Rockfish appoints Dave Strauss as restaurant director: Rockfish Group, the sustainable fish and chip brand led by Mitch Tonks, has appointed Dave Strauss as restaurant director. Strauss, former managing director of Burger & Lobster and London steak restaurant group Goodman, will oversee Rockfish’s expansion. Founded by Tonks, Rockfish has five sites in the south west and also owns the Seahorse restaurant in Dartmouth. The company, which will open its sixth Rockfish restaurant in Exeter Quays in March, has identified a number of locations along the south coast. Strauss will join the company next month and work with operations director Mat Prowse, helping with the Exeter launch and subsequent openings, beginning with Poole later this year. Strauss said: “Rockfish is a rare thing – something expanding while maintaining standards and ethics and with an excellent reputation among the foodie community across the country. I’m excited to get started and help build a business on the south coast, where I grew up and now live once more.” Tonks added: “Rockfish has been a great employer for the people on the south coast since we first opened and from time to time has also attracted some fantastic people from the London restaurant scene who want to be part of something special. To have someone of Dave’s calibre reinforces what a special business it is and how much scope we believe it has.” Rockfish recently received investment from Gresham House Ventures while its board includes Hawksmoor Group co-founder and chief executive Will Beckett, Henry Dimbleby (ex-Leon and London Union), Steve Leadbeater (former Findus and Two Sisters chief financial officer) and John Barnes (ex-La Tasca and Harry Ramsden’s). Restaurant critic Giles Coren is also an investor.
Rosa’s Thai Cafe sees 5% sales uplift after trimming prices on dishes underperforming on value: Thai restaurant group Rosa’s Thai Cafe has generated a 5% uplift in sales six weeks after trimming prices on dishes identified as underperforming on value. On the basis of insight generated by customer reviews via restaurant data platform Yumpingo, Rosa’s made the commercial decision to boost sales by reducing prices on selected starters and sides. Those dishes had been identified through Yumpingo as having underperforming value perception ratings from customers. As well as the sales increase, Rosa’s Thai cafe has seen a 13% rise in unit sales of price-reduced dishes compared with 2% on the rest of menu, 7% more guests ordering from both starters and sides, 16% increase of customers’ perceived value of price-reduced dishes and 5% additional drinks sales revenue. Managing director Gavin Adair said: “Naturally any move to reduce prices feels counter-intuitive in what is a difficult market, but being armed with a huge amount of sound customer insight makes that call easier.” In the past six months of working with Yumpingo, Rosa’s Thai Cafe has seen its net promoter score jump from 62 to 79. Yumpingo chief executive Gary Goodman added: “Demonstrating this kind of commitment to listening to its customers and tailoring its offering accordingly is an approach that’s really paying off for Rosa’s.”
Tim Martin – we chose Wolverhampton for Wetherspoon museum as it’s a ‘city on the up’: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has said he chose Wolverhampton to be the base for the company’s museum because it is a “city on the up”. The attraction is part of ambitious £7m plans to revamp the Moon Under Water pub in the city centre and create a hotel. Martin told the Express & Star during a visit to the city: “I thought it would be good for Wetherspoon to have an archive as there are so many documents around. It’s a devil’s job to organise them. It would include what documents I can find about the first pub, subsequent pubs and the people who work there as well as the history of Wetherspoon. Wolverhampton is central in the country and is a growing city.” Wetherspoon’s plans for the Moon Under Water also include a 40,000 square foot space above the pub that has been empty for more than 30 years being turned into a 70-bedroom hotel. The five-storey building features the pub on the ground floor and takes up half of one side of Lichfield Street. Meanwhile, Wetherspoon has submitted plans to reopen The Grape & Grain in Crystal Palace, south London, which has been closed since 2017. The company has applied to add a roof garden and plans to build two storeys on top of the pub and a three-storey extension to the Church Road side of the building. Last year, Bromley Council refused similar plans stating it would not “preserve or enhance” the character of the Crystal Palace Conservation Area. However, so far the plans have received 52 public comments in support and only two objections.
McDonald’s UK brings in the bacon for first Big Mac change since 1968:McDonald’s is adding bacon to its Big Mac – the first time the company has changed the burger in the UK. It has been available in other countries but never in Britain. The Big Mac has remained unchanged in the UK since it was created in 1968. The original bacon-less burger is still on offer. The smaller Mac Jr – featuring one less burger – and the bigger Grand Big Mac – made with larger burgers and buns – have also returned to the menu, with and without bacon. The alternative-sized options were introduced last year to celebrate the Big Mac’s 50th anniversary. However, the bacon will only be available in restaurants nationwide from Wednesday (30 January) to Tuesday, 19 March. Michelle Graham-Clare, head of marketing at McDonald’s UK and Ireland, said: “The customer reaction to our Grand Big Mac and Mac Jr last year was phenomenal – the love for the iconic Big Mac surpassed all expectations. That is why we are introducing bacon to the Big Mac range, a twist on a classic that has sparked debates around the world – is a Big Mac still a Big Mac if you add bacon?”
