Burger King UK acquires franchisee Zing Leisure: BK UK Group, the master franchisee for Burger King in the UK, has acquired Zing Leisure for an undisclosed sum, adding 17 restaurants to its company-owned estate. The sites are spread across the UK and increases the group’s company-owned portfolio to 142 restaurants, within a total UK estate of 491 outlets. The company said as it moves into a year of growth, it is committed to organic opportunities and rolling out the brand further. The business said the acquisition was part of its wider plans to continue to revitalise the brand across the UK. Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive for Burger King UK, said: “This significant acquisition is a great way to progress in what’s been a challenging year, and demonstrates our commitment to growth of the brand. I would like to thank Zing Leisure for its support along with the enormous contribution it has made to Burger King in the UK over the past 25 years. The restaurants have been run in an exemplary way and we welcome the restaurant teams as they become part of an ever-growing BK UK Group.” Burger King UK was formed after a joint venture deal was agreed between Restaurant Brands International and Bridgepoint Capital in November 2017. On its creation, BK UK Group acquired Caspian UK Group, one of the UK’s largest Burger King franchisees with 74 restaurants. At the end of 2019, the company further strengthened its company-owned restaurant estate with the acquisition of 34 sites from Kout Food Group for an undisclosed sum.
Caring eyes Ivy Asia site in Guildford: Serial sector investor Richard Caring is lining a further site for his fledgling Ivy Asia concept in Guildford, Surrey, Propel understands. The backer of Caprice Holdings, Bill’s and the Ivy Collection, is understood to have applied to open an Ivy Asia at the Tunsgate Quarter scheme in the town, where it already operates The Ivy Castle View. Last week, Propel revealed Caring was advanced talks to take on the former Revolution site in Richmond. It is thought Caring would like the site in Whittaker Avenue for either an Ivy Asia or for a Scott’s on the River concept he has been toying with for a while. In January, Propel revealed Caring had lined up at least three new openings, including plans to open on the former La Brasserie site in London’s South Kensington. Caring is believed to have secured the La Brasserie site in Brompton Road, which closed in 2017, for a yet unspecified, new restaurant project. He also secured the former Le Pain Quotidien site next door to the Ivy Chelsea Garden in King’s Road, to open an Ivy Asia, which will open later this summer. Caring currently operates two Ivy Asia sites in St Paul’s and Manchester, and is thought to be looking at further opportunities to expand the concept, either as stand-alone sites or adjacent to existing Ivy Collection restaurants. He is still working on plans to reopen the former Princess Garden of Mayfair site in North Audley Street, which he acquired in 2016. It had previously been earmarked for a Caprice Cafe concept but may now become another Ivy Asia.
Fast casual delivery concept EggRun opens first permanent site, eyes 15 by 2023: Egg-based fast casual delivery concept EggRun has opened its first permanent site – and is eyeing a portfolio of 15 by the end of 2023. Laurent Manuel and Asher Grant launched the venture during the pandemic initially as a delivery business. Now the first permanent store has opened in London’s Monument, in Fish Street Hill. Manuel and Grant plan to open at least two more sites in the next 12 months, with the plan to build a portfolio of 15 by 2023. Primarily grab-and-go, the 1,200 square foot Monument site has just ten seats with a menu that offers dishes such as scrambled eggs with caramelised onions, cheddar, chives and EggRun’s secret sauce; and the TacoRun with scrambled eggs, feta cheese, onion and lettuce – both served in a brioche bun and with the option of vegan eggs and cheese. Burgers feature the New Yolker – a beef patty topped with a fried egg, crispy and caramelised onions, gherkins, tomato and secret sauce. Manuel said: “EggRun is food for the way we like to eat now – high protein, fresh, fast guilt-free – food for everyone that offers the perfect balance of health and indulgence. We are confident EggRun will be embraced by increasingly health-conscious, time-poor Londoners.” Grant has almost 15 years’ hospitality experience, primarily in the club scene with his own venue The London Reign, while ex-professional US soccer star Manuel is a serial investor with projects including The Garret, a retro speakeasy with three locations in New York; and the launch of Meraki Bar in London’s Fitzrovia, below the Greek restaurant owned by Peter and Arjun Waney.
