Coco di Mama experiencing ‘strong’ like-for-like growth, plans at least six sites in next 12 months: Azzurri Group-owned quick service Italian concept Coco di Mama is currently seeing “strong” like-for-like growth and aims to open another six sites in the next 12 months, Propel has learned. The announcement comes as Coco di Mama prepares to open its 22nd site, in Bishopsgate in the City of London, on Wednesday (5 June), with another outlet opening in Southbank next month. Head of brand Sara McCraight said the company had strong expansion plans, with growth remaining focused on London for the moment. She added: “We are currently seeing strong like-for-like sales growth and looking at various options in terms of our expansion as we continue to grow our brand awareness. We’re aiming for at least another six new sites over the next year.” Coco di Mama is best known for its made-to-order pasta that is customisable. The brand also serves Italian-inspired breakfast, salads, sandwiches and Allpress speciality coffee. The design of the Bishopsgate store features Milan-inspired modern interiors and features a hand-painted art wall by a local artist. Coco di Mama has chosen Bishopsgate for its latest site because it is a “high-energy location with high footfall from office workers”. McCraight added: “We have seen a growing appetite for expanding Coco di Mama. Customers want great-quality Italian food at an affordable price point – and served pronto! We’re confident the Bishopsgate workers and community will love our offering.” The brand launched in Fleet Street in 2011 and has been part of Azzurri Group since 2015. Coco di Mama employs more than 280 staff.
 
Kurt Zdesar to open third Chotto Matte, in Toronto: Kurt Zdesar, the man who brought Nobu to London as director of operations for Nobu Europe, is to open a third site for his Nikkei sushi bar concept Chotto Matte, in Toronto. Zdesar will launch the restaurant in the Brookfield Place development on Thursday, 20 June for his debut site in Canada. The venue will feature a robata grill counter, sushi bar and terrace offering open-air dining. Chotto Matte will introduce its first cocktail lounge – Akachan – exclusively in Toronto, which will host DJs nightly. The interior, which is more than 10,000 square feet, is designed to evoke a “sense of modern-day Tokyo”. The terrace accommodates up to 150 people, with the restaurant seating 220 guests. The kitchen will be led by executive chef Jordan Sclare, who is currently group executive chef at both Chotto Matte London and Miami along with Zdesar’s other two London restaurants – Black Roe and Fucina. Dishes will include 96-hour marinated, house-smoked Chuleta de Cordero Ahumada as well as lobster and wild prawn ceviche. The bar menu will be a mix of spirits including pisco, Japanese whiskey and signature cocktails. “We couldn’t be more pleased to expand our brand into Canada,” said Zdesar. “The city’s unique culture, energy and international community make it a natural fit for Chotto Matte. We are thrilled to elevate Nikkei cuisine in this vibrant city.”
 
Flavio Briatore launches Crazy Pizza concept in Marylebone: Italian businessman and former Formula One boss Flavio Briatore has launched his Crazy Pizza concept in Marylebone. Crazy Pizza has opened at the former Carluccio’s site in Paddington Street and features an open kitchen, dough-spinning chefs and DJs playing vintage tunes. Pizzas are made using thin crust, yeast-free bases to create the “lightest of pizzas” cooked in a Morello oven. Signature pizzas include the Tartufo (buffalo mozzarella with black truffle), while the decor includes crimson hues, bottle green leather and black and white portraits of some of the world’s most famous faces. Briatore, who began his career in restaurant management, partnered with Janina Wolkow, owner of Mayfair restaurant Sumosan, to launch a Japanese and Italian crossover concept in the UK in late 2016. The pair opened Sumosan Twiga in Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, having launched the concept in Dubai. Japanese restaurant Sumosan relocated from Mayfair to unite with Briatore’s Twiga restaurant to provide the “best Italian and Japanese cuisine under one roof”. Briatore’s growing portfolio includes restaurants, beach clubs and nightclubs in the UK, Italy, Dubai and Monaco.
Konditor to launch seventh London site, first following business refocus:London-based baker Konditor & Cook is to launch its first site since the company changed its name and decided to refocus the business. The company, founded by Gerhard Jenne, changed its name last month to Konditor and has also dropped some of its baked goods and coffee shop elements to focus on hand-made cakes. Jenne opened a debut site for the business in Waterloo in 1993 and the company now operates six London sites and will open a seventh in Bow Lane, Bank, on Friday, 14 June. Despite the change in direction, the new venue will offer ten seats inside for people who want coffee with a slice of cake, Hot Dinners reports.
