Two-thirds of Pret closures outside London: The majority of the 30 sites Pret A Manger will close as a part of a restructure of the business will be based outside London, Propel understands. The JAB Holdings-backed company announced earlier today (6 July) it would undergo a restructure that would see 30 of its UK sites close permanently. The move came after the company experienced a 74% drop in sales year-on-year because of a “significant impact of covid-19 on operating costs and cash flow”. The company, which has so far reopened 339 of its 410 UK sites, said it would start a consultation to reduce headcount across remaining UK stores to reflect lower footfall, rental costs and new safety measures. It also said it planned a reduction in the number of support roles and a sale of the lease of its main support office in Victoria, London. Of the 30 sites that will close, one-third are in London, including those at 421 Strand, The Cut – Southwark, 109 Fleet Street and Centre Point. The group’s site at Heathrow Terminal 3 landside will also close. Sites earmarked for closure outside the capital include venues in Worcester, Lion Yard in Cambridge, Albert Street in Nottingham, Fargate in Sheffield, Broad Street in Reading, Metrocentre in Gateshead, Shandwick Place in Edinburgh, East Street in Chichester, Glasgow Fort Shopping Centre, Lakeside and Capitol Centre Cardiff. Pret also said plans were under way to reshape the brand’s business model in the medium term.
US hedge fund tables bid for Casual Dining Group: US hedge fund Elliott Advisers, which owns bookshop chain Waterstones, is plotting a takeover of Casual Dining Group (CDG), operator of the Café Rouge, Bella Italia and Las Iguanas brands. Sky News reports Elliott Advisers is among a small number of investors to have tabled bids for the whole of CDG, which collapsed into administration last week. Elliott is understood to have made an offer for the whole of CDG, while other funds are vying for individual parts of the business. On Thursday (2 July), AlixPartners was appointed to run an insolvency process, announcing 91 of CDG’s 250 sites would close immediately with the loss of one-third of its workforce. One source suggested talks between Elliott and the administrator weren’t at an advanced stage and the company was by no means certain to table a formal bid. CDG said closure of the 91 sites would affect 1,909 restaurant staff out of the group’s current workforce of 5,959. The sites earmarked for closure comprise 11 Las Iguanas, 34 Bella Italia, three Belgo, 31 Café Rouge and 12 of the group’s airport-based sites, including its three pubs at Heathrow. CDG’s board said it had determined in “today’s extreme operating environment” it was in the “best interests of all stakeholders for the group to enter administration to enable the group to conclude negotiations with landlords regarding the estate”. It said it was a “critical step” to resolve before the conclusion of the sale. CDG’s board reiterated it had received multiple offers for the business and the administrators would seek to progress those. Propel revealed last week that a number of parties were bidding to acquire all or part of CDG. Aurelius Group, the German investment group that came close to rescuing Jamie’s Italian, is interested in acquiring the Bella Italia and Café Rouge brands. TriSpan, backer of Rosa’s Thai and Thunderbird Fried Chicken, and private equity firm Endless are both bidding to secure Las Iguanas. CDG has been working with AlixPartners to progress a sale process that was announced in mid-May and aimed at finding a new investor for the group. Propel understands TriSpan is working on its bid with Ron Pearson, formerly of Bowmark Capital, which backed a £27m management buyout of the then 14-strong business in 2007. At the same time, Endless is believed to be working on its bid with Mark McQuater, former chief executive of Revolution Bars Group, who was recently appointed chairman of Roxy Leisure.
Arc Inspirations to take Box brand to Manchester: Arc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands, is set to continue on the expansion trail and introduce its Box sports bar brand to Deansgate, Manchester. The group operates 17 bars across the north of England, including Banyan Bar & Kitchen, Box and Manahatta. The company has now secured planning permission for a site at 125 Deansgate and plans to open early next year. Spread across the ground and first floor of a new-build development that fronts Deansgate, the city centre site marks the brand’s first venture outside Yorkshire and will join its sister sites in Headingley and Leeds city centre. Arc Inspirations chief executive Martin Wolstencroft said: “It has been a challenging few months for the sector and our business but we’re now looking with excitement to the future. Manchester has always been a key location for us and, when the time is right and consumer confidence fully returns, we will debut our Box brand in the city. The opening fits perfectly with our strategy of opening in clusters with complementary brands and we’re confident our guests in Manchester will love the Box experience.” At the weekend, the company reopened all 17 of its sites with a new customer charter that outlines how all its sites will comply with measures that aim to ensure the safety of guests and teams.