High-class cafe brand EL&N makes international debut, opens ninth London site:High-class cafe brand EL&N has opened its first international site in Qatar, Propel has learned. The company has launched a site in the Galleria Mall, in Qatar. The launch comes as Propel understands the business is close to securing a site in Paris. Earlier this week, the company opened its ninth site in London, in Soho. The group opened its latest site in Wardour Street, on the site of the former Printroom unit. Last year, the company also opened a site in Carnaby, its second under its grab-and-go format, in Great Marlborough Street. EL&N focuses on Instagrammable venues with a plethora of pink products. The menu features pink coffee and pink cake, while the retail section includes pink water bottles, ceramic coffee cups and keyrings. Richard Willcox at Etch acted for EL&N.
Ronnie Scott’s launches global livestream platform as it returns: London live music venue Ronnie Scott’s is reopening this week – with a new global livestream platform. Building on the success of its streamed “Lockdown Sessions”, the Soho venue, which returns on Thursday (20 May), will now bring its live performances to audiences far and wide via a pay-per-view service. In collaboration with Dice FM, Ronnie Scott’s livestream series will see a selection of the venue’s shows streamed live only, at a pocket-friendly ticket price. The inaugural pay-per-view livestreams will feature high-calibre artists from all corners of the UK’s vibrant music scene – from jazz to soul, Afrobeat and rock and roll – introducing them to audiences both new and old. The virtual doors open on Saturday (22 May) for a performance by Vanessa Haynes. Ticket holders can watch her take on the set list of songs made famous by Aretha Franklin. General manager Fred Nash said: “While there’s no beating the magic of the bustling, busy ambience of being cosied-up in Ronnie’s for a show, being able to have jazz enthusiasts around the world join us virtually is also extraordinary. While our guests take their seats in-house, we hope the buzz of the venue translates and transports those joining us via our new livestream service: capturing waiters moving deftly around the room, ice chinking in cocktail shakers and musicians locked in and lost in each other’s playing. Entertainment is what we do at Ronnie’s and we’re proud to be bringing it to a wider audience.”
Real Eating Company eyes further growth as it launches seventh site, in Cambridge: Real Eating Company, the independent cafe and coffee concept, has opened its seventh site, in Cambridge – and is eyeing further growth. The business, founded by Helena Hudson in 2004, has launched the outlet in Petty Cury. It follows the milestone opening of the brand’s first London site in 2020, located in King’s Road, Chelsea. Real Eating Company plans to open further sites “in desirable locations”, including expanding its footprint in the capital. The rollout will bring the brand’s hyper-local proposition to more consumers across the UK, the company said. Hudson said: “We are proud to have enjoyed a period of strong growth over the past two years and believe our recent openings in London, and now Cambridge, will add real value to local high streets while also offering a change from the big chains and corporates. I am looking forward to continuing this momentum through 2021, growing our business, creating jobs and supporting smaller British producers along the way.” The company employs more than 60 people across its seven sites and head office.
Azzurri Group begins reopening Coco di Mama’s London estate: Azzurri Group, the TowerBrook Capital-backed business, has begun the reopening of its London-based, bricks and mortar, Coco di Mama estate. The Steve Holmes-led group has so far reopened six of its sites under the brand in central London, in Cheapside, More London, Bishopsgate, City Road, Fleet Street and Holborn. The company had operated 30 sites under the brand in London before the pandemic but is thought to have closed a handful over the course of the crisis. During the past year, it has opened up to 120 delivery kitchens under the Coco di Mama brand across its Zizzi and ASK Italian restaurants throughout the UK, which continue to operate. Talking to Propel earlier this year, Holmes told Propel the pandemic had given the business the opportunity to expand the presence of its Coco di Mama brand outside of London, and to build up brand awareness for possible future bricks and mortar openings. Holmes said: “Last year, we started the process of consolidating our supply chain, which has given us the opportunity to push forward the development of the delivery kitchens idea. It allows us to build up the brand’s presence in new areas and gives us insight into potential performance of permanent sites in those locations going forward.”
Award-winning cocktail bar Callooh Callay to open site in Balham: Callooh Callay, the award-winning cocktail bar concept, is to open a new site in London, in Balham. The business, which was founded by entrepreneur Richard Wynne in 2008, has secured a site at 5 Fernlea Road. The company currently operates sites in Rivington Street, Shoreditch, and in Chelsea under the Callooh Callay name, plus the Little Bat bar in Islington. CDG Leisure acted on the Balham deal.
