cinema. Regis Crepy told Cambridgeshire Live: “Alex, who has invaluable experience with Gaucho Group as one of its youngest managing partners, is keen to find his own niche and introduce flammekueche to the cosmopolitan, vibrant dining scene of Cambridge. I’m not quite ready to hang up my pots and pans and am delighted to support him in this new venture.” In January, Regis and Martine Crepy sold The Great House Restaurant & Hotel in Lavenham, Suffolk, for an undisclosed sum. The venue had been listed in The Sunday Times Top 100 Restaurants since 2011.
Grind to open first travel hub site at London Bridge in partnership with SSP: Grind, the independent coffee and cocktail bar, will open its first travel hub site – at London Bridge station in partnership with transport hub foodservice specialist SSP. Grind is scheduled to open the site this autumn followed by more in travel hubs across the UK and potentially overseas having signed an agreement with SSP in November. It is one of four units being opened by SSP at the station in 2018. SSP will also open a Starbucks store and an M&S Simply Food to go alongside new food, news and wine concept Urban Express, which made its debut last month. The retail concept offers a wide selection of products from premium UK brands. These include wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd, with wine in full, half and quarter bottles; and Cook with a selection of homemade frozen ready meals. Urban Express also offers meal deals including a Good To Go range, which includes a sandwich, a choice of crisps or confectionery, and a drink. SSP is looking to open Urban Express at other locations in the future. The London Bridge station Starbucks, which will open later this year, will be the first store in the UK travel market to offer nitro cold brew. SSP UK and Ireland chief executive Simon Smith said: “We are delighted to be opening these four brands at London Bridge and be part of the investment in this exciting new development project. These innovative brands have been carefully selected to complement the offer at the station and meet the aspirations of Network Rail and its customers.”
South Africa-based Jimmy’s Killer Prawns opens ‘first of many’ UK restaurants, in Leicester: South Africa-based Jimmy’s Killer Prawns has made its UK debut, in Leicester. The company has opened the site in London Road, which it said would be the “first of many” in Britain. The menu features speciality prawn dishes, including grilled killer prawns, Santorini queen prawns in garlic and feta sauce, and Mozambique queen prawns in coconut sauce. The menu also includes family platters offering a variety of prawns, rice, fries and sauces. Jimmy’s Killer Prawns first opened in a Victorian mining house in Johannesburg in 1991. Founder Jimmy Christelis had the idea to offer top-quality prawns and other seafood at affordable prices while providing an exceptional dining experience. The restaurant is well established in South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Cyprus, and has halal and non-halal branches, reports the Leicester Mercury.
Wine bar championing women and with food by Victor Garvey launches fund-raise ahead of Covent Garden opening: A wine bar, restaurant and shop championing women in the wine industry has launched a crowdfunding campaign ahead of an opening in Covent Garden. Carole Bryon has launched the campaign on Crowdfunder to open Lady Of The Grapes in Maiden Lane in mid-July offering biodynamic and natural wine made by female winemakers. The venture will launch at the site formerly occupied by Victor Garvey’s Encant, with the chef and restaurateur creating Lady Of The Grapes’ food menu. The pitch states: “We want to ensure each and every customer has a delightful epicurean experience while supporting female winemakers. As we see more and more women taking the lead and being in charge of vineyards, let’s shine a light within this traditionally male-dominated industry. Our wines are organic, biodynamic or natural from independent vineyards. We are devoted to authentic and simple food made from seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. You can order larger meals or sharing boards and enjoy a menu complemented perfectly by our sommelier’s wine list. Our “wine-centric” menu will change every week depending on the products available on the market. About 100 wines will complement an extensive list of cheese, charcuterie and fine grocery products. Our products will be changing seasonally. At Lady Of The Grapes you can enjoy a glass of wine paired with great food or attend one of our masterclasses or special events with wine producers.”