KFC reopens seated areas in 100 UK sites: KFC has started to reopen seated areas in its 900-strong UK estate. The company has so far reopened seated areas in 100 sites across the country as it gears up to gradually reopen all its UK sites for dine in. The brand still has a limited menu and reduced opening hours in place. A KFC spokeswoman said: “During the past few months we’ve been gradually reopening our doors. First, we were delivering, then came drive-thru and takeaway. But one thing has been missing. One vital ingredient. The thing that makes a house a home. You. It has always been you. The dine-in enthusiast. The refined character who prefers to sit and take their time. Savour the ambience while dining in the warm glow of the Colonel’s embrace. My, how we’ve missed you. Our main focus is on doing this responsibly so we’ve introduced new safety measures including hand sanitiser and capacity limits. We’ve installed new Perspex screens throughout many of our restaurant dining areas too. We’re asking all our guests to be sensible and help us keep each other safe. And don’t forget mobile ordering is now available in many of our restaurants so you can place and order and pay through our app using your own device if you’d prefer.”
Black and Hospitality serves almost 1,000 covers during reopening weekend:Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to restaurant brands belonging to Marco Pierre White, has reported it served almost 1,000 covers during the weekend. Operating a staggered opening strategy, eight franchised venues – in Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Hull, Lincoln, Folkestone, Milton Keynes and Kegworth – reopened on Saturday (4 July) having been closed for more than three months. Nick Taplin, chairman and chief executive of Black and White Hospitality, said: “The service went very well all weekend and, as we ease our way out of lock-down, we look forward to opening more venues and welcoming more people who want to dine out. There’s no denying the hospitality sector has been hit hard by this pandemic. However, we were determined to come out of this by hitting the ground running so our customers could feel reassured we’ve done all we can to provide them with a safe dining environment. We’re operating a reduced a la carte menu but the exacting standards expected from one of the world’s greatest chefs haven’t been compromised in any way and, judging by the response from those who visited during the weekend, demonstrates there’s an appetite to dine out.”
Friska begins gradual reopening programme: Healthy eating brand Friska has started the gradual reopening of its 11-strong estate, with the opening today (6 July) of its site in Bristol Harbourside. The company said: “The store will look a little different – with floor markings, sanitising pump stations and Perspex screens – but we hope the feeling will be just the same. We’re really looking forward to welcoming you back and continuing with our reopening plans in the coming weeks and months once we see how things work at Harbourside.” In May, the company launched an “at-home” meal box offer in its home city of Bristol. Delivered to customer’s doors, the boxes comprise enjoy-at-home meals for four or two people, which come with rice, coleslaw and dressing. There’s also a range of soup, groceries and coffee. The business, which is backed by YFM Equity Partners, was founded by Griff Holland and Ed Brown in 2009.
Hix to open restaurant at former Oyster & Fish House site: Chef Mark Hix, whose restaurant portfolio went into administration in April, will launch new venture Oyster & Fish House in the Lyme Regis site that formerly housed Hix Oyster & Fish House. The venue will open on Monday, 27 July. Hix Oyster & Fish House ceased trading in April when the board of the company that owned it, WSH, decided to put all Hix restaurants into administration, a decision that wasn’t supported by the chef himself, who was a minor shareholder in the business. Hix said the new restaurant would be similar to its predecessor, serving seasonal local produce including seafood caught in Lyme Bay and along the Dorset coast. The menu will feature “old Hix favourites” such as house-smoked salmon, fish house pie, Dorset oysters and whole fish served on the bone. Hix said: “The Fish House has always been a very important restaurant to me and was the second restaurant I opened in 2008. Now it’s time to look to the future and new beginnings. I’m looking forward to opening a fish and seafood restaurant again, despite the challenges all restaurateurs face at the moment. I have been overwhelmed by the support of locals and previous Hix regulars so I’m looking forward to welcoming them all to the restaurant when I open the doors later this month.”