Prada bringing Italian bakery brand to Mayfair for first site outside Milan:Fashion giant Prada Group is set to bring its classic Italian bakery brand Pasticceria Marchesi to Mayfair for its UK debut. The bakery will open in Mount Street in April for the brand’s first store outside Milan, where it has three sites. Pasticceria Marchesi was founded in 1824, with Prada Group buying the majority share in 2014. The Mayfair venue will include a pastry counter, bakery and cafe, offering freshly baked pastries, cakes, biscuits and sweets, as well as chocolates and traditional Italian ice-cream. The terms of the lease have not been disclosed. Keith Bailey, Mayfair director of landlord Grosvenor, said: “This cafe and shop will grow the openness and appeal of our London estate. On top of that, Prada Group’s legacy and credentials chime perfectly with Mount Street’s boutiques, heritage brands and restaurants.” Paul Souber, co-head of UK retail at Colliers International, which brokered the deal, added: “Prada’s choice to open Marchesi in Mount Street further demonstrates this area’s diverse shopping and dining scene and is testament to Grosvenor’s commitment to exceptional place-making in this thriving part of London.”
Buzzworks Holdings to transform Elliots in Prestwick into new concept Vic’s & The Vine: Scottish bar and restaurant operator Buzzworks Holdings is to evolve its Elliots bar and restaurant in Prestwick into a new concept. The venue has closed after 16 years and is being transformed into Vic’s & The Vine, which will open around Easter. It will be a venue of two halves. The restaurant will be called The Vine and have 150 covers serving an all-day menu. In the kitchen, a churrasco barbecue pit will take centre stage while there will also be a dedicated private dining room for up to 24 guests. The bar will be called Vic’s and will be a modern take on a traditional bar featuring live sport and entertainment. Part of the bar will have a glass roof, while Vic’s is set to become the first venue in Ayrshire to serve tank beer. Buzzworks Holdings managing director Kenny Blair said: “It is essential to evolve within the hospitality industry and look at innovative ways to create new and exciting concepts for our customers. We’ve seen an appetite in the industry for more cool and modern pubs and, similar to our T-Bar in Ayr, Vic’s will be a traditional bar with a twist. This will suit the local market and sit alongside our excellent new restaurant in Prestwick.”
Department of Coffee and Social Affairs acquires fourth Chicago site:London-based coffee brand the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs has secured its fourth site in Chicago. The company has acquired coffee cafe Chicago Grind in Edgewater from Jim Dababneh, with all staff retained. Ashley Lopez, one of the founders and partners of Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, was born and raised in Chicago. The company currently operates three sites in the city as well as 20 outlets in the UK. Lopez told Edgeville Buzz: “We are excited about being in Edgewater and have already been impressed with how warm and welcoming everyone has been to us. The diversity of the area is really interesting. You feel the community and that is something I have always been really passionate about.” Dababneh, who opened Chicago Grind four years ago, will focus on his pizza restaurant, Pizzeria Aroma, which is expected to move to a larger location nearby.
Vegan baker opens plant-based cafe in Hackney for second London site: The team behind Camden Market vegan bakery Cupcakes and Shhht has launched a plant-based cafe in Hackney, east London. We Are Vegan Everything (Wave) has opened in Mare Street offering breakfast dishes including vegan “fried eggs”. Wave’s aim is to showcase food that isn’t normally considered vegan, including vegan smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, and vegan sausage rolls. The breakfast menu also includes coronation cauliflower toasties, and smoked maple tempeh pancakes with soya ice cream and syrup. The lunch menu includes tofu scramble with tomatoes, smoked aubergine, rocket and mixed seeds on sourdough bread. The drinks list features freakshakes such as strawberry cheesecake, salted caramel and chocolate brownie, while a healthier version, “health-freaks”, which are smoothies topped with fruit and superfood, are also on offer. There are also gluten-free cupcakes, peanut butter slices, cheesecakes, brownies, croissants and cinnamon buns. Wave’s website states: “As suppliers of food we are responsible for putting good, honest food on plates with people able to eat responsibly, consciously and ethically without worrying about a thing. We want people to feel they’re not missing out on anything. It’s important to us our food leaves you feeling positively about the vegan movement. We want to prove vegan food can taste better than non-vegan food, adding healthy twists on as many menu items as possible.”
