Turkish brand Bunco secures debut site: Property agent Shelley Sandzer has secured a debut London location for bao concept BunCo, in the City of London. The new outlet is due to open later this year. The brand will take a 1,000 square foot unit spread across ground floor and mezzanine levels. Originating in Istanbul the new site, located at 22 Monument Street, will be the brand’s first in the UK. BunCo’s primary offer will be steamed Asian buns known as “bao” made with natural ingredients and combined with non-traditional fillings such as falafel, fried chicken and tuna. Baran Dumanoglu, managing partner at BunCo, said: “BunCo was founded with the intention of bringing a unique interpretation to bao buns. People are bored of eating the same things so, using quality and tasty ingredients, we have revolutionised the street food culture in Istanbul and can’t wait to share this with our new customers in London. Opening our second outlet in a new country is a big step but Shelley Sandzer have been brilliant advisors throughout this process and secured the perfect City of London location.”

PizzaExpress reports 112,000 downloads of new app: PizzaExpress has seen its new app downloaded more than 112,000 times since its launch on Tuesday (27 March). The app has reached number one on the iTunes Food & Drink Chart and number two on the Top Chart – second only to WhatsApp. The app, created in partnership with technology company Flyt, received 45,000 downloads on Wednesday (28 March) alone and, at its peak, 3,200 customers used the app at one time. Rather than waiting for the bill, customers can use the pay-at-table app with diners able to pay and go in less than a minute. Diners are also able to redeem offers within the app and split the bill. In late spring, a click-and-collect function will be introduced to let customers order and collect their pizzas on the go. PizzaExpress plans to roll out new features throughout the year, including augmented-reality features in the summer. Senior marketing manager Timothy Love said: “We knew partnering with Flyt to introduce a more bespoke reward and personalised service would be popular, but the reaction this week has been incredible. Clearly offering a free classic pizza with every download and profile completed has proven to be a very popular incentive and, with more app developments coming this summer, it’s an exciting time.”

Jamie’s Italian opens restaurant on board world’s biggest cruise ship: Jamie Oliver has opened a site for his Jamie’s Italian brand on board the world’s biggest cruise ship. Royal Caribbean’s new ship – Symphony Of The Seas – has its home port in Barcelona. The new restaurant is the fifth Jamie’s Italian on a Royal Caribbean ship, with others based on Harmony, Anthem, Ovation and Quantum Of The Seas. Despite the brand’s widely reported woes in the UK, Oliver recently partnered with Hungarian restaurant entrepreneur Roy Zsidai in a bid to launch a Jamie’s Italian site in Zurich for the brand’s first restaurant in Switzerland. Oliver said: “The Swiss are unbelievable – they are maybe my most faithful customers.”

BeerHeadZ launches in Lincoln for fourth site: Micro-pub entrepreneur Phil Ayling has opened a fourth site for his BeerHeadZ brand, in Lincoln. The pub has opened in Eastgate at a site formerly occupied by estate agent Humberts. The venue has six cask pumps and ten craft lines, plus two fridges stocked with bottles and cans. It also offers cider, wine, soft drinks and fresh coffee. BeerheadZ, whose other sites are in Retford, Grantham and Nottingham, was due to open in Lincoln before Christmas but the company was forced to go to court over objections to its licence application. BeerHeadZ stated: “After months of delays, we are absolutely delighted to announce our new venue at 4 Eastgate is open. Lincoln is a vibrant and buzzing city with many students and we believe we have found a gap in the market and hope we can become a great asset.” Last August, Ayling said he was looking to open a BeerHeadZ site in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

Moody Burgers to open third site, in Cheltenham: Burger restaurant and delivery concept Moody Burgers is to open its third site, this time in Cheltenham. The company, which raised £170,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube earlier this year to expand across the UK, will open the site in Bath Road on the site of Bierkeller Cheltenham, which Fever Bars closed last week. The site is undergoing refurbishment and is expected to open in May, reports So Glos. Moody Burgers’ menu features 13 burgers as well as loaded fries, sides, wings and shakes. There are also cocktails and a variety of alcoholic shakes. The company opened its first site in Swindon in September 2016, followed by an outlet in Worcester in March last year.