G1 Group reports 21% fall in staff turnover as it plans further people-focused initiatives: Scotland’s biggest managed operator G1 Group has reported a 21% decrease in staff turnover following the introduction of several people-orientated initiatives in the past financial year. The company, which employs more than 2,000 staff, is also launching initiatives for the 2019-20 financial year that include a revamped long-service recognition scheme and “Have Your Say” – an employee feedback and engagement survey. Initiatives already in place include Serving Up Success, a chef-training programme run in association with City Of Glasgow College. The scheme has now been rolled out to other cities and towns in which the group operates. Internally, G1 Group has been working with training platform Flow Hospitality to develop its induction programme and is developing courses specific to individual roles within the business. Fiona Armour, G1 Group head of HR, said the staff retention and reward initiatives would “continue to be an integral and ongoing focus for the business and something we hope reflects our commitment to attracting, developing and retaining the best talent in our sector”.
Graffiti Spirits Group to launch food and drink market in Liverpool next week:Liverpool-based bar and restaurant group Graffiti Spirits will launch Duke Street Food and Drink Market on Thursday, 13 June. The 5,000 square foot venue will house six food brands, a restaurant and three bars, creating more than 100 jobs. Graffiti Spirits Group founders Matt Farrell and John Ennis have teamed up with Alexander Bennett, Joshua Marco and Simon Marco, of operator Urban Food & Drink, to restore the 100-year-old former warehouse. Restaurants will include a debut bricks and mortar site for Pilgrim, which won £600,000 investment from Farrell after appearing on BBC show My Million Pound Menu. Farrell said: “There’s understandably a hype surrounding London-based offerings, which is further supported by the capital’s diverse economy and demographic. This has traditionally acted against northern cities but Liverpool now has the largest number of independents outside London and this is mirrored in the diversity of the offering. There are a rapidly growing number of unique, independent concepts, which are full of character and creativity and contributing to the northern powerhouse.” Bennett added: “We hope to give something back to the community and, through events from yoga workshops to guest chef appearances, we aim to create a buzz that will keep visitors coming back.” Graffiti Spirits Group operates eight other sites across Liverpool.
Thatchers reports profit jump as turnover passes £100m: Somerset-based cider-maker Thatchers has reported a jump in profit as turnover passed the £100m mark. The company saw turnover increase 17% to £100,749,760m for the year ending 31 August 2018, compared with £86,280,348 the year before. Pre-tax profit rose to £9,294,225 compared with £3,568,302 the previous year, according to accounts filed with Companies House. Thatchers invested £4m in its production facility during the year. In his report accompanying the accounts, managing director Martin Thatcher said: “Thatchers’ range of ciders again outperformed the market and effectively gained further overall market share. The directors believe the group is well positioned to continue to grow the company on all measures. The directors believe the group has established a strong market position and intend to continue to re-enforce the group’s standing across all routes to market.” During the year, a dividend of £488,000 was recommended and paid, compared with £576,200 the year before.
Former Artesian head bartender launches debut solo venture, in Old Street: Alex Kratena, former head bartender at Artesian, which was voted best bar in the world four years running, has launched his debut solo project, in Old Street, east London. Tayer and Elementary is a joint venture with fellow mixologist Monica Berg, who has worked with Jason Atherton. The food offering is operated by Portuguese-Chinese fusion concept TA TA Eatery. The venue consists of two spaces. All-day cafe Elementary offers light lunches and bottomless coffee, with cocktails and larger dishes in the evening. Tayer, meanwhile, is a bar offering regularly changing food and drink. TA TA Eatery is run by Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves and used to operate a restaurant in Haggerston. Last week Meng and Gonçalves announced they would launch “London’s first katsu sando shop” at an undisclosed site in central London this summer. Project Tou will focus on the Japanese snack that is usually a breaded pork cutlet with coleslaw on white bread. The concept will also offer rice bowls.
Whitley Bay-based Turkish restaurant to launch pizza concept for second site:Whitley Bay-based Turkish restaurant Turknaz is branching out by opening a pizza concept for its second site. Owner Anthony Yilmaz is launching the venue in the village of Seaton Delaval. Work is under way to transform the former Delaval fish bar in Astley Road into Pizzanaz. Yilmaz told Chronicle Live: “It is a huge project as the building was very dated. I feel excited for this venture and look forward to meeting lots of new customers.”