Tom Aikens launches at-home delivery and online cookery class subscriptions service: Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens has launched an at-home delivery and online cookery class subscriptions service. Available nationwide, Musette offers an evolving seasonal menu of contemporary and classic dishes, prepared in Aikens’ kitchen but designed to be finished at home. The menu also features a collection of sommelier-recommended wine available to order by the bottle, with dish pairing suggestions for each. In addition, Aikens has launched a series of detailed, step-by-step virtual cookery classes designed for people to strengthen their cookery skills and recipe knowledge. The subscription-based service is hosted on a private Instagram account and offers exclusive access to live and pre-recorded cookery classes. Aikens’ London restaurant, Muse, will reopen on Thursday, 3 September.
 
Linda Lee reopens second On The Bab site in London: Restaurateur Linda Lee has reopened a second London site for her Korean brand On The Bab. The venue at Ludgate Broadway in St Paul’s opened on Monday (6 July). The venue is currently only available for delivery and takeaway. The move follows the reopening of On The Bab’s Shoreditch site last month. Lee said she was working on a reopening plan for dine-in in at all four of her London sites – the other two restaurants are in Covent Garden and Soho. There is also an On The Bab site in Paris, with another international site in the pipeline, in Seoul. Lee also owns fine-dining Korean barbecue restaurant Koba in Fitzrovia.
Wright Brothers to reopen two sites on Thursday: Wright Brothers, the oyster specialist and seafood wholesaler, will reopen its London sites in Borough Market and Battersea on Thursday (9 July). Dining at Borough Market will be under the Art Deco market canopy, “combining the comfort of eating alfresco with protection from the weather”. The Battersea site, meanwhile, will take bookings for the restaurant and terrace with riverside views. Wright Brothers At Home, the home-delivery service the company launched in May during lock-down within the M25, has now been made available nationwide with an expanded product range, including wine, champagne and Wright Bros’ own-brand Half Shell Gin. Since launching the service, Wright Bros founders Robin Hancock and Ben Wright said Londoners had ordered more than 10,000 oysters and 500 lobsters. They added: “Our aim was and still is to get the fishermen fishing, workers working and people cooking at home.”
BrewBroker closes crowdfunding campaign for second-stage expansion after raising almost £400,000: BrewBroker, the online market place for the global brewing industry, has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to launch “version 2.0” after raising almost £100,000 above its £300,000 target. The company was offering 7.32% equity in return for investment, giving BrewBroker a pre-money valuation of £3.8m. In total, 423 investors pledged £392,770 and the campaign has now closed to investment. Chief executive Daniel Rowntree and chief technical officer Ben Morgan-Smith launched BrewBroker in September 2018 to enable businesses to search, sell and buy brewing services from each other. The platform directs users to fill out their tenders, which are then matched to suppliers based on volume, style and requirements. The pitch states: “In July 2018 we launched our beta, which helped brewers trade capacity – a practice known as ‘contract brewing’. Within 18 months, one-quarter of the UK’s brewers became members – 750 signed up and completed 373 tenders on the platform. Now we are launching version 2.0 of the platform to serve the entire industry from end to end. As well as brewers, we believe our Intelligent DealFlow system can foster opportunities in more markets within the beer industry. For suppliers, ingredients, equipment, logistics services and more will be traded via the platform. For end-buyers, retail tenders, white-label contracts and more will be secured via the platform. We now deploy a subscription model for suppliers and brewers but remain free for buyers to maximise opportunities to do business. The number of UK breweries reached 2,274 in 2018, up 68% from 1,352 in 2013. The market is becoming increasingly challenging. Investment will enable us to scale marketing and onboard more clients.” BrewBroker launched in the US in March 2019.
