Benito’s Hat appoints new directors: Mexican restaurant brand Benito’s Hat has appointed two new directors to its board. Colin Clarke has been appointed to the newly created role of operations director, while Jakina Matthews is the company’s new finance director. The appointments follow the £1m funding raised through existing investors in August, the “overwhelming” early success of Benito’s new-format store in St Albans and the planned opening of a flagship store in the O2 arena. Clarke previously worked with Whitbread, Spirit Pub Co and Paramount restaurants before taking on senior roles at Smiths of Smithfield, where he led a successful turnaround and exit for investors. Matthews has a wide breadth of experience across a number of sectors and takes over from Georgina Cavendish, who has left to pursue other opportunities. Benito’s Hat managing director Michael Pearson said: “Colin and Jakina will ensure our focus on core performance, customer experience and shareholder return is unfaltering, allowing us to concentrate on delivering on our exciting growth plan. Our new flagship store in the O2, which opens in the first quarter of 2019, will be our tenth and represents a significant milestone in our brand’s journey.” Following the financing deal, Pearson told Propel he expected to double the brand’s eight-strong company-owned estate in the next three years, with opportunities to add “significant numbers” through franchising. Ben Fordham and Felipe Fuentes Cruz founded Benito’s Hat in London in 2008.
Livelyhood acquires Clapham cocktail bar for sixth south London site, potential for further venues in 2019: Livelyhood, the independent south London pub group, has acquired the Gigalum cocktail bar in Clapham for its sixth site. The company will close the Cavendish Parade venue soon for a major refurbishment and will reopen it in February as The Perky Nel. Livelyhood told Propel there was potential for further openings in 2019. Overlooking Clapham Common, The Perky Nel will “embrace traditional values with a modern attitude”. It will feature a 100-cover bar and dining space with front terrace and serve food and drink from local suppliers and producers. Live entertainment will be part of the package, with Livelyhood’s signature dedicated sports area featuring giant screens. The Perky Nel will be the second Clapham location for Livelyhood, joining sister venue The Clapham North, which underwent a large refurbishment last year. The Livelyhood family also includes The Regent in Balham, The Old Frizzle in Wimbledon, The Mere Scribbler in Streatham and The Faber Fox in Crystal Palace. Chief executive and owner Sarah Wall said: “Having fallen in love with Clapham when we opened The Clapham North, we’ve been keeping an eye out for a sister site in the area since and have finally found the ideal home for Nel. We’re really excited to be opening in such a prime spot beside the common and are very proud to have such an iconic site as part of our portfolio. We will be revealing more details soon.”
Red Mist Leisure acquires Brasserie Blanc site in Farnham for tenth pub: Pub operator Red Mist Leisure, founded by Mark Robson and Mark Williams, has acquired its tenth site. The company has returned to Farnham in Surrey after buying the leasehold of the Brasserie Blanc restaurant in Castle Street. The site, which will be called The Castle Inn, will remain open as it undergoes a slight refurbishment. Red Mist Leisure plans a more substantial revamp later in the year. Robson said: “We couldn’t be more thrilled to once again return to our home town of Farnham. Taking on this new site, which is in such a prime position within the town, will enable us to further grow our award-winning pub and dining business, which heavily features fresh, local and seasonal food and drink and great service in a welcoming environment.” Last October, Red Mist Leisure sold The Wheatsheaf in Farnham to Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame.
Mindful Chef secures £6m investment from Piper to expand business:Healthy recipe box startup Mindful Chef has secured £6m of investment from Piper, the specialist consumer brand investor. Since Rob Grieg-Gran, Giles Humphries and Myles Hopper launched Mindful Chef in 2015, it has experienced rapid growth – including a 178% rise in sales in the past year – delivering almost two million meals to UK consumers. The Wandsworth-based brand has annualised sales of £10m and employs 27 people. Piper’s £6m investment will enable the business to expand its customer base to capitalise on the recipe box market, which is forecast to double in the next ten years. Grieg-Gran said: “The investment and expertise Piper brings to our business will help us bring healthy eating to many more consumers in the UK and enable us to accelerate our growth ambitions.” Mindful Chef chief executive Tim Lee added: “This major investment from Piper signifies the great confidence it has in our business and will help support our established marketing programme as well as our exciting new product development pipeline. The global recipe box market is ripe for expansion and we believe Mindful Chef’s proposition ticks all the boxes.” Piper investment director Rory Gibbs, who led the deal, said: “Mindful Chef is well placed to continue accelerating the growth of the recipe box market with its highly differentiated, health-focused positioning. We are backing a young, dynamic team that is passionate about making healthy eating easier for its customers.” Cavendish Corporate Finance advised Mindful Chef on securing the investment. In October 2017, Mindful Chef raised almost £2m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube in 11 days after offering a 15.34% equity stake. It also raised more than £1m on crowdfunding platform Seedrs the previous year, when its investors included Tossed founder Vincent McKevitt and tennis star Andy Murray.