Bristol-based Bar Wars puts one of its three sites on market: Bristol-based Bar Wars has put one of its three sites on the market. The company is looking to sell The Windmill, near Bedminster railway station. The pub in Windmill Hill is being marketed through agent Fleurets for £525,000. The advert states: “The business has been in the current ownership since 2006, during which time our client has refurbished the property to a high standard and has established a strong local following.” Despite putting the pub on the market, a Bar Wars spokesman said it was still open for business. He told the Bristol Post: “Selling or not, while the pub’s still open we’re going to be here providing our standard high-quality fabulousness.” Bar Wars also operates The Lazy Dog in Ashley Road and The Pipe & Slippers in Cheltenham Road, neither of which are for sale.
Retro games cafe Arcade Club starts expansion with Leeds site: Retro games cafe Arcade Club has started expansion by opening a second site, in Leeds. The company has launched a site in the former Star & Garter pub in Bridge Road, Kirkstall. The venue features a cafe and bar alongside classic games such as Pacman and Super Mario. The debut Arcade Club in Bury, Greater Manchester, offers more than 250 classic arcade and pinball machines set across three floors. The Leeds version is spread across two floors and employs 15 staff. The grade II-listed building has operated under many guises in the past, including a nightclub, children’s entertainment complex and a cabaret bar, Leeds Live reports. In a post on the arcade’s official Facebook page, the company stated: “The great thing about Leeds is you can play all the great games we’ve had stored that are too large for the Bury venue.”
The Pig fields ‘flirtations’ from foreign buyers as turnover heads towards £40m this year: Boutique hotel company The Pig has been fielding “flirtations” from investors in the Middle East and Far East after opening its latest property, The Pig At Bridge Place in Kent. Founder Robin Hutson owns half of Home Grown Hotels with the other half owned by billionaire chemicals entrepreneur Sir Jim Ratcliffe. The company has now opened six hotels under The Pig brand and also runs Lime Wood Group. With two further hotels in the pipeline, in Cornwall and Sussex, Hutson said the group was heading towards £40m turnover this year. He told The Telegraph: “We get a few flirtations rather than solid approaches. There appears to be various lumps of overseas money floating around. We have been approached by intermediaries from the Middle East and Far East – that’s where the interest has been of late.” The first Pig hotel opened in Brockenhurst in the New Forest in 2011. Regarding how big The Pig estate could grow, Hutson said: “I am still enjoying the journey – we will see. Ten isn’t a bad figure.” Hutson said the company was focused on the British market but he didn’t rule out overseas openings. He added: “Perhaps the best market for The Pig is America – it would translate the best into an English-speaking country. I can imagine one a couple of hours outside New York or another large metropolis but, if you commit to something like that, you need to do several. To do a one-off is crazy.”
Greene King rolls out apprentice-made beer: Brewer and retailer Greene King has nationally rolled out a beer that has been developed by its apprentice brewers. Icebreaker, a 4.5% ABV unfiltered pale ale, has been created by the company’s first cohort of apprentices under the tutelage of master brewer Ross O’Hara. The apprentices were given the freedom to break Greene King’s brewing boundaries to develop a beer of their choice. Matt Starbuck, managing director of Greene King brewing and brands, said: “We decided to bring this beer into the permanent portfolio as it’s a natural fit alongside our fantastic selection of session beers.” Icebreaker is available in keg across free trade and national pub retailers, including select Greene King pubs.
Former River Cafe chef turns Notting Hill pub into debut restaurant and bar:Former River Cafe chef Theo Hill has launched a neighbourhood restaurant and late-night bar at a former pub in Notting Hill. Gold has opened on the site of the four-storey Portobello Gold pub in Portobello Road inspired by the area’s “cultural history and artistic eclecticism”. Hill’s menu focuses on seasonal plates cooked over open flame or in wood ovens and served to share. Hill’s menu includes dishes such as wood-roasted whole sea bream, and nettle ravioli with sheep’s ricotta and sorrel, Hot Dinners reports. The outside of the venue has been decorated by Portuguese graffiti artist Vhils, while the venue features a garden room with retractable roof, a second-floor party room and dining rooms on two floors.
Muffin Break shuts Leicester site: Muffin Break has shut its site at the Highcross shopping centre in Leicester. The company has closed the outlet on the upper floor of the complex after ten years in the city. A note on the door stated: “Sorry, this store is now closed. You can still get hold of our freshly baked goods at your nearest branch – Loughborough – where your coffee loyalty card rewards will continue as normal.” Launched in 2009, the Highcross site was one of the brand’s larger branches, reports Leicestershire Live.
