Wagamama makes Sharjah debut as part of UAE expansion: Wagamama has opened its first restaurant in Sharjah, the company’s first site in the United Arab Emirates outside Dubai, as part of continued expansion in the country. The 110-cover, 180 square metre restaurant has launched at the newly opened Zero 6 shopping centre in Al Juraina District, which houses the largest IMAX theatre in the UAE. The Wagamama restaurant also offers a terraced area, with the venue opening in time for Ramadan. The launch brings the number of Wagamama sites in the UAE to six, with wider expansion to take place this year in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Wagamama launched in the UAE in 2004, opening its largest venue to date in the country in Dubai earlier this year. Wagamama international managing director Brian Johnston said: “With an established and growing presence in Dubai, we are excited to launch in another emirate, bringing fresh Japanese-inspired cuisine to diners in Sharjah for the first time. The opening signifies the wider expansion plan of our franchise partner RMAL Hospitality to deliver world-class restaurant experiences to UAE residents and visitors.”
Kensington-based Indian restaurant Chakra to expand across London via delivery kitchens and restaurant roll-out: Kensington-based Indian restaurant Chakra is to expand across London by launching a number of key delivery kitchens under the brand Chakra To Go and rolling out restaurants. The first delivery kitchen will open in Wimbledon next month. Arjun Varma launched Chakra’s flagship Kensington restaurant seven years ago. The site is currently undergoing a refurbishment and will reopen on Friday, 1 June sporting a new look and menu. Chakra Group is undergoing a rebrand by design studio Shalini Misra, while the revamped menu is being created under the guidance of new head chef Gulrez Iqbal, who trained with India’s Taj Group and has worked in some of the UK’s top Indian restaurants. Chakra Kensington will become a 70-seater restaurant and be the blueprint for future sites. The group will open a second site, in Kingston-upon-Thames, in the summer, with more to follow. Chakra means “balance” and the iconic symbol will be displayed throughout the restaurant, while the colours will reflect the richness of India’s history with emerald green, gold and purple across soft furnishings and lighting. New tandoor dishes on the menu will include freshwater tiger prawn marinated with spicy chilli powder, crushed ginger and yogurt, while signature mains will include Kerala-style sea bream simmered in coconut milk gravy. The drinks list will include cocktails, wine and craft beer. A new addition will be afternoon chai – featuring “refined, Indian-flavoured treats”.
 
Brewer Samuel Smith admits failing to co-operate with Pensions Regulator:Tadcaster-based brewer and pub operator Samuel Smith and chairman Humphrey Smith have admitted to not handing over documents requested as part of an investigation by The Pensions Regulator (TPR). An investigation was launched in 2015 to make sure the company was earning enough money to support its final salary pension schemes. However, the TPR said Samuel Smith failed to provide the information it requested by its deadline and so court proceedings were launched. The company and Mr Smith pleaded guilty at Brighton Magistrates’ Court to neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents without a reasonable excuse, in breach of section 77 (1) of the Pensions Act 2004. Mr Smith was charged on the basis he consented or connived in the offence by the company or caused it by his neglect. The TPR said the information it initially requested had now been provided. The case was adjourned until Wednesday, 6 June for sentencing. Nicola Parish, of the TPR, told the Telegraph: “This sends a clear message to employers that we are serious when we ask for information. We require it for good reason as part of our work to protect pension savers. Anyone who does not co-operate with our requests also risks getting a criminal record.” Failure to respond to the TPR’s demands for information can result in an unlimited fine. Samuel Smith, which is known for its very low prices, runs its pubs on a directly managed basis and is known for not responding to press inquiries.
Darwin & Wallace to open sixth site, in Wimbledon next month: Bar group Darwin & Wallace, which is backed by Imbiba, is to open its sixth site, in Wimbledon, next month. The new venue, 601 Queen’s Rd, will officially launch next to the tube and railway station on Wednesday, 6 June offering an all-day casual bar dining experience with cocktails and locally sourced food. The design will celebrate its locality and residential neighbourhood and feature a terrace for year-round alfresco dining. Managing director Mel Marriott said: “The large external terrace will be an excellent year-round feature and we are extremely excited to bring our passion for great food and drink and unique interiors to this gorgeous leafy London village.” The group opened its first site – No 11 Pimlico Road – in 2012, followed by No 32 The Old Town in 2014, No 1a Duke St in Richmond in late 2015, and No 197 Chiswick Fire Station in April 2016. Its fifth venue, No 29 Power Station West, launched in Battersea in July last year.