Paul Ainsworth to open cookery school and chef’s table for fourth Padstow venue: Restaurateur Paul Ainsworth is to open a cookery school and chef’s table for his fourth site in Padstow, Cornwall. Ainsworth and wife Emma will launch Mahé in May adjoining his Paul Ainsworth at No.6 venue. Mahé takes its name from an island in the Seychelles where Ainsworth’s parents met. During the day, Mahé will host a cookery school in which six people will build chef skills and create their own dishes to take home. Classes will be tailored to guests and taught by Michelin-starred chef John Walton, who has been head chef at Paul Ainsworth at No.6 since it opened in 2009. In the evening, Mahé will host ten diners for a chef’s table experience featuring a bespoke menu. Ainsworth, who also operates Rojano’s in the Square and Padstow Townhouse in the Cornish town, said: “It has been John, Emma and my dream to open our own cookery school and we are proud to finally be able to talk about Mahé. Our guests will witness the creation of dishes from start to finish.”
SSP grows bakery portfolio at Frankfurt airport: SSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has added two stores to its portfolio at Frankfurt airport. The launch of self-service bakery BackWerk and French-inspired bakery chain Le Crobag marks a debut for both brands at a German airport. BackWerk opens daily in the arrivals hall in Terminal 1, with a 145 square metre store seating 30 people. Le Crobag has opened a 33 square metre unit landside, between the terminals and train station, with a seating area reflecting traditional French bistros. BackWerk managing director Karl Brauckmann said: “As Germany’s largest bakery, we are convinced our experience in quick-service catering will be ideal to meet demands at the airport. We are developing a new, commercially valuable channel.” David Huschidarian, head of business development at Le Crobag, added: “Commuters as well as long-distance passengers can now treat themselves to oven-fresh, original French croissants and baguettes.” The openings form part of a tender by SSP to run nine bakery and snack outlets at Frankfurt airport. Jan Kamp, director business development and properties at SSP Germany, said: “The brand mix we proposed for this initiative was tailored for the specific needs of all customer groups.”
Star Pubs & Bars invests £1.26m in Sheffield community sites: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is investing £1.26m in three community pubs in the Sheffield area. The pubs are The White Hart in Greenhill Main Road and The New Inn in Hemsworth Road, both in Sheffield, and the Lord Reresby in the nearby village of Thrybergh. The pubs will undergo refurbishments including kitchen refits, upgraded cellars and the addition of new dining areas and barista-quality coffee machines. The changes will create 25 jobs across the venues. New screens will be installed at The White Hart and Lord Reresby to show Sky and BT sports. Outside areas will also undergo major revamps, including new planting and patios with heating and lighting. Children’s play areas are also planned for each site. Grant Morgan-Tolworthy, Star Pubs & Bars regional operations director for South Yorkshire, said: “To thrive, community locals must keep pace with customers’ changing needs and expectations. Sheffield’s vibrant city centre pub and bar scene is testimony to the benefit of investment. The expenditure at the pubs will bring them up to date and broaden their appeal so they’re sustainable for the long term.” Star Pubs & Bars has 35 pubs in Sheffield and 105 in South Yorkshire.
Black and White Hospitality expands vegan range at Marco Pierre White restaurants: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to seven restaurant brands belonging to Marco Pierre White, is increasing the number of vegan dishes in five of the brands – Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill, Mr White’s Chophouse, Marco’s New York Italian, Wheeler’s of St James and Bardolino. The new mains range includes Avery Island burger, Tabasco ketchup-dressed butternut squash burger, and rigatoni arrabiata with pomodoro sauce and fresh red chilli. White said: “There is a place for all types of menus and the increase in vegan-based dishes reflects what more and more customers want. The new dishes are high in vegetables, cereal grains and legumes. In the past there was definitely a stereotype of people who were vegan but, with more millennials and younger people switching to the diet, that has now gone.”
Venue Lab launches Surrey Quays events space: Venue Lab, the Vibration Group company behind Printworks London and Landing Forty Two, has opened a site in east London. Venue Lab has launched Dock X London near Canada Water train station. The 1,500-capacity venue spans 3,000 square metres, with high ceilings and large windows overlooking Surrey Quays. Vibration Group chief executive Simon Tracey said: “We are excited about the latest addition to our growing portfolio of innovative and flexible venues.” Dock X London is operated by Venue Lab in partnership with Sellar and Notting Hill Genesis. Sellar chief executive James Sellar said: “Dock X London is central to our commitment to providing a diverse and vibrant development at Canada Water and we look forward to working with our partners to bring an exciting mix of local interest and inbound activations and events to this new space.” Venue Lab will launch Magazine London at the Greenwich Peninsula development, near North Greenwich tube station, this summer.
