Red Oak takes lead on Wadworth pubs package: Red Oak Taverns is believed to be in advanced talks to acquire the majority of sites placed on the market earlier this year by Devizes-based brewer and retailer Wadworth, Propel has learned. In May, Propel revealed Wadworth had put 24 of its tenanted pubs on the market through agent Christie & Co – nine pubs on an individual basis and 15 as part of a package. It’s thought Red Oak, which operates circa 160 pubs, has agreed to acquire the majority of those pubs with a deal expected to complete during the next month. Wadworth said in May the sites no longer fitted its “long-term plans” following a review of its estate. The nine individual sites, which were being marketed under the name Project Swordfish, are located in the south and west of England. The package of 15 pubs consists of Beckets Inn in Glastonbury, Somerset; The Boot Inn in Berwick St James, Wiltshire; The Cricketers Inn in Longparish, Hampshire; The Crown Inn in Bishop Cannings, Wiltshire; England’s Glory in Gloucester; the New Inn in Bath; The Oak in Andover, Hampshire; The Plough in Shalbourne, Wiltshire; The Princes Motto in Barrow Gurney, Somerset; The Royal Standard in Yeovil, Somerset; The Ruishton Inn in Ruishton, Somerset; The Tall Ship in Gloucester; The Victoria in Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol; the Woodbridge Inn in North Newnton, Wiltshire; and The Yellow Wagtail in Yeovil, Somerset. Last year, Red Oak secured a £42m refinancing and acquisition package with OakNorth. Founded in 2011 by Grunnell and Aaron Brown, Red Oak has grown through two group acquisitions – 32 pubs in 2011 and the 146-strong GRS package in 2015. It has also been linked as a possible bidder for the 150-strong package of pubs Heineken placed on the market last month with a value of circa £55m to £60m.
Trust Inns reports pre-tax profit jump: Trust Inns, the north west-based pub company, has reported pre-tax profit jumped to £7.3m for the year ended 31 March 2019, compared with £1.7m the year before. While operating profit was marginally up, the main reason for the significant improvement was a reduction in finance costs. Trust Inns refinanced in March last year with one-off costs of £3.2m and, as a result of the refinancing, has reduced interest costs by £1.8m. Trust Inns said it looked forward to an excellent year of further growth in 2019-20 through pub acquisitions and capital investment on its existing estate. Founded in 1995, Trust Inns owns 350 pubs across the UK and is owned by the family interests of Trevor Hemmings.
Boston Tea Party people director to depart: Kate Ashmore is to step down as people director at all-day casual dining cafe Boston Tea Party, Propel has learned. Ashmore, who joined the business in February 2016, will leave on Saturday, 31 August. Propel understands Ashmore has decided to explore opportunities closer to her home in Devon. Boston Tea Party chief executive Sam Roberts said: “I would like to thank Kate for helping to establish the way Boston Tea Party recruits, trains and develops its people. We’re currently on the hunt for an HR/resourcing manager to ensure our ability to find great, like-minded, value-sharing folk remains unimpaired.”
Red Dog Saloon founder to launch Indian-inspired, charcoal barbecue concept in Nottingham: Tom Brooke, founder of Red Dog Saloon and Louie’s Hot Chicken, is to launch an Indian-inspired, charcoal barbecue concept in Nottingham. Burra Khana will open in September offering 70 covers, inspired by the streets of Delhi and Jaipur and Middle Eastern countries such as Persia, Turkey and Lebanon. Small plates will include taley aloo ki chaat, a fried fresh potato in green peppers, tomato and spices on a bed of iceberg lettuce. All bread will be freshly made. Middle Eastern dishes will include skewers cooked on a charcoal pit and a jumbo king prawn kebab marinated in a yogurt-based paste and cooked traditionally in a clay oven. Drinks will include signature cocktails and Masala chai tea. Brooke said: “The name Burra Khana comes from Hindi and means ‘great entertainment or feast’, hence the menu is based on conviviality.” In May, Red Dog Saloon launched Louie’s in the basement below its restaurant in Hoxton Square, east London, with a focus on Nashville fried chicken. Red Dog Saloon offers barbecue-style ribs, wings, pulled pork and burgers cooked using aromatic hickory wood in US-imported smokers. The brand operates two other London restaurants, in Soho and Clapham, and one each in Liverpool, Nottingham and Southampton.