McDonald’s partners with Ingenico Group to handle anticipated cashless payments surge: McDonald’s UK and Ireland has partnered with Ingenico Group to handle the expected growth in demand for cashless transactions during the next five years. McDonald’s cited capacity, reliability, performance and security as the drivers for its “next-generation cashless solution”. Ingenico has worked with McDonald’s and its franchisees, which make up more than 80% of the estate, to deliver the technology to cope with the forecast growth of cashless payments, as well as new payment technologies such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. The solution has been deployed to all 1,300-plus McDonald’s restaurants across the UK and Ireland. In the UK, electronic payments have overtaken cash in many places, with contactless technology now accounting for more than one in three transactions. McDonald’s UK IT director Jon Braithwaite said: “We believe this payment solution is one of the most advanced in the retail sector and is a critical component to delivering excellent experience for our customers.” Ian Benn, Ingenico Group senior vice-president, commercial, enterprise retail, added: “Throughout its history, McDonald’s has been a leader in customer service innovation. Ingenico is proud to be able to play a part in that story, speeding service, adding new payment options and staying ahead of the pace.”
Europe’s largest Japanese food hall to open at Westfield London in July:Europe’s largest Japanese Food Hall – Ichiba – will open at Westfield London in July as part of the Shepherd’s Bush centre’s £600m expansion. Ichiba is the first joint venture between the Japan Centre Group and Cool Japan Fund, which helps support businesses to promote Japanese food and culture overseas. The 17,400 square foot flagship store, which will open on Saturday, 14 July, will feature food stations dedicated to freshly prepared and cooked food. The main food hall will offer a range of Japanese staples to a selection of sake, rice crackers and confectionery, alongside books and hand-picked ceramics. In-store experiences are also a key part of the new-format concept. Theatrical kitchens will be set around seating for more than 200 covers with a changing schedule of weekly cooking demonstrations and workshops, events, regional food and drink festivals and sake tasting seminars. Tak Tokumine, chief executive of Japan Centre, said: “Ichiba will be a dynamic and inspiring addition to the expanded centre and retail landscape in the capital.” Keith Mabbett, director of leasing, Westfield UK and Europe, added: “Ichiba is a fantastic concept that will offer our visitors the opportunity to dine, shop and experience Japanese cuisine and culture with an element of theatre – and we know it will be hugely popular.”
London-based halal steakhouse brand SteakOut to open ninth site, in Coventry: London-based halal steakhouse brand SteakOut is to open its ninth site, in Coventry. Founder Kaysor Ali will open the venue in a redeveloped Co-op. Ali opened his first SteakOut site in 2008 and now has seven venues in London and the south east and one in Leicester. The SteakOut website states: “Innovating flavours and precision cuts, pushing boundaries and stretching the limits of those unconditioned taste buds, we are reinventing and revolutionising steak dining.” Neil Edginton, managing director of EDG Property, the developers behind the building, told the Coventry Telegraph: “We are busy finishing the next phase of the development, which will include 63 high-quality apartments and a number of new restaurants.”
Balham-based brunch brand Brother Marcus to expand into Islington:Balham-based brunch brand Brother Marcus is to begin expansion by opening a second London site, in Islington. As well as brunches, the concept offers Mediterranean small plates and cocktails. The debut Brother Marcus site won a Time Out Love London Award this year and will open its new site in Camden Passage next month. The venue will open at a site formerly occupied by restaurant The Elk In The Woods and feature a new evening menu covering Mediterranean-inspired small plates with a focus on Crete. Vegetarian and vegan dishes will include aubergine with mint, chilli, lemon zest tahini and pomegranate seeds, while meat dishes will include cracked pork belly with apple labneh and walnuts, Hot Dinners reports. Signature Brother Marcus brunch dishes include the Step Sister (sweet potato with courgette and feta fritters), and turmeric yogurt with poached egg. Alongside cocktails in the evening, the drinks list will feature a wine list with plenty of Greek varieties, while a semi-private dining room will seat 12.
Martin Morales opens London’s first Peruvian bakery and adjacent restaurant for fifth and sixth sites: Ceviche founder Martin Morales has launched London’s first Peruvian bakery. Andina Panaderia and restaurant Andina Picanteria have opened side by side in Westbourne Grove, with both venues paying homage to female Andean chefs. Andina Panaderia specialises in slow-ferment baking with pastries and bread alongside all-day brunch-style dishes to eat in or take away. Peruvian coffee and tea are available alongside smoothies and juice, while the bakery also features a space for London and Peruvian potters to sell their work. The 40-cover Andina Picanteria is a homage to Peruvian, women-led roadside restaurants, called picanterias, and offers small plates such as sivinche, an ancient take on ceviche made with yellow fin tuna, trout roe and popped kiwicha. Larger dishes include an Andean-style stew with broad beans and roast pumpkin. Morales said: “My team and I have been travelling the regions of the Andes meeting bakers, cooks and farmers and learning new recipes and techniques.” Ceviche managing director Raquel Oliveira added: “We have perfected ancient techniques previously unseen in London and delved deeper into the rich culinary history of the Andes.” Morales’ other sites are Ceviche and Casita Andina in Soho, and Ceviche Old St and Andina in Shoreditch.