Vegan concept Clean Kitchen takes site at Buck Street Market: Vegan concept Clean Kitchen, founded by former YouTube celebrity Michael Pearce and Made in Chelsea TV star Verity Bowditch, has taken a site at LabTech’s Buck Street Market in north London. Clean Kitchen Camden will span two floors within the market’s shipping containers, with space for up to 42 dining covers upstairs and 12 downstairs, and will open in June. Items on the menu will include the beetroot bun chick’n burger and Plant Girl Summer meal deals, as well as vegan bacon mac ’n’ cheese, no-chicken katsu bowls, no meat meatballs, salads, and desserts. Clean Kitchen has been operating for a year and opened as a delivery-only kitchen in Brighton. It operates a total of six dark kitchens across London and the south of England, as well as outlets at Boxpark Wembley and Boxpark Shoreditch. Co-founder Bowditch said: “The destination embraces sustainability like no other and aligns seamlessly with our goals to become an entirely carbon neutral company.” LabTech acted on behalf of Buck Street Market, Clean Kitchen dealt directly.
UberEats increases year-on-year revenue by 152% to reach almost $5bn: Delivery firm UberEats has increased its year-on-year revenue by 152% to reach $4.8bn versus 2019, according to stock expert TradingPlatforms.com. Lockdowns during 2020 saw an increase in engagement for food delivery services such as UberEats. It is estimated UberEats generated $4.8bn in 2020 revenue compared with $1.9bn in 2019. It also more than doubled its gross bookings in 2020, which amounted to $30.2bn, versus $14.5bn in 2019. As of March 2021, UberEats held the second-highest share of the online food delivery market in the US at 22%. Notably, UberEats’ share of the market has increased closer to 30% with its recently completed purchase of Postmates, which had an estimated 5% share of the market in the same reporting period. UberEats has steadily increased its user base over recent years and, in 2020, its food delivery app had 66 million users, up from five million in 2016. It has also increased the number of cities it operates in from 1,000 in 2020 to 6,000 in 2021 – a 500% increase. During 2020, UberEats supported more than 600,000 restaurants worldwide compared with 220,000 in 2019.
West Midlands wine bar opens third site: West Midlands-based Loki Wine has opened its third site, in Knowle, Solihull. The wine bar and tasting venue opened after securing an £80,000 loan from HSBC UK. The 1,600 square foot unit on Station Road offers customers 32 single varietal wines and joins its sister branches in Great Western Arcade in Birmingham city centre and Greenfield Crescent, Edgbaston. The business pivoted during lockdown to offer an online retail service and expects its digital services, which contributed to just 1% of its annual turnover before the pandemic, to reach 40% post-covid. Loki Wine owner Phil Innes said: “We’re passionate about Britain’s high streets and wholeheartedly believe that despite the boom of online shopping during the pandemic, our town centres will continue to play a crucial role in society and, most importantly, British culture post-covid.”
Little Lion Entertainment to bring new immersive go-karting experience to London this summer: Little Lion Entertainment, which was behind The Crystal Maze Live challenge attraction, is to bring a new immersive go-karting experience to London this summer. Chaos Karts, which will launch in August in Fleet Street Hill in Shoreditch, throws players into a virtual world, living inside a real-life video game of racing. Engineered by The Ents, Chaos Karts combines the worlds of go-karting and augmented reality. Players can drive around an infinite number of tracks in a digitally projected world, while their vehicle interacts with the virtual track, and any challenges other players might “launch” their way. Using state-of-the-art technology, the karts will be kitted out with features to produce real-life sensations and reactions to immerse competitors fully into the ride. Little Lion Entertainment chief executive and founder Tom Lionetti-Maguire said: “Creating a real-life version of a video game has been an obsession for some time and we are delighted to have cracked it. The gamification of experiences is a phenomenon that is here to stay, and this is the purest distillation of it – it’s a game and an experience, wrapped up in a whole load of silliness, with a sprinkling of nostalgia for good measure.”
Kent-based Spanish and Latin American restaurant concept Rico Sabor to open third site, in Dover: Kent-based Spanish and Latin American restaurant concept Rico Sabor is to open its third site, in Dover. The company has agreed a deal to join the line-up at St James Leisure Park in a deal brokered by AS Retail. The restaurant, which will be based in the unit next to Marks & Spencer and the Lord Nelson pub, will have two floors, an external seating area and a rooftop terrace. Rico Sabor, which operates restaurants in Gravesend and Rochester, serves a variety of ribs, steaks and seafood, alongside Mexican-inspired offerings of nachos, burritos and fajitas, and an extensive tapas selection.