Former Chiquito and M&B alumni target six-strong estate after taking on second pub: West Country-based operators Sarah Pert and Andy Taylor are targeting a six-strong estate around the Birmingham and Cheltenham areas after acquiring their second site. Pert, a former general manager with The Restaurant Group-owned Chiquito, and Taylor, who worked for Mitchells & Butlers, have taken on The Five Alls in Cheltenham. Pert and Taylor and Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars are undertaking a joint £400,000 refurbishment of the Bath Road pub ahead of reopening in mid-September. The menu will consist of small plates and platters with global influences ranging from tapas, mezze, thali and cicchetti. Drinks will include beer, wine and aperitifs. The Five Alls follows on from Pert and Taylor’s debut site, The Why Not Inn in Redditch, which opened earlier this year. Pert said: “Andy and I worked in Cheltenham together ten years ago and have both wanted to run our own pub here for many years. When the opportunity came up to take on The Five Alls, we leapt at it. The Five Alls is our first experience of running multiple sites. Our ambition is to have six in places that make geographical sense for us based in Cheltenham and Birmingham.” Caren Geering, Star Pubs & Bars regional operations director, added: “Sarah and Andy have some great individual and combined experience so it’s fantastic to have them take on The Five Alls. They both have bags of energy and are full of exciting ideas.”
Saudi Arabia-based cafe concept Bafarat heads to London for second site: Saudi Arabia-based upscale cafe concept Bafarat is heading to London for its second site. Barafat was established in Jeddah in 1952 by the late Omar Ahmed Bafarat and was known for importing herbs, spices and coffee from around the world. This resulted in the opening of Bafarat cafe in the city in 2016. Now the concept is heading to Soho in mid-August, offering its Arabic-style coffee and custom-made French desserts and pastries created by Thomas Alphonsine, previously of chocolatier Callebaut. An open counter at the Warwick Street venue will feature desserts such as pistachio eclairs and raspberry tart. A five-course interactive dessert-tasting menu will also be offered, where Alphonsine will guide guests through every element, explaining the provenance and attention to detail behind each dish.
Former Ivy Collection financial director joins go kart company: Dominic Wilkinson, who stepped down as finance director of Richard Caring-backed The Ivy Collection earlier this year, has joined TeamSport Go Karting as chief financial officer. Wilkinson joined The Ivy Collection at the start of last year from his role as finance director for Imbiba-backed Albion and East and its sister business Wright & Bell, a role he had been in since October 2015. Wilkinson is also former director of corporate finance at PwC. TeamSport Go Karting is the leading indoor go kart company in the UK, with 34 sites. Earlier this year, The Ivy Collection appointed Jonathan Peters as chief financial officer. Peters joined from Everyman Media Group, where he was chief financial officer for four years.
Flat Iron opens workshop at Arcade Food Theatre: Flat Iron, the “single steak” dining concept backed by private equity firm Piper, has opened a workshop at Arcade Food Theatre, the new food hall at Centre Point in London’s New Oxford Street. Flat Iron Workshop offers a bespoke menu created by founder and self-taught butcher Carroll and head of beef Fred Smith, featuring “unusual cuts and cooking methods” using beef from small artisan producers. Items on the menu include the Steak & Yorkshire, a Yorkshire pudding cooked with beef dripping served with charcoal-grilled steak, pickled onions, fresh horseradish and English mustard mayo. Carroll has also created a new cut for Arcade – the charcoal-grilled featherblade tip. Sides will include wagyu dripping fries. Smith said: “Charlie and I have come a long way since menu-testing above a pub in east London but it has been a lot of fun reverting to the early days. We have been experimenting with new cuts and how the breed, rearing and age combine to make even tastier beef and how we can draw out the best flavour.” Flat Iron, which is led by Jo Fleet and includes Tom Byng as a non-executive director, operates seven London restaurants. Other brands to open at Arcade Food Theatre include delicatessen concept Lina Stores; the latest Harts Group venue Pastorcito; Kurt Zdesar’s Nikkei sushi bar concept Chotto Matte; Popham’s Bakery; and Casita do Frango, a smaller version of MJMK’s London Bridge-based concept Casa do Frango.
Meet Fresh opens debut UK site as trio of dessert restaurants join Chinatown London line-up: Taiwanese dessert brand Meet Fresh has opened its debut UK site as part of a trio of new dessert restaurants in Chinatown London. UK master franchisee Alex Xu, who also owns Happy Lemon in Newport Court, has opened the 1,800 square foot, 55-cover unit in Shaftesbury Avenue. Meet Fresh serves healthy desserts including Taro Q balls and smooth tofu pudding. Established in 2007, the brand has more than 300 sites across China as well as locations in the US. Meanwhile, French-Japanese fusion dessert concept Kova Patisserie has opened a 240 square foot unit in Newport Court for its third London site. It also has outlets in St Anne’s Court in Soho and within Selfridges in Oxford Street. Neighbouring the new Kova Patisserie venue is Taiyakiya, which has opened a 200 square foot unit. The concept comes from the team behind Cuppacha Bubble Tea, which has a site three doors away. Taiyakiya offers a range of traditional taiyaki, savoury croissant taiyaki and taiyaki fish-shaped cones with soft-serve ice cream and creative toppings. The space caters for about 55 covers. Julia Wilkinson, head of group restaurant strategy at Shaftesbury, landlord of Chinatown London, said: “Dessert-focused concepts are a popular and exciting food trend and they are gaining more and more traction in Chinatown London.”