Camerons gets approval to open first Head of Steam site in Wales:Camerons Brewery has had plans approved to open a first site for its Head of Steam brand in Wales. The bar will open at a former Harvester site in Cardiff’s Church Street to become the 16th Head of Steam venue. The venue will offer 19 lines of craft keg beer plus ten cask ale lines, with cocktails, beer cocktails, wine, spirits and soft drinks completing the range. Food will be served daily and include traditional British pub classics, stone-baked pizza, burgers, 12-inch hotdogs and The Besler light bite and beer flight taster board. Camerons chief executive Chris Soley said: “Cardiff is a wonderful city and we have been looking for a suitable location for a Head of Steam for some time. We are delighted to have found a venue in the heart of the city. The pub is close to the Principality Stadium so will benefit from major events. We are moving at a rapid pace in terms of pub expansions and this will be the sixth venue we have opened in 2018. We are still looking at a number of potential sites across the UK and hope to open a couple more before the end of the year.” Camerons’ estate consists of more than 70 venues. It acquired The Head of Steam brand in 2014.
Le Bun co-founder to launch Hackney restaurant combining French and southern US cuisine: Andy Taylor, who co-founded burger stall Le Bun, is to launch his debut restaurant in Hackney, east London. Carte Blanche will open in Mare Street on Friday, 13 July combining “indulgent French flavours and American comfort food classics”. Taylor, a former musician who supported The Who at the Royal Albert Hall, has created “gluttony-emboldening dishes” such as briny oysters with caviar hollandaise and maple bacon, and foie gras and escargot tostadas. The natural wine list will be inspired by Paris, with unusual pours from small-batch artisan producers, alongside cocktails. The 50-cover restaurant will feature a collection of abstract, print-based artwork, simple white tables and an open kitchen, with wooden stools by the bar. Taylor said: “I want to create a place where you can get caviar on your fried chicken with a glass of great wine and maybe rounded off with a glass of whiskey. Carte Blanche will be a relaxed space, with anything from AC/DC to old-school hip-hop on the stereo and exciting French American cooking on the menu.”
Long-serving Papa John’s franchisee takes on third store, in Bognor:Matthew Liddiard, who has been a Papa John’s franchisee for 16 years, has taken on his third site after acquiring the franchise for a new store in Bognor Regis, West Sussex. The store has opened in Hawthorn Road, close to the town centre, creating at least ten jobs. Liddiard said: “I am one of Papa John’s longest-serving franchisees. Prior to joining the company I ran my own independent pizza store for many years before setting up a coffee shop, so I’ve been in fast-food retail for most of my career. The move to Papa John’s offered me the chance to run more than one store – I also manage Papa John’s in Kingston and Surbiton. Bognor Regis is a great residential area with many families living in the region as well as Chichester University students and holidaymakers, which we hope will also boost summer trade.” Papa John’s was founded in the US in 1984 and there are more than 350 stores across the UK and over 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.
Star Pubs & Bars launches ‘free-from’ menu for licensees: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is launching a “free-from” menu for licensees to help them cater for increased customer demand. The menu features 16 dishes and includes meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan options for starters, mains and desserts. The menu includes Mexican, Thai and Italian-inspired options with dishes ranging from loaded chilli nachos and Thai red vegetable curry to butternut squash, brie, beetroot and truffle-infused oil tart. The menu will be offered to licensees as part of Star Pubs & Bars’ optional food support along with accompanying tips on preparing “free-from” meals. Head of food Mark Teed said: “Putting together a ‘free-from’ menu is daunting for many licensees. We wanted to take the hard work out of it and offer them an easy-to-implement menu with a broad appeal as well as the reassurance of knowing the ingredients are correct and the dishes properly labelled. Free-from food is here to stay. It’s the customers with dietary requirements who determine where a group eats out. Larger managed hospitality chains have adapted their menus. Independent operators need to do the same or lose out. Our new menu is just the starting point. We’ll be adding seasonal specials such as ‘free-from’ Christmas dinners over time.”