The Sea, The Sea to reopen this week: The Sea, The Sea – the Chelsea fish shop, deli and seafood bar concept launched by Bonnie Gull co-founder Alex Hunter – is set to reopen this week. The venue will open its doors on Thursday (9 July) initially offering two dinner settings a day – at 7pm and 9pm. To comply with social distancing guidelines, the venue will initially restrict diner numbers to 12 per sitting, with reservations available for bookings up to a maximum of six people (as long as they are from the same household). The new menu will include six rock oysters with pickled beetroot juice, cloves and hazelnuts; house-aged sea bass with mushrooms, and seaweed and bread vinaigrette; and aged kingfish with caviar and toasted rice. A spokeswoman said: “We already hold a five-star hygiene rating but will be extra vigilant with all preparation and serving practices to make sure we’re operating in the safest way possible.” Hunter launched The Sea, The Sea in April last year, naming the Pavilion Road venue after the Iris Murdoch novel. During lock-down, the venue has been offering a meal box delivery service featuring dishes created by executive chef Leo Carreira.
Zip World gets go-ahead for its first city attraction, in Liverpool: Adventure tourism operator Zip World has been given the go-ahead for its first attraction outside Wales. The company has secured permission from Liverpool City Council to install two lines between the top of St Johns Beacon to the summit of Central Library. Specially designed platforms will be installed that will lead to people zipping 500 metres across the city centre while 450 feet in the air. Scheduled to open in 2021, the company claims the attraction would be the first permanent city zip in the UK. Sean Taylor, founder and president of Zip World, told Insider Media: “We have worked tirelessly with our planning team over the past 18 to 24 months to get the Zip World Liverpool project to this point. We would be honoured to be part of this incredible city with its history and culture.” A Liverpool City Council spokesman added: “Central Library is already a tourist attraction in its own right and it’s felt this will further boost visitor numbers and provide a valuable income stream at a time when we have significant budget challenges.” Zip World will reopen its three sites in the Snowdonia mountain range in North Wales – Penrhyn Quarry, Slate Caverns and Fforest – on Monday (6 July). The business is also set to launch an attraction at Tower Colliery in the village of Hirwaun in South Wales’ coal-mining region next year. Zip World secured investment from LDC last year to support its growth strategy. The deal was also supported by Zip World’s bank backer, HSBC.
Victor Garvey among London-based operators reopening sites: Spanish chef and restaurateur Victor Garvey has reopened SOLA, his modern Californian fine-dining restaurant in Soho, as a number of London-based operators begin to exit lock-down. Garvey launched the Dean Street concept in November to replace Rambla in a move away from his Catalan roots. Paladar, the Latin American restaurant, bar and bodega in Elephant and Castle, also reopened on Saturday (4 July) offering an “innovative, seasonal alfresco first” format. Meanwhile, Filipino restaurant Romulo Café & Restaurant in Kensington High Street will reopen on Friday (10 July). Safety measures will include screens between tables, anti-bacterial door handles, and free hand sanitiser, masks and gloves for guests. The menu will be a slimmed-down version of the pre-lockdown offering. East London Liquor Company will reopen its patio bar from 5pm on Friday, offering outdoor table service only. Founder Alex Wolpert said: “We launched our online shop delivering nationwide at the beginning of lock-down and have unveiled our first canned cocktail range. However, we’ve missed seeing people at the bar and making our regular customers their favourite drinks.” East London Liquor Company acquired fellow East End business Longflint Drinks in May to bring ready-to-drink opportunities into its portfolio. Meanwhile, Joël Robuchon International has reopened Le Deli Robuchon in Piccadilly. Le Deli now operates via self-service. For those wishing to dine in, guests can order from the counter with ample space for traditional seating that is “well suited to social distancing measures”, the company said. The delivery service Le Deli Robuchon launched during lock-down is also still available within a four mile radius of the restaurant. It is also launching an app that will allow guests to pre-order dishes directly for pick-up or delivery.