Loungers signs with Feed It Back: Loungers, which is backed by Lion Capital, has partnered with guest feedback, recovery and social reviews service Feed It Back to provide real-time interaction with customers, the ability to respond quickly to feedback, and the insights to drive ongoing improvements. Lounges managing director Justin Carter said: “We are obsessively focused on what happened yesterday and the Feed It Back platform will give us really useful insight into the experience of our customers. I’ve no doubt that insight will help us get better at what we do.” Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia added: “We’re very proud to be selected by Loungers to support its growth in the coming years. By providing Loungers’ teams with a live, mobile dashboard with actionable customer insights and feedback, we will help them to make informed decisions and take immediate action.” Loungers operates more than 120 sites through its Lounges and Cosy Club brands, with plans to invest £10m to open a further 16 Lounges in 2018.
Disco Bars Group opens fourth Society Bar, in Leek, tenth site in total:Midlands-based Disco Bars Group, led by Peter Terry, has opened its fourth Society Bar, in Leek. The company, which operates Society Bars in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Burton-upon-Trent and Uttoxeter, has invested £200,000 to transform the former Engine Room pub in Market Place. The new Society Bar features a bar at the front and two venues at the back. Terry told the Stoke Sentinel: “We’ve got a product we’re hoping will attract the people of Leek and beyond. We want to make sure there’s something for everyone.” The opening takes Disco Bars Group’s estate to ten sites having launched craft ale, gin and whiskey bar Ebenezers in Nantwich, Cheshire, in December.
Thai Express to open fifth site, in Birmingham: Thai street food restaurant Thai Express is to open its fifth site, in Birmingham. The company was founded in Canada and made its UK debut in 2012. Now it is opening a site at the Grand Central shopping centre on Saturday, 9 June. It promises to showcase a “full authentic Thai menu, cooked fresh from live cooking stations, skillfully and speedily”. The venue will have an open-plan kitchen, where customers will be able to watch their food made to order. There will be meat, seafood, vegetarian and gluten-free options, reports the Birmingham Mail. The four other Thai Express UK sites are in Aldgate, Boxpark Croydon, Guildford and Thurrock.
 
Former Carluccio’s Covent Garden head chef puts York deli on the market:Kirk Vincent, former head chef of Carluccio’s Covent Garden site, has put the York city centre deli he operates with wife Ali on the market. Henshelwoods Delicatessen is in a grade II-listed building in Newgate Street, faces on to Shambles Market and is close to the city’s main attractions and train station. The sales area is on the ground floor, while the first floor houses a chilled store room and production kitchen, with scope for further expansion. The third floor provides a stock room, storage area and office space. The Vincents have operated the deli for the past 12 years. They said: “We’ve been in the catering industry for a lot of years and, as much as we still love it, we feel now is the right time to hand over the reins and move on to pastures new.” David Cash, senior agent at Christie & Co, which is handling the sale, added: “The business would appeal to anybody with a passion for food and an eye for business. An already profitable going concern, the business has lots of potential and could be expanded depending on the new owner.”
Emerson Group reopens Bolton hotel and spa following £3m refurbishment: Cheshire-based The Emerson Group has reopened the Last Drop Village Hotel & Spa in Bolton following a £3m refurbishment. The company acquired the property for £4.25m in late 2015 from Moorfield Real Estate Investment Fund as part of a batch of 24 properties it offloaded. The reception area has been opened up to create a walkway to the bar, restaurant and bedrooms, while a raised decking area has created extra seating outside the bar. All 131 bedrooms have been redecorated. Last Drop general manager Gerry Mcgee said: “The hotel will be more appealing with updated facilities for all guests, including a restored banqueting and conference suite. The spa has also seen new developments, with the addition of gym equipment and upgraded changing rooms.” Allan Davidson, director of Colliers International, which was appointed asset manager of the site, added: “The investment The Emerson Group has put into this hotel should make the Last Drop Village Hotel & Spa one of the premier hotels in the region.”
Mother Clucker opens debut bricks-and-mortar site: Buttermilk-fried chicken specialist Mother Clucker has opened its debut bricks-and-mortar site, in Exmouth Market. The venue offers the brand’s signature chicken strips and cajun fries alongside breakfast, an expanded menu, coffee, craft beer from Five Points Brewing Co, and New Orleans-inspired cocktails. Mother Clucker launched five years ago from a converted US Army ambulance called the Cluck Truck. Co-founder Brittney Bean said: “We’re really excited about breakfast, we’re really excited about Five Points beer and we’re really excited about cocktails – but mostly we’re really, really excited about bringing more people more chicken more of the time.” Earlier this month, chairman John Upton told Propel the company was close to launching a fundraising round to “accelerate its roll-out across the UK and overseas”. Upton, former managing director of natural fast food brand Leon and ex-member of McDonald’s UK leadership team, said: “I’m delighted and immensely proud to work alongside co-founders Brittney Bean and Ross Curnow as we grow and develop this hugely exciting and scalable business.”