Sophie’s Steakhouse to open Soho sandwich site on Wednesday: London-based bar and grill Sophie’s Steakhouse is to open a sandwich kiosk in Soho on Wednesday (4 April). The new six-seater outlet will launch next door to the Sophie’s Steakhouse site in Great Windmill Street offering steak sandwiches aimed at the lunchtime trade. The sandwiches will feature five-hour pit-roasted prime rib of beef from butcher Philip Warren served with fresh garden leaves and Sophie’s signature horseradish and charcoal creme inside a sourdough baguette. Sophie Bathgate and Rupert Power launched Sophie’s Steakhouse in Chelsea 15 years ago, opening its Soho sister site in December 2017. The venue features a 125-cover restaurant, cocktail bar, covered terrace, 25-cover private dining room and 120-cover steakhouse and butchery. The company closed its Covent Garden site in June last year.

McDonald’s to boost college benefits in the US: McDonald’s in the US is using part of its corporate tax savings to increase benefits for employees, including $150m earmarked for tuition assistance. The company expects 400,000 employees to be eligible for the perk, which only requires 15 hours a week of work and 90 days tenure at the chain. Employees can receive up to $2,500 per year in tuition help.

Chicken shop app fails in £100,000 crowdfunding campaign for expansion: Chicken shop app Chicken2me has failed in its £100,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The app launched last year in partnership with influencer Elijah Quashie, known as The Chicken Connoisseur, with their promotional video gaining almost 30,000 downloads. The team was offering 5.0% equity in return for investment. Chicken2me helps users find, rate and order from their favourite chicken shops, including more than 8,000 in London. The app is driven by a maps-based interface, allowing users to find their nearest shop. The pitch stated: “Despite being the most popular fast food in the US, many chicken shops remain undigitised, which may result in lost revenue. Through leveraging the global community of chicken-lovers, Chicken2me aims to solve this problem. With a database of more than 2,000 shops already on the app, Chicken2me has already driven the digitisation of shops. The team is excited to expand massively with phase two, which includes enhancing the application – native navigation, a payment system and retention schemes – as well as building on the existing relations with our chicken shop partners.”

Brothers behind American-style smokehouse in Northampton launch spin-off diner: The brothers behind an American-style smokehouse restaurant in Northampton have opened a spin-off diner in the town that specialises in dry aged steak, pasta and craft beer. James and Matt Ingram have launched Hops And Chops in St Crispins Retail Village on the former site of Indian restaurant Wild Ginger. The 90-seat restaurant offers 72 gins, an extensive craft beer selection, a cheese counter and a fridge for dry-ageing meat. Inspiration for the chophouse dates to the 15th century, when individual servings of meat were referred to as chops. At the new restaurant, chefs cook meat over charcoal and wood. The brothers are behind The Smoke Pit in The Ridings – a US-influenced restaurant in an industrial setting. Matt Ingram told the Northampton Chronicle: “We got where we needed to get with The Smoke Pit and we wanted to expand.”

Venezuelan restaurant concept Arepa & Co opens second London site: Venezuelan restaurant concept Arepa & Co has started expansion by opening a second site in London. Husband and wife Gus and Kathe Salguero launched the concept in Haggerston in 2014, offering the vibrant flavours of their native country. They have now opened a restaurant in Paradise Row, Bethnal Green, with new dishes rooted in Venezuelan cuisine but influenced by the wider South American region alongside a new selection of cocktails. The restaurant features a large terrace, open kitchen, stools for counter dining at the bar, and a private dining area on a mezzanine. Arepas are made from ground maize dough or cooked flour and the Bethnal Green menu features a new selection of fillings as well as pastelitos (puff pastry parcels) and hallaquitas (steamed corn dough balls). Main dishes focus on pabellón, a traditional dish of shredded beef with black beans, fried plantain, rice and cheese. Gus Salguero said: “I want to show Venezuelan cooking can be really creative, not just bound by traditional recipes.”