Four Marston’s senior female managers reach finals of first WeQual Awards: Four Marston’s senior female managers have been named finalists in the inaugural WeQual Awards, which recognise women one level below executive committee in FTSE 350 companies. The four Midlands-based finalists are Nicola Arrow, head of food category management; Sharon Singh, head of operations (pubs and bars); Amelia Cree, head of marketing (pubs and bars) and Maria Franklin, head of HR business partnering. Combined, the finalists oversee 1,000 pubs and 12,500 Marston’s employees across the UK. Chief executive Ralph Findlay said: “We are really proud to be one of two companies to have four finalists. That is real testament to the work and commitment shown by Nicola, Maria, Sharon and Amelia and I wish them all the luck at the awards.” The finalists will be judged on six attributes – drive, leadership, integrity, self-confidence, cognitive ability and knowledge of the business. The winners will be announced at the award’s dinner on Thursday, 26 September.
Manchester-based cocktail bar and restaurant owner agrees deal for Ancoats site: The owner of Manchester-based cocktail bar and restaurant Cottonopolis has been secured as the tenant for Step Places’ Edinburgh Castle scheme in Ancoats. Nick Muir has pledged to bring an “authentic local pub” to the 19th century building, with an opening lined up for the autumn. Dating to 1811, the Edinburgh Castle pub and Cutting Room above, which would have been used for cutting cloth patterns produced in nearby mills, will have their original features restored. The Cutting Room will be transformed into a 52-cover restaurant with an open kitchen offering home-cooked dishes, while the pub will be downstairs. Muir told Insider Media: “The Edinburgh Castle pub has been popular and serving locals for centuries so we’ve big boots to fill. We believe our plans will ensure we give the area, our neighbours and visitors what they want – a quality place to eat and drink that exudes northern grit and exceptional standards.” Step Places managing director Harry Dhaliwal added: “With an iconic building that’s so rich in history, it was imperative we got the right operator to transform the space and make the venue as illustrious and popular as it once was.”
Bruce Group tables plans to turn Edinburgh nightclub into boutique hotel and events space: Edinburgh-based pub operator Bruce Group has tabled plans to transform a nightclub in the city into a boutique hotel and events space. The company has applied to the city council to turn The Cow Shed and Bar Bados in Cowgate into a 26-bedroom hotel, bar, restaurant and function room. The bar and restaurant would be in an arch that houses The Cow Shed, while the hotel rooms would be above Bar Bados nightclub. The adjacent Subway nightclub, which is owned by Bruce Group, is set to remain open, reports the Edinburgh Evening News. Planning documents on behalf of Bruce Taverns state: “The proposed offer would have a boutique Scottish feel with the bar and restaurant offering a street food market atmosphere. The function room to the rear would be used for a variety of more casual events. The first-floor function room is proposed to be called the Cowgate Ceilidh Club, which would be used for traditional ceilidh events, Scottish shows and as a wedding venue.” Bruce Group owns and operates 19 sites in Edinburgh and Fife. Earlier this year it launched a bond as it looks to raise £20m to support growth plans.
Loungers to open Intu Lakeside site next month: Loungers, the operator of neighbourhood cafe bar restaurants trading under the Lounge and Cosy Club brands, is to open a site at the Intu lakeside shopping centre in Essex next month. The company will launch Casco Lounge on Wednesday, 7 August. It will be the second Lounge bar in Essex after Valero Lounge opened in Witham last year. Loungers states on its website: “We are proud of our Lounge and its community and our aim is simple – every customer leaves happy.” Last month Loungers, which floated on the stock market in April, opened its 150th site – Fosso Lounge – in Wells, Somerset. At the time the company said its pipeline for sites was “strong and well advanced”, with the group on track to open 25 sites – 20 Lounges and five Cosy Clubs – in its current financial year.