Titanic gets go-ahead to open second site for cafe bar concept Bod, in Stoke: Titanic Brewery has had plans approved to start the roll-out of its cafe bar concept Bod by opening a second site, at Stoke-on-Trent train station. The Burslem-based company will convert the Virgin First Class Lounge at the grade II-listed station. The opening will come through Titanic’s partnership with Leicestershire brewer and retailer Everards as part of its Project William initiative, Insider Media reports. A document submitted to the council on behalf of the applicant stated: “The proposed refurbishment of the Virgin First Class Lounge into a new Titanic Brewery Bar Cafe would improve the passenger experience, giving Stoke-on-Trent station traditional bar facilities enjoyed by most other main line stations and opening up a unique part of the building currently only accessible to a minority of ticket holders. The works will also improve the appearance of the unit, making it far more in keeping with the tradition of the platform and station building.” Titanic launched its debut Bod at a former Co-op store in Stafford. It also plans to open a cafe bar in Stoke suburb Trentham. Titanic Brewery was founded by Keith and Dave Bott in 1985. The company operates eight pubs and employs more than 150 staff.
Taco Bell to launch value deal in US customer battle: Taco Bell is to launch a $2 value deal as it looks to lure US customers from rivals such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s. The $2 Duo deal will see customers get a burrito and a drink for $2. Taco Bell chief brand officer Marisa Thalberg told Business Insider: “We are in a business where affordability for Americans is a real concern. The fact you can literally fill up your car with gas to go to work and still be able to take $2 and get a great burrito and a great drink and feel good about the fact you treated yourself – it’s not inconsequential for most people.” Fast food “dollar” deals surged in the US during the first quarter of this year, marking a major shift in strategy following a cool-down in consumer spending. Taco Bell registered a record 53 million orders of its $1 nacho fries in five weeks during the first quarter. McDonald’s, seeking to win back customers lost after the company abandoned its Dollar Menu in 2013, launched a $1, $2, $3 value menu in January.
Black and White Hospitality to open first Marco Pierre White steakhouse in south east: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to five restaurant brands belonging to chef Marco Pierre White, is to open a Steakhouse Bar & Grill in Folkestone, Kent, this summer. The 82-cover restaurant will open at the Clifton Hotel and include a conservatory. It will be the first Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill in the south east. Black and White Hospitality chief executive Nick Taplin said: “We are extremely proud Folkestone will be home to our first Steakhouse in the south east. The team is looking forward to bringing something different to Folkestone’s food scene.” The 80-bedroom Clifton Hotel dates to 1864 and offers views of the Channel. Managing director K Rajamenon said: “We have always wanted to be able to offer high-quality food and beverage at our hotel and couldn’t be more excited to welcome Marco and his team.” Last week, Propel reported Black and White Hospitality had lined up two Pierre White brands for Dover including a new fish and chip concept, Wheeler’s Fish & Chips. Black and White Hospitality has expanded from eight restaurants in March 2014 to more than 40 across the UK.
Birmingham-based operator returns to Sutton Coldfield for second site: Birmingham-based operator Emma Yufera is making a return to Sutton Coldfield for her second site. Yufera will launch Migas Tapas And Wine Bar in Manor Road on the site of restaurant Don Diego, which closed in early 2016. Yufera was Don Diego’s original owner, running the restaurant from 2012 to 2015 and gaining the venue a listing in the Great Britain and Ireland Michelin Guide. Migas will offer a “varied menu of authentic, home-cooked dishes”, including the Andalusian tapas dish it is named after and an extensive wine and sangria list. Yufera, who also runs El Borracho De Oro in Edgbaston, told Birmingham Live: “Despite having previously owned Don Diego, Migas will be an entirely new concept, with new dishes, new wine and a new feel – but always with our authentic and traditional spin. El Borracho De Oro will continue to trade as normal and we look forward to running the venues in a complementary way.”