Cheltenham-based Japanese kitchen and bar concept opens second site, in Battersea: Cheltenham-based Japanese kitchen and bar concept Kibou Sushi has opened a second site, in Battersea, south London. The 80-cover restaurant was due to open in Northcote Road in April. Now it has launched offering the brand’s authentic ramen and a standalone bar. The site was formerly occupied by cafe and tea room Bertie & Boo. Emma Graveney, who launched Kibou Sushi in Cheltenham in 2013, is part of the team that has brought the brand to London. The new venue, Kibou Japanese Restaurant & Bar, is open from Wednesday to Sunday and features individually designed dining spaces, murals, bric-a-brac and vibrant Asian shades and patterns. As well as ramen, Kibou’s menu includes katsu curry, tempura, donburi rice bowls, bao buns and sushi, while the bar focuses on Japanese whiskey, saké and beer alongside cocktails, grazing food and platters, Hot Dinners reports. Kibou’s website states: “Kibou is a Japanese hot kitchen, ramen and sushi bar inspired by the nostalgia of Tokyo’s bustling back streets. It’s a laid-back, eclectic, day-to-night eating and drinking den that fuses canteen-style dining with the golden age of Japanese whiskey, saké and cocktails.”
Ormer Mayfair to host first international residencies: Fine-dining restaurant Ormer Mayfair, which is in luxury boutique hotel Flemings Mayfair, will launch its first international residency, in Austria this summer. The three-month pop-up will be held at Hotel Kristiania in Lech. Located at the foot of the Omeshorn mountains, it is the first time Hotel Kristiania has opened for the summer season. The pop-up will run weekly from Thursday (9 July) until Sunday, 6 September. The menu will feature Ormer’s signature dishes such as Jersey lobster ravioli in a crab and tomato bisque with shallot salad; Dover sole with smoked salmon; and potato and leek risotto with pickled quail eggs and caper berry salad. Ormer Mayfair is also planning a second pop-up restaurant, on the Greek island of Mykonos later this year.
Former Noma chef to reopen Nigerian concept in St James’s Market next week:Former Nomi chef Jeremy Chan and restaurant director Iré Hassan-Odukale are set to reopen their Nigerian concept, Ikoyi, next week. The venue will relaunch in London’s St James’s Market on Friday, 17 July offering a new menu. Ikoyi will retain its use of seasonal British produce, bold spices and umami flavours but with more emphasis on “comfort and familiarity”. New dishes will include fried half-chicken with hot sauce, and aubergine and pumpkinseed miso. The venue will also offer takeaway and delivery services. Safety guidelines will see all team members have their temperatures logged daily, while they will wear face masks during preparation, set-up and service. In addition to hand sanitiser, guests will also be given a mask to wear when moving around the restaurant. Chan said: “With these extra measures we hope everyone feels comfortable, secure and relaxed when they spend time with us. Thankfully we are now in a position to look forward and we’re excited to get going with our new-look menu.” Ikoyi will initially open for dinner from 5.30pm to last orders at 9.30pm, from Tuesday to Saturday. Delivery and pick-up services will be available from 5.30pm to 9.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday.
Mambow pivots to offer at-home service: London-based bowls concept Mambow has pivoted to offer an at-home service. Chef Abby Lee has launched a series of Malaysian-style build-your-own meal boxes she cooks in the Shoreditch restaurant’s kitchen but that can be finished off and served at home. Dishes include char siu (pork shoulder marinated in ginger, honey and hoisin), and tofu kapitan – fried tofu kapitan with crispy charred courgettes and confit tomatoes in a light curry made up of turmeric, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime and coconut milk and served with pickles. Lee said: “Growing up in Singapore I was able to discover all the different parts of Malaysian cuisine. I also spent a lot of time at my family’s bakery, where I learned the importance of beginning every recipe with quality ingredients and cooking nutritious food with soul at its heart. Lock-down gave me the opportunity to do a lot of cooking at home, which ultimately led to the development of my new Mambow At Home menu, which is a reflection of the flavours and food I grew up around.” Lee opened the restaurant in Commercial Street in February having gained her diploma at Le Cordon Bleu, honing her skills in her family’s bakeries in Singapore and Malaysia before moving to Italy to cook at Michelin-starred Pashà Ristorante, near Bari. Mambow remains closed to dine-in customers but hopes to reopen in the next few weeks.