Canteen co-founder to launch Japanese izakaya bar concept to Shoreditch: A Japanese izakaya bar concept is to open in Shoreditch next month. The team, which includes Canteen and Spiritland co-founder Dominic Lake, is launching Apothecary in the former Merchants Tavern premises in Charlotte Road. Named after its Victorian antecedents in the same building, the space will feature live DJ sessions. Drinks will feature cocktails, hot and cold sake and local and Japanese beer. There will also be a 22-space private dining room with its own record player and sound system. The site will accommodate over 130 covers with a cocktail offering curated by drinks specialist Hamish Denny (Spiritland, Hawksmoor), and a menu “combining classics with Asian influences”. Dishes on the menu will be Japanese-influenced snacks and small plates, served all day from Apothecary’s open kitchen to include a selection of skewers from a robata grill, alongside sushi, sashimi and Hirata steamed buns. Prices range from £3 to £15 per plate.
Lost City Adventure Golf opens third site, in Hull: Nottingham-based adventure golf operator Lost City has opened its third site, in Hull. The venue, which is in St Stephen’s Shopping Centre, features two 18-hole adventure indoor golf courses that have a tropical rainforest theme, with large-scale special effects, animal animatronics, tropical rainstorms and interactive features. The attraction delayed its planned June 2020 opening as a result of the pandemic, and further postponed the date in both November and December due to Hull’s tier three status and the latest lockdown restrictions. The company runs sites in Nottingham and Belfast.
JD Wetherspoon lodges fresh plans for £5m pub in Grays: JD Wetherspoon has lodged fresh plans to turn a former cinema in Grays, Essex, into a £5m pub. The company has sought to open a pub in the State Cinema for a number of years. However, problems surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and questions over the state of the building have delayed the project multiple times. Plans that were initially approved by Thurrock Council were abandoned by JD Wetherspoon after it said the amount of work required to follow through with them made the project “unviable”. Now, fresh proposals have been submitted to turn the empty cinema into a pub, complete with a beer garden, creating about 100 jobs. A JD Wetherspoon spokesman told Essex Live: “We are as keen as ever to open our pub in Grays. We believe the pub will be a great asset to the area and also a perfect opportunity to restore one of the town’s best known buildings.”
Pizza Pilgrims to open Waterloo restaurant this week: Pizza Pilgrims, the London-based pizzeria concept founded by Thom and James Elliot, will open a site in Waterloo on Thursday (20 May). The 120-cover restaurant is launching in Lower Marsh, and also features an outdoor terrace. The menu will include Mama’s Boy Meatballs – beef and sausage meatballs baked with tomato, basil, topped with fresh parsley; and Salsiccia e Friarielli – roasted Italian sausage and wild broccoletti on an olive oil base with smoked mozzarella, parmesan and fresh chilli. For the first time, all 15 of Pizza Pilgrims’ pizzerias will be serving gluten-free base options as well as halal alternatives, available on each of its classic Neapolitan pizzas. From Monday (24 May), guests will also be able to choose a vegan alternative with the launch of its house-made vegan mozzarella, after plenty of testing during lockdown. In March, Imbiba invested £3.5m into Pizza Pilgrims to aid it with its expansion plans.
Oakman launches The Woburn for largest site to date: Oakman Group, the Dermot King-led pub-restaurant operator, has opened its largest site to date – The Woburn in Bedfordshire. Formerly known as The Woburn Hotel, which sits at the gateway to Woburn Abbey, the property features 48 bedrooms and seven individual cottages within the grounds, as well as three conference and events spaces, a restaurant and a large bar. There is also outdoor seating for up to 100 guests, including a weather-proof and heated awning on the lawn. The hotel was closed last year due to the impact of government restrictions but has now reopened with Oakman having signed a 25-year lease with The Bedford Estates and the opening has created 60 jobs. King said: “I think The Woburn could easily become the jewel in the Oakman Group’s portfolio of historic pubs and hotels. Our design and management teams have worked tirelessly on this initial refurbishment so that we could open this week, in time for the summer.” The Woburn Hotel is the 34th property in the Oakman Group portfolio, giving it a total of 225 bedrooms across the 13 venues that have accommodation.