Former Duck & Waffle executive chef launches venture in Marylebone pub: Dan Doherty, former executive chef of renowned London restaurant Duck & Waffle, has launched his own venture in Marylebone. Doherty acquired The Royal Oak pub in York Street from Golden Age Pubs, which has now reopened with a new kitchen and wine list. However, Doherty and business partner Andy Ward will close the pub in the autumn for work to renovate the downstairs space and turn upstairs into a dining room. Golden Age Pubs, led by Patrick Marling, also operates The Prince in Stoke Newington. Last month, food experience brand and events caterer Rhubarb appointed Doherty as chef partner of an all-day dining destination that is due to open in New York next March.
Ei Group launches open mornings for suppliers: Ei Group has launched an open morning initiative that gives industry suppliers an opportunity to showcase their products and services to the business. The first open morning will take place on Wednesday, 25 July at Ei Group’s head office in Solihull and will then take place on a monthly basis. Prospective suppliers will be allocated a 20-minute slot in which to pitch their product or service to key members of Ei Group’s procurement team. Ei Group procurement director Miles Selby said: “We are always on the lookout for the next product or service that will add additional value and give our publicans the edge when it comes to driving footfall. This new initiative will allow us to discover fresh and innovative products while also giving new suppliers the opportunity to build relationships with Ei Group through driving our retail excellence agenda forward. In turn, this will further enhance the support we offer to our publicans and enable them grow their business.” The initiative was launched following Ei Group’s annual Retail and Supplier Conference. Addressing delegates, Ei Group chief executive Simon Townsend said: “Our new mantra is ‘better, not more’ allied to a relentless focus on consistently delivering quality across everything we do. My challenge to suppliers is to think differently about how they can help us drive sales for our publicans, reduce costs and use their expertise to deliver a better customer experience.”
Kent-based pub operator lines up second site, in Tonbridge: Kent-based pub operator Beer Seller is lining up it its second site, in Tonbridge. The company, which runs real ale pub the Halfway House in the nearby village of Brenchley, wants to convert the former John Angell jewellers in Tonbridge High Street, reports Kent Live. A planning application lodged with Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council states: “We have been looking for a suitable location for a second establishment for some time. This location is ideal for a successful bar. The building has been vacant for almost a year and, despite active marketing by local agents, there are no commercial companies willing to occupy these premises. Trading hours would be 9am to 11pm, Monday to Saturday, and 11am to 10.30pm on Sundays.”
Marston’s secures new five-year distribution deal with US craft brewer Founders: Marston’s has secured a new five-year distribution deal with US craft brewer Founders Brewing Co. The deal follows Marston’s £55m acquisition of Charles Wells in May last year, which saw the brewer secure a one-year deal for the distribution rights of Founders’ premium portfolio of more than 40 beers. In the past 12 months, Marston’s has increased sales of Founders All Day IPA by 274%, with the beer now stocked in more than 400 pubs and supermarkets in the UK. Marston’s head of commercial marketing John Clements said: “We are incredibly proud to renew our contract with Founders and look forward to our continued adventure together.” Founders Brewing Co vice-president of exports Brian May added: “Marston’s is a highly respected brewer and operator and we’re excited about this next chapter in our relationship.” Established in 1997, Michigan-based Founders Brewing Co is a family-run business that has risen to become the 16th-largest brewery in the US.
Sleeperz to open Dundee train station hotel next month: UK budget hotel operator Sleeperz will open a 120-bedroom hotel above Dundee’s upgraded railway station next month, creating 30 full-time jobs. The redeveloped railway station concourse will reopen on Monday, 9 July, with the hotel occupying the upper part of a new £38m building, reports the Evening Telegraph. Sleeperz operates “affordable, design-led hotels” in Cardiff, Newcastle and Edinburgh that are aimed at business travellers, families and couples seeking longer city breaks. Last year, the company expanded its sister hotel, Cityroomz Edinburgh, by adding a new wing consisting of 43 rooms and the company’s first suites.