Watneys launches £400,000 crowdfunding campaign: Watneys Beer Company, formerly known as Brands Reunited, has launched a £400,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. The company is offering 18.29% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £1.78m. Shaun Goode and Nick Whitehurst founded Brands Reunited in 2015 to “relaunch heritage beer brands to the craft sector”. Watneys was brewed in London from 1837 until disappearing in the 1980s. The company said it had seen total sales of £900,000 since launch, with sales to the year ending February 2018 of £428,000. It said it had seen average year-on-year growth of more than 130%, with more than 400,000 pints sold in the past 12 months. Funds would be used to strengthen the company’s sales team; invest in format development, sales and marketing to build off-trade distribution; and targeted export sales of 10% within three years. The pitch states: “We are a craft beer business with a difference – our brands are iconic. We have reinvented them for today’s consumers with the mission to make them great again. In 2015 we launched the first of our four brands, Home Ales, back into its Midlands heartland, while 2016 saw the launch of Watneys in London. Once the UK’s biggest brewing group, Watneys is key to delivering our business vision. Our focus now is to make Watneys a national brand once more and build a portfolio of strong regional craft brands. We also own the rights to Federation from the north east and Matthew Brown from the north west. Last year saw the launch of Headliners, our modern craft range of keg beer. We have two lines available permanently in Ei Group pubs for the first time. We derive almost all our revenue from sales to pubs. This is a key channel to build brand awareness and value before looking to move into the off-trade and grocery markets.”
Ei Group sells Bristol pub freehold: Ei Group has sold the freehold of The Black Boy Inn in Bristol off a guide price of £495,000 plus VAT. The grade II-listed pub, which recently ceased trading and is in the Clifton area of the city, has been bought by Bristol-based Chatford Properties in a deal brokered by agent Christie & Co. The property in Whiteladies Road occupies a substantial building within a terrace of 12 period houses, which have all been converted into ground-floor commercial premises, with private residential and student accommodation above. The pub comprises two contemporary trading areas for about 40 people altogether. Nicholas Calfe, director at Christie & Co’s Bristol office, who handled the sale, said: “This is the first time the pub has been on the market for many years as a freehold sale. We saw high levels of interest from a range of potential buyers due to its desirable location and huge opportunity to develop the building to maximise the return on the investment required.”
Plymouth-based micro-brewer lines up debut pub: Plymouth-based micro-brewer Bulletproof Brew Co is lining up its debut pub. Founders Patrick Lawrence and Connor Johnson, who launched the craft beer company in 2016, have applied to the city council for an alcohol licence as they look to convert a former charity shop in Mutley Plain. It would open from midday until 1am daily. Johnson said for the past few years the company had been operating a “pretty small mobile bar” at food and drink markets in the city. He told Plymouth Live: “We are finding more and more demand for craft beer in Plymouth. We’re a Plymouth brewery and it makes sense to have a place where we can sell our beer to Plymouth people.”
Belfast-based Taiwanese street food restaurant gets go-ahead for second site:Belfast-based Taiwanese street food restaurant Bao Bun has been given the go-ahead for its second site in the city. Alan Boyce launched the concept in Botanic Avenue in 2017. Now it has been granted permission by the city council for a second site, in Lisburn Road. Bao Bun will convert a former hair salon into a restaurant with an apartment on its upper floors, reports The Irish News. The restaurant specialises in gua baos, a Taiwanese steamed bun filled with meat and a mix of vegetables and toppings.
Aylesbury-based pub operator opens Japanese restaurant for second site:Aylesbury-based pub operator Kelvin Wong has opened a Japanese restaurant in the Buckinghamshire town for his second site. Wong, who runs The Watermead, has launched Miya, which is named after his daughter, in the town’s former police headquarters in Exchange Street. There is a bar on the ground floor while the restaurant sits upstairs with an open-plan kitchen. Features of the old building have been retained, including the check-in desk. Wong told Mix96: “I approached the council more than a year ago, said what I wanted to do with the building and what my concept was. The council really liked it. I think choosing a local, independent business to take on the site is a great idea.”
Miller & Carter receives steak accreditation: Mitchells & Butlers steakhouse brand Miller & Carter has been awarded Masters of Steak accreditation by the Craft Guild of Chefs, which shows the brand adheres to “ten dedicated claims of excellence”. These include fully traceable meat, which is matured and hand-cut. The accreditation, which is reviewed annually, applies to all Miller & Carter’s British and Irish steaks and can be withdrawn if the brand fails to meet any of its claims. Mystery dining will be conducted monthly as well as an annual taste test by the guild. Miller & Carter operations director Sue Walsh said: “Having our combined efforts recognised is something we’re very proud of. Everything we do amounts to delivering quality steak.” Craft Guild of Chefs managing director Andrew Green added: “We are excited to work with Miller & Carter on its steak range. The steps the company takes are testament to its passion and devotion for offering guests an indulgent steak experience.”