Meliá Hotels refreshes F&B offer at Manchester site, reveals expansion plans: Spanish group Meliá Hotels has refreshed the food and beverage offering at its Manchester Innside site and is planning a series of new properties. The Innside Manchester in First Street has launched its new restaurant and bar, Hideout Lounge & Grill. It offers “locals and visitors a completely new dining experience in the heart of the city centre”. Meliá has also announced plans to open Innside hotels in Liverpool and Newcastle later this year, with further sites in the north of the UK earmarked to launch in spring 2021. With a growing portfolio of new hotels in the north, Melia has also announced several new appointments, reports The Business Desk. Garry Fortune, previously of Malmaison, becomes cluster general manager; Tom Meara, who has joined from The Principal Hotel, becomes cluster revenue manager and Gill Screawn has been appointed cluster financial controller after arriving from Almarose Hotels.
Liverpool-based Happy Days Group hosting ‘football festival’ next to Anfield stadium: Liverpool-based Happy Days Group is to host a football festival at its latest venue, which sits beside the new Premier League champions’ Anfield stadium. Happy Days Group acquired Hotel Anfield in Anfield Road in February, just before lock-down. The venue features open-air viewing areas on either side. Having been independently certificated as covid-safe, Hotel Anfield will screen all Premier League matches, with Liverpool FC’s games being ticketed. The outdoor area will offer a table drinks service. Happy Days Group co-founder and director Peter Schriewersmann said: “The team at Hotel Anfield has been working hard to prepare the viewing areas and we can’t wait to pick up where we left off in February. We are incredibly lucky to have such a large outdoor space.”
All-day Australian restaurant Milk Beach to double in size: All-day Australian restaurant Milk Beach, in Queen’s Park, west London, is to double in size. Founder Elliott Milne has taken over the neighbouring site formerly occupied by Hugo’s restaurant. Milk Beach, which opened in 2018, will renovate the combined space and relaunch the venue in late summer with an enhanced evening service featuring a full dinner menu created by Australian head chef Darren Leadbeater, formerly of Wild Honey and Brunswick House. Dishes will include fried whitebait with Tasmanian pepper berries and squid ink tagliatelle with crab. There will be a new all-day brunch menu, with house-roasted coffee. The refurbishment of the Lonsdale Road premises will create a new bar serving low-intervention wine, cocktails and beer on tap. As well as the larger interior, the operation will feature an enlarged outdoor seating area with heating for the colder months. A takeaway shop and weekend barbecue will continue to operate during the renovations.
Seaham Hall creates new experiences post-lock-down including secret outdoor cinema: Seaham Hall, the five-star manor House on Durham’s Heritage Coast, has created some new experiences for guests after reopening for lock-down. New offers at the 21-bedroom boutique hotel include a secret cinema within the 37-acre grounds, outdoor lounging in hooded pods and luxury picnic hampers for guests. With the spa still closed because of government restrictions, the hotel is offering some of its health treatments on a terrace. Other new offers include a candlelit alfresco dinner for guests staying in garden suites and in-room pamper hampers.
Point A Hotels to offer NHS staff free weekend stay: Point A Hotels, which operates nine sites across the UK, is to open its venues to NHS staff for a special “weekend of thanks”. NHS guests will stay for free as well as being treated to special surprises on-site. To be eligible for the weekend stay, NHS staff have to register and book online using information from their ID cards. Point A Hotels managing director Nic Wenn said: “Over the past few months we have watched the heroic efforts of our NHS staff. We can’t think of anything better than offering these heroes a free weekend away where they experience some heartfelt hospitality and can relax and reconnect with their loved ones.” The group’s hotels are based in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London.