Tom Sellers to revamp Restaurant Story and reopen with new menu concept: Tom Sellers has closed his Restaurant Story venue for a five-week refurbishment – the first since its launch in 2013. The site in Bermondsey, east London, will reopen on Tuesday, 8 May featuring a new look, a new menu concept and a “refined guest experience”. The food will “take the restaurant’s storytelling to new levels”, reports Harden’s. Diners will no longer be given a menu on arrival, with each table treated individually instead to create their own “story”. Similarly, as much of the food and drinks service as possible will be performed in the dining room in front of guests, including a drinks trolley and table-side food preparation. The refurbishment will include a feature ceiling with swallows taking flight alongside new tablecloths, curved seating and glazed window panels. Music in the dining room will feature a playlist curated by band Rudimental. Story will offer two menus per service, while for lunch there will be five or eight courses and ten or 12 courses for dinner. Meanwhile, Sellers will host pop-up Merry Men in Bermondsey from 4 to 22 April.

Chopstix eyes Derby site: Chopstix Group, which owns and operates the eponymous chain of 76 noodle restaurants across the country, is eyeing a site in Derby. The company has applied to the city council to open a site in St Peter’s Street that was formerly occupied by jeweller Argento. The application stated: “The proposed change of use is located on a busy shopping street where there is already a variety of retail premises, cafes and restaurants. These proposals will result in the establishment of a family-friendly restaurant, creating a more socially inclusive environment that would help the evening economy and add to the vitality and viability of the city centre.” Chopstix Group, which acquired the nine-strong Yangtze brand in November, was founded by Sam Elia and Menashe Sadik in 2001.

Stonegate Pub Company reopens former Slug and Lettuce in Hove following £270,000 refurbishment: Stonegate Pub Company has reopened its former Slug and Lettuce venue in Hove, East Sussex, as The George Street Tap following a £270,000 refurbishment. The pub in George Street now offers 18 craft beers, 15 gins, cocktails and a food menu of sourdough pizza and tapas. Live sports can be viewed on nine plasma screens, while a number of events are planned including cocktail schools, and open-mic and classic movie nights. The decor features bare brickwork, tiles, reclaimed wood and copper lampshades. Sliding glass doors fill the width of the building to provide an open plan space for warmer weather. Manager Valter Santos said: “We’re something different. We really do have everything to make everyone welcome.”

Liverpool-based craft brewer acquired out of administration: Liverpool Organic Brewery is under new ownership after it was acquired out of administration. The company, which brews craft ale, launched in Liverpool in 2008 and developed a number of brands including 24 Carat Gold, Liverpool Pale Ale and Liverpool Pilsner. However, the rise in the number of micro-brewers alongside major brewers entering the craft beer market led to stiffer competition and a decrease in sales. Liverpool Organic Brewery began to experience financial difficulties and increased creditor pressure and, with a deadline set by HM Revenue & Customs to revoke its wholesalers licence, directors called in Begbies Traynor with Jason Greenhalgh and Paul Stanley appointed joint administrators on 15 March. Greenhalgh and Stanley have now confirmed completion of the sale of the business and assets to Circus Group as a going concern. Circus Group chairman Jeff Arundell told Insider Media: “We are delighted with this deal and happy to play a role in continuing to stimulate the craft beer revolution in Liverpool.”

Norfolk-based Donnelli’s Pizzeria starts expansion with Wroxham franchise site: Norfolk-based Donnelli’s Pizzeria has started expansion by opening a second site in the county. The brand, which launched its debut site in Norwich, has opened a franchise in the village of Wroxham that will be operated by local businessman Andrew Hadley. The opening has created 12 jobs while the pizzeria will open daily from midday to 11pm. Donnelli’s was launched by Eric Donnelly and specialises in Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas. Hadley told the Eastern Daily Press: “I started looking for a suitable venue in Wroxham for a new food business and the former Star of India site became available, which was ideal, so I started to think about what would be the best offering. I love Donnelli’s. I often visit there when I’m in Norwich as they make the best pizza so I got to work with Eric and we took out a long lease on the building.”

JD Wetherspoon relaunches Dunbartonshire pub after £1.7m refit: JD Wetherspoon has relaunched its East Dunbartonshire pub The Kirky Puffer following a £1.7m refurbishment. The pub in Kirkintilloch (population: 19,700), near Glasgow, closed in November for work to be carried out, including the demolition of a neighbouring property to extend the pub. The Kirky Puffer is named after the small steamships that were built in Kirkintilloch and plied their trade on the Forth and Clyde Canal. Wetherspoon recently reported like-for-like sales increased 3.8% in the six weeks to 11 March 2018, with total sales up 2.6%.