SSP opens debut Burger King at Edinburgh airport, first UK site to feature interactive wall: SSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has opened a first site for Burger King at Edinburgh airport. The new concession features self-service kiosks for pre-ordering food and drink and a children’s interactive wall – a first for the UK market. SSP also operates M&S Simply Food and Starbucks units at the airport. The Burger King launch is the company’s first move into Edinburgh’s airside operation and forms part of a wider redevelopment programme at the airport. SSP UK and Ireland chief executive Simon Smith said: “This is our 30th Burger King restaurant to launch in the UK and reflects our ongoing commitment to the brand.” Gail Taylor, director of retail and property at Edinburgh airport, added: “One of the brands passengers have continuously mentioned they want to see at Edinburgh airport is Burger King. Quality and variety are key considerations when we look at our food and beverage options and we’re always looking to offer greater choice, something our new terminal expansion will allow us to do. We look forward to announcing more new outlets soon.”
Whitbread to open third London site for Bar + Block brand, in Wimbledon next month: Whitbread is to launch a third London site for its Bar + Block steakhouse brand, in Wimbledon on Friday, 8 February. The venue will be the eighth Bar + Block in total following openings in Nottingham, Aldgate and Leamington Spa last year. The 302 square metre, 156-cover steakhouse will feature a large bar with copper detailing and an open kitchen. Decorative finishing touches will include the brand’s signature neon cow and wall calligraphy detailing the brand story, alongside contemporary artwork. Whitbread Restaurants chief marketing officer Nathalie Pomroy said: “Following the ongoing success of our King’s Cross site and the opening of our Aldgate venue towards the end of last year, we’re confident our third London restaurant will be a welcome addition to the capital’s ever-growing food and drink scene.” A Bar + Block opening is scheduled for Reading this year, while Whitbread secured planning permission for a Premier Inn and Bar + Block in Finsbury Park last October. The concept features steaks hand-cut to order as well as a “butcher’s block”, rotating specials and an extensive drinks list.
Merlin Entertainments to bring Legoland to South Korea, targets up to 20 sites worldwide: Merlin Entertainments has entered into a partnership agreement with Gangwon provincial government to build a Legoland in South Korea, while the company sees the “opportunity” for up to 20 sites for the theme park brand worldwide. Legoland Korea will be built on the island of Hajungdo in Chuncheon and will incorporate a fully themed hotel. The park is scheduled to open by 2022 and will employ 1,600 people. Merlin will invest KRW210bn (£148m) into the development of the resort, which it will fully own and operate. Korean authorities have invested in the construction of a bridge to the island and undertaken groundwork on the site. Further retail and leisure offerings are planned as part of the island’s overall development. The resort will be Merlin’s tenth Legoland Park, with an opening in New York scheduled for 2020. Merlin said it was also in advanced discussions with third parties about a number of sites in China. Chief executive Nick Varney said: “We remain excited about the potential of Legoland Parks, the roll-out of which is a strategic growth driver for Merlin, and we continue to look at opportunities for further sites around the world.” Merlin also operates a SeaLife Centre in Busan, South Korea. The company reported Legoland Parks’ organic revenue rose 6.4% for the 40 weeks ended 6 October 2018, driven by the full-year contribution of Legoland Japan and the continued accommodation roll-out, offset by flat like-for-like growth.
Friska to open third Manchester site on Thursday, tenth in total: Independent healthy eating brand Friska is to open its third Manchester site – and tenth in total – on Thursday (10 January). The company will open the venue at the University Green development. It follows openings in the city in the Bright Building and St Peter’s Square in the past 18 months. The new site will offer the brand’s hot box meals, bao buns, pho noodle pots, burritos and wraps as well as speciality coffee. Co-founder Griff Holland said: “Manchester has been an incredible city to call our second home with a great indie spirit and food culture. We sit beside some seriously impressive food businesses at University Green and look forward to supporting everyone in making the area a buzzing destination for great food and drink.” Brown and Griff Holland opened the first Friska in Bristol in 2009.
Homeslice opens sixth site, at St Christopher’s Place: Better pizza brand Homeslice has opened its sixth site, at St Christopher’s Place in central London. The company has opened the venue at the development in James Street, Marylebone, having previously agreed a lease with F&C Commercial Property Trust. Homeslice Marylebone’s design has been heavily influenced by classic 1950s London cafes. Pastel-coloured Formica tables are paired with handcrafted walnut seating. As with its other sites, the wood-fired oven is the centrepiece of the restaurant. A spokeswoman said: “James Street and St Christopher’s Place is really exciting to us, it’s somewhere we’ve always wanted a presence. Our aim is to never open a site at a cost of the quality of what we do.” Homeslice was founded by Mark Wogan, Alan Wogan and Ry Jessup in 2011. Its other sites are in Covent Garden, Queen Street, Old Street, White City and Fitzrovia.