Neil Rankin opens third Temper site, in Covent Garden: Neil Rankin has opened a third London site for his Imbiba-backed concept Temper, this time in Covent Garden. Following on from his Soho and City sites, the third Temper has launched in the Mercers Walk development in Seven Dials. Whereas the debut Temper in Soho featured modern barbecue and Temper City focused on curry, the new site turns the spotlight on pizza. The menu offers two types of pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven and a range of ragu using game, goat and pork with gnocchi. In a Temper first, the site is also open for breakfast, including freshly baked croissants and home-cured bacon and sausages. The drinks menu focuses on vermouth, with brands such as Cocchi, Lillet, Belsazar, Regal Rose and Asterly Bros served straight or in a range of cocktails. There is also a dedicated spritzer and Americano list alongside negronis, Hot Dinners reports.
Team behind Peaky Blinders pub to open Birmingham hotel: The team behind The Peaky Blinders pub in Birmingham is to open a hotel themed on the BBC show. Tom O’Rourke is bringing the Garrison back to the city with a 12-bedroom hotel and bar opening in Digbeth. Made famous for being the headquarters of the Shelby gang in the hit BBC show, the hotel will replace O’Rourke’s on the corner of Oxford Street and will be less than a mile from the original Garrison, which was sold four years ago for £183,000. O’Rourke has run The Peaky Blinders pub in Dale End for the past five years and, after being inundated with visitors about the show, wanted to create a more authentic experience for fans. He told Birmingham Live: “The Garrison is coming back to Birmingham! It’s a fantastic part of Brummie history and we’re really excited about opening. We’ve had O’Rourke’s for a while and, to me, it looks just like the Garrison from the series. It’s the same design and has the same layout.” Building work is expected to be complete within the next three to four weeks.
Filmore & Union launches health to go range: Healthy eating cafe and restaurant company Filmore & Union has launched its spring/summer “take out” range. The Health To Go range offers a selection of small pots, hot and cold wraps, bagels, salads and sandwiches. The menu has been developed around Filmore & Union’s ethos of “pure, natural and wholesome food”. Development chef Luke Mills said: “Commuters and people on the go these days are looking for healthy, nutrient-rich options that will leave them energised for the day ahead. We also know many take out sandwich operators don’t cater for those with dietary requirements or vegans. Our new menu has been developed to cater for everyone.”
Zonal strengthens LiveRES team to support multi-site operators: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has appointed Stephen Motion to the newly created position of enterprise sales manager for its online booking and table management solution, LiveRES. Zonal said Motion’s new role would call on his knowledge of working with internationally recognised brands such as TGI Friday’s and Pret A Manger and his understanding of the technology required to support multi-site operators. During the past seven years, Motion has helped shape the way multi-site businesses have adopted reservation, marketing and mobile payment services across the US, Europe, Middle East and Africa. David Charlton, Zonal’s sales director for its marketing technologies division, said: “Since joining the Zonal family, LiveRES has been growing at a fast pace over the past three years. We are delighted to have someone of Stephen’s calibre on board, who joins us with an extensive list of contacts and in-depth technology experience to help drive the business through its next phase of growth.” LiveRES is used by hospitality brands such as Greene King, Mitchells & Butlers and PizzaExpress, delivering online booking, integrated table management and customer engagement tools.
Marston’s submits plans to build Wrexham lodge: Marston’s has submitted plans to build a 24-bedroom lodge in Wrexham, North Wales. If permission is granted, the venue will be built next to the company’s Plas Coch pub, which is located on a retail park in the town, the Daily Post reports. Marston’s currently operates two hotels in North Wales – the Wynnstay Arms in Wrexham and the Talardy Hotel, next to the A55 at St Asaph. Last month, the company opened a 40-bedroom hotel next to its Raven’s Cliff pub in Ravenscraig, Scotland, as part of a move to boost the number of bedrooms across its estate.
The Light opens tenth cinema, in Bradford: UK cinema operator The Light has opened its tenth site, in Bradford. The cinema has launched at The Broadway leisure complex and is the company’s second in Yorkshire, alongside Sheffield. All six screens are fully licensed with some seats featuring side tables for food and drink. The Light chief executive Keith Pulling told BDaily: “We look to create a cinema environment that feels luxurious with plenty of atmosphere and personality. We hope the Bradford audiences notice a different cinema experience. The foyer is designed as a social space featuring a bar serving national and local beer, great wine and coffee, and a selection of high-quality food.” The Light plans to open 20 further cinemas in the next four years.