Manchester-based craft brewer Alphabet opens first standalone bar: Manchester-based craft brewer Alphabet has opened its debut standalone bar. The company has launched the eponymous venue in the suburb of Chorlton. The outlet has opened in Manchester Road on the site of the former Keg & Cask bar. Like the brewery’s artwork, the new Alphabet fit-out is bright with a green frontage, candy pink walls and framed artwork from its in-house events. Drinks focus on Alphabet brews alongside a guest tap and a small selection of wine. Alphabet is based in North Western Street, where it hosts brewery tap events every Saturday, reports the Manchester Evening News.

QFM Group opens its first KFC site of 2018: Sheffield-based food franchisee QFM Group has opened its first KFC site of 2018. The company has opened the outlet at the Gallagher Leisure Park in the Bradford district of Thornbury. QFM Group operates a number of quick-service restaurant brands across the north of England and Scotland, including Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee, KFC and Taco Bell.

Lancashire-based craft bar to open second site, in Preston: Lancashire-based craft bar The Market Ale House is to open its second site, in Preston. Owner Adam Goodwin, who launched the concept in Leyland, is converting a beauty and hair salon in Lune Street. The bar will be called Plug & Taps in memory of striking cotton workers who were killed or injured during the 1842 General Strike – also known as the Plug Plot Riots. It will feature four or five cask beer lines, ten to 12 keg lines and a permanent lager from Rivington Brewing Co. There will also be a range of takeaway beers. As well as the downstairs bar the upstairs will be converted into seating. Goodwin told the Lancashire Evening Post: “It’s going really well in Leyland, which is partly why we decided to do this. Hopefully we can get cracking in the next couple of weeks and open in the next month and a half to two months.”

Marston’s opens Ravenscraig lodge: Marston’s has opened its 40-bedroom hotel in Ravenscraig, Scotland. The two-storey lodge has been built on a site close to the Raven’s Cliff pub, which the company opened in August 2015. Marston’s acquisitions manager Rachel Newnes told SCN: “The pub is surrounded by popular sports and leisure facilities, including Fir Park and Strathclyde Park, each attracting thousands of visitors a year. New College Lanarkshire is also on the doorstep and a number of nationally significant business locations, including Eurocentral, are just a few miles away.” Nick Davies, director of Ravenscraig, the joint venture responsible for regenerating the Ravenscraig site, added: “The Raven’s Cliff pub has quickly established itself as a real hub for local residents, businesspeople and visitors and we expect to see high demand for the rooms.”

Somerset-based restaurant operator opens second site: Somerset-based restaurant operator Leorando Gallion has opened his second site. Gallion, who owns Il Michelangelo in Weston-super-Mare, has launched Mediterraneum in the village of Congresbury. Mediterraneum, which is based in Weston Road on the site of former Greek restaurant Souta, offers European and North African dishes, including tapas and meze. The decor features a Pompeii-inspired mural that covers a whole wall, mosaics, a wine cellar that will host tasting events, and a terrace. Gallion told the Weston Mercury: “The difference between the new restaurant and Michelangelo is Michelangelo is authentic Italian and Mediterraneum serves food from all over that part of the world including Spain, North Africa, France and Greece as well as Italy – and with different herbs that we will grow in our garden to add our own flavour.”

Fat Hippo team launches tank beer and events concept Bonded Warehouse in Sunderland: The team behind gourmet burger brand Fat Hippo, which operates three sites in the north east, has launched a craft beer and events space in Sunderland. The Bonded Warehouse has opened in Low Street following a £250,000 investment. The mid-19th century warehouse has been split into two spaces with the ground floor housing a taphouse offering tank and craft beer from independent breweries, while the upstairs hosts weddings, events and gigs. The venue also offers a stage for live music and a walled garden. Fat Hippo managing director Michael Phillips told BDaily: “We felt there was a real opportunity to invest in Sunderland, which is a huge market with a lot of untapped potential, and to be at the forefront of a leisure scene we think will develop substantially over the next few years. The Bonded Warehouse is a destination venue that appeals to a wide range of different audiences at different times of the day and week.”