San Carlo opens Manchester champagne bar as it extends Selfridges partnership: San Carlo Group has opened a champagne bar at the Trafford Centre, Manchester, as it extends its partnership with department store Selfridges. The venue specialises in champagne, prosecco, wine and cocktails, including more than ten types of sparkling wine available by the glass. The drinks list is complemented by charcuterie and shellfish plates. San Carlo Group managing director Marcello Distefano told the Manchester Evening News: “We are really chuffed with it – it fits really well within the store.” San Carlo Champagne Bar takes the Distefano family’s portfolio to 21 restaurants and bars in the UK, including Bottega and Gran Cafe at Selfridges Manchester. The Trafford Centre venue, located in the newly refurbished accessories hall on the lower level of the department store, is San Carlo Group’s sixth partnership with Selfridges following the opening of rooftop restaurant Alto at the London store last year. Earlier this month, San Carlo Group reported like-for-likes are up 2% in its current financial year, with total sales increasing 12% as the group aims to return to profitability after seeing an overall loss of £133,678 in the year ending 30 September 2018.
Harcourt Inns to open sixth London site, in Notting Hill on Friday: Harcourt Inns, the venture from former Racine chef patron Henry Harris and James McCulloch, owner of The Harcourt in Marylebone, is to open its sixth London pub, in Notting Hill on Friday (26 July). The KPH (Kensington Park Hotel), which is renowned for hosting singer Tom Jones’ first London gig, will consist of a ground-floor pub and first-floor dining room, with live music to remain a feature. The kitchen at the venue in Ladbroke Grove will be led by former St John chef Ruairidh Summers, with Harris creating a Parisian bistro-style menu with influences from the Montreal food scene while championing unusual cuts of meat. The pub will offer 12 draught beers and three cask ales alongside old-world wine and classic cocktails. Seven letting rooms at the top of the pub are set to reopen later this year. Harcourt Inns also operates The Crown in Chiswick, Three Cranes in the City, The Coach in Clerkenwell and The Hero Of Maida in Maida Vale. In June, crowdfunding platform Downing Crowd raised £1m through a bond offer to support Maida Vale Leisure’s fit-out of bedrooms at The Hero Of Maida and repay finance on the west London gastro-pub.
Levy UK launches brand vision for the next generation: Catering company Levy UK has launched a new brand vision as part of its “commitment to the next generation”. The firm has pledged to use predominantly British seasonal produce, with 25% of all menus plant-based, vegan or vegetarian. It has also committed to helping staff by “developing and nurturing our talent and recognising their many successes”. A third pledge is to build “powerful partnerships” with ethical and innovative companies, while using pioneering technology to “disrupt the industry norm where it makes a meaningful difference to the guest experience, in line with Levy’s accomplishments in the US”. Levy UK managing director Jonathan Davies said: “To deliver truly legendary experiences we need to empower our talented team members, foster relationships with like-minded ethical companies and continually improve the guest experience by embedding ground-breaking technology. By breaking traditional formats, we will give food its rightful place in a new world. The conversation has changed and so have our responsibilities. Tackling the issues the hospitality industry has been facing for a long time is our commitment to the next generation. Our new intent will allow us to provide healthier, great-tasting food as well as combating food waste and reducing our impact on the environment.” Levy UK operates at a number of stadiums in London including Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, the O2 and Twickenham.
York-based Indian restaurant owners to double up: The owners of York-based Indian restaurant Coconut Lagoon plan to double up in the city. Saji and Sminy Kurian will open Kalpakavadi at a site in Fossgate formerly occupied by St Pauls Bookshop. The 2,000 square foot unit is currently being refitted following a major investment. Kalpakavadi means “land of coconuts” and the restaurant will feature Kerala cuisine. Saji Kurian said the opportunity to add to the restaurant they opened in Clarence Street six years ago was one they couldn’t resist. He told the York Press: “The importance of Fossgate in the city’s food offer and its obvious vibrancy could not be ignored.”
Shepherd Neame partners with Thai brewery to distribute Singha beer in UK:Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has entered into a long-term partnership with Thai brewer Boon Rawd Brewery, which produces Singha beer. Shepherd Neame and Boonrawd Trading International Company, a subsidiary of Boon Rawd Brewery, have agreed a distribution partnership under which Shepherd Neame becomes sole distributor of Singha in the UK. Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame said: “We are delighted to partner with Boon Rawd Brewery and look forward to raising the profile and distribution of Singha as an exceptional world lager throughout the UK.” Boonrawd Trading International managing director ML Chandchutha Chandratat added: “We look forward to developing a long-term relationship with Shepherd Neame to increase Singha’s brand appeal and distribution channels in the UK. Both companies are long-standing family businesses with similar cultures so it made great sense to form this partnership.”
Bath-based pub operators take on second site: Bath-based pub operators Mick and Liz Dempsey have taken on their second site in the city. They are now operating the Ring O Bells in Widcombe Parade along with their original outlet, The Ram, which is in the same street. The Ring O Bells had been closed since the start of the month. Liz Dempsey told Somerset Live: “We are very excited by this new challenge – there’s lots of potential.”