Intu to invest more than £1m in grab-and-go area at Watford shopping centre: Intu is investing more than £1m to create an additional food offer at its Watford shopping centre. Five grab-and-go operators will open at the opposite end of the complex to Intu Watford’s £180m, 400,000 square foot retail and leisure extension. Work will start next month on the dining space, which aims to encourage communal eating by incorporating giant pods. The new offer will complement existing operators Mexican restaurant brand Tortilla and Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which are already open in that part of the centre. Intu regional managing director Rebecca Ryman said: “Every area of the centre has been refurbished as part of our strategy to establish Intu Watford as a leading day and night out destination. This is the latest phase in our plans to create an even better customer experience and more opportunities for brands there to thrive. We wanted to complement the casual dining experience at Intu Watford’s new retail and leisure extension with an equally strong grab-and-go food offering at the other side of the centre that will increase dwell time and drive footfall to our new food outlets as well as nearby retail and leisure brands.”
Portsmouth-based brewer Staggeringly Good passes halfway mark in £300,000 crowdfunding campaign to quadruple capacity: Portsmouth-based brewer Staggeringly Good has passed the halfway mark in its £300,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to quadruple capacity. The brewer is offering 10.71% equity in return for investment giving the company a pre-money valuation of £2.5m. So far, 292 investors have pledged £159,020 with 13 days remaining. Staggeringly Good said it had achieved 100% year-on-year growth (£112,000 in April 2017 to £224,000 in April 2018; Ebitda £14,533.11). The company will use the funds to quadruple brewing capacity to meet demand, acquire its own canning line and grow its team to help increase sales. Staggeringly Good runs a taproom that is being expanded at its brewery site next to Portsmouth’s Fratton Park stadium and an annual beer festival, WarriorFest, set on HMS Warrior. The pitch states: “We started Staggeringly Good in 2015, brewing part-time on borrowed equipment, labelling bottles by hand in an old shipping unit. Three years on and we’ve established ourselves as one of England’s top 20 breweries (Untappd) and have grown into our own 11,000-litre brewery producing more than 250,000 pints in the past 24 months. But demand is high and, with only three full-time employees, we’re struggling to meet it. We’re looking for funding to expand our brewery to 44,000 litres, add our own canning line and look to grow our team to include dedicated salespeople and additional brewers. Our taproom served more than 37,000 beers in the past 12 months. We’re now expanding into the adjoining unit, adding ten taps for house and guest beers.”
Bourne Leisure lodges plans to develop Haven holiday park in East Yorkshire: Bourne Leisure has lodged plans for a series of developments at its Haven holiday park in East Yorkshire. The company has applied to East Riding of Yorkshire Council for the work at Thornwick Bay Holiday Village. The park currently comprises 91.4 acres with 1,144 static caravan pitches, 222 touring pitches and 28 chalets. Planning permission is sought to replace some caravan pitches and chalets, with other works including a new boathouse, parking, access roads, landscaping and a nature reserve. Part of the proposal is designed to move caravans away from the heritage coastline, with works part of the first phase of a ten-year master plan. Bourne Leisure operates more than 50 holiday sites in the UK through its subsidiaries Butlin’s, Warner and Haven. The group acquired Thornwick Bay in 2015.
Fentimans adds classic British fruit combination to soft drinks range:Botanical brewer Fentimans has added an apple and blackberry drink to its range. The soft drink will launch in 275ml bottles and a 750ml sharing format supported by an outdoor, digital marketing and experiential campaign. Fentimans marketing director Andrew Jackson said: “There is nothing more quintessentially British than red apples and juicy ripe blackberries in late summer. Our latest flavour innovation has been rigorously tested and we are confident this latest addition combines the superior flavour experience consumers are seeking, with a unique British twist”. In October, Fentimans said it was looking to attract younger consumers as it reported turnover increased 25% to £30,076,373 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £24,141,167 the previous year.
Airship’s new gift card and experience platform ‘processes £600,000 of transactions in first quarter’, live in 130 locations: CRM agency Airship has reported its new gift card and experience platform Toggle had a successful first quarter with more than 130 locations live and £600,000 of transactions processed. Better burger brand Byron, American-style smokehouse and barbecue brand Hickory’s, Thai restaurant group Rosa’s Thai Café, The Alchemist, and the UK’s largest brewpub group Brewhouse & Kitchen are among operators now live on the platform. Toggle allows businesses to set up their own online shop and sell gift cards and experiences. It also allows operators to take menu items and package them into experiences for customers to buy, while it integrates with Zonal, Comtrex, Polaris and Orbis. Meanwhile, its latest roll-out, Toggle POS Mode, allows users to redeem vouchers in-store without a till integration. Toggle chief executive Dan Brookman said: “We have taken years of experience within the gifting and marketing space and understood all the wants, needs and complexities of setting up the sale of gift cards and experiences within a business.”