Pizza Hut to expand beer delivery programme in US, aims for 1,000 restaurants by summer: Pizza Hut is to expand its beer delivery to 300 restaurants in seven US states by mid-January. The company, which began a pilot project in Arizona more than a year ago before expanding to California, will offer the service in Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina and Ohio as part of a second-phase expansion of the programme, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. Pizza Hut stated: “The roll-out is a brand priority, with Pizza Hut aiming to grow beer delivery capabilities to 1,000 restaurants across new markets by summer 2019.” The current beers available include two-packs and six-packs of Blue Moon, Bud Light, Budweiser, Busch Light, Coors Light, Corona Extra, Kilt Lifter, Michelob Ultra, Miller Lite, Miller High Life, Shock Top and Stella Artois. Customers are required to prove they are of legal drinking age at the time of delivery by showing a valid form of identification and completing a form for the restaurant’s records. Over the past year, Pizza Hut has worked to revitalise the brand through value promotions and a focus on growing delivery and takeaway-focused restaurants. Pizza Hut has more than 16,800 restaurants around the world. Of those, about 7,500 are in the US.
Chatime to open Leeds site next month: Taiwanese bubble tea brand Chatime is to open a site in Leeds. The company will open the outlet at the Merrion Centre next month. Chatime offers freshly brewed bubble tea that can be served hot or cold. Business developer Vincent Deng told Leeds Live: “Being in the heart of the city and close to the extensive international student population gives us access to a diverse mix of customer, including those from overseas who have already grown to love the Chatime brand.” Chatime has 23 other venues in the UK, with more than 2,500 stores in 38 countries.
Nadler Hotels to open fifth site, in Covent Garden next month: London-based Nadler Hotels is to open its fifth site and fourth in the capital, in Covent Garden on Monday, 4 February. The 57-bedroom boutique hotel will open on the corner of Bedford Street and the Strand spread over six levels, including a reception and lounge on the ground floor. Many original features at the Edwardian property have been restored, while the site marks a move for the brand to feature interiors connected with the local area that focus on quality British design and craftsmanship. Nadler Hotels chief executive David Orr said: “Our focus is to provide guests with exceptional service, comfort and convenience, and curate a special connection with the local area. The property will feature many beautiful design enhancements.” Nadler Hotels’ other properties are in Victoria, Soho, Kensington and Liverpool. All bedrooms offer free Wi-Fi and UK phone calls, interactive televisions, work desks and a mini-kitchen. Nadler Hotels was founded by the Mactaggart family and partners in 2006 under the name Base2Stay.
Former Portland restaurant pair to launch Stoke Newington solo project this week: Chef João Ferreira Pinto and sommelier Carolina Seibel, who both worked at Michelin-starred restaurant Portland in Fitzrovia, are to launch a solo project in Stoke Newington this week. Moio will open in Stoke Newington High Street on Thursday (10 January) at a site formerly occupied by restaurant Rustic Twist. Moio has been named after an old Portuguese unit of measurement used in the salt trade between Portugal and Sweden, where Ferreira Pinto and Seibel hail from. Moio will offer modern European sharing plates with Portuguese influences such as razor clam and passion fruit ceviche, pig trotter fricassee with skinny fries, and rosemary creme brulee.
Ethical butcher and grill concept to launch in Camden Market on Friday: An ethical butcher and grill concept is to launch in Camden Market on Friday (11 January). Camden Town Roadkill will open in The Stables area of the market and combine ethical farming practices with a “street food slant”. Meat will come from rarebreed cattle in North Yorkshire and will be free from antibiotics, growth hormones and chemically enhanced feed. The short menu will feature an aged Dexter bacon cheeseburger, 35 day-aged steak with beef dripping fries, steak salad and breakfast bacon sandwiches. Roadkill is the brainchild of Matthew Gregson-Jones and Jamie Patel. Sustainability extends to food waste, with all bones roasted to create sauces and beef fat used as dripping for chips. All meat will be butchered on-site, while the venue will offer butchery courses and a meat home delivery service. If all goes well in Camden, there are plans to branch out elsewhere in London with four more stalls and a butcher’s shop in the works, Hot Dinners reports.
Britannia Hotels acquires Scottish Highlands site: Britannia Hotels has acquired the Coylumbridge Hotel, near Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands. The company bought the 175-bedroom property for an undisclosed sum through agents Christie & Co. It is the company’s fifth Scottish site and 61st in the UK. Situated on a 65-acre estate on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park, the hotel has five restaurants, two bars, an adventure play park, two pools and spa facilities.