The Avocado Show to launch in London as it signs on 19 franchise locations in UK and Europe: The Avocado Show restaurant franchise will launch a site in London within six months. The brand, which has three restaurants in Amsterdam and one in Brussels, will open another venue in Calle Colmenares, Madrid, at the end of October – and also plans to launch in London and Paris. Founded by Ron Simpson and Julien Zaal, the restaurant serves sustainable avocado-based dishes and has signed on 19 franchise locations in the UK and Europe, with the possibility of sites in Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Oxford, Cambridge, Guildford and Brighton. Simpson said: “We are very excited to see our dream becoming a reality in all these amazing new markets and are happy to have found these great partners to work with and are looking forward to establishing The Avocado Show across the globe as a socially responsible and profitable venture that will bring joy to avo lovers for years to come.” The company has produced a cookbook, merchandise, a hologram app, its own line of avocado fries and filmed a documentary about its supply chain.
The Apartment Group adds two hotels to its books: Property advisory firm Christie & Co has brokered a deal to allow The Apartment Group (TAG) to add two sites to its portfolio. North east leisure operator TAG has purchased two County Durham hotels: Whitworth Hall Hotel & Deer Park and Jersey Farm Country Hotel. TAG proposes to invest millions of pounds across both venues to create “world-class five-star boutique hotels” targeting the leisure, wedding and corporate market. TAG chief operating officer Debrah Dhugga said: “The hospitality and leisure industry has been under a lot of strain as it deals with the covid-19 and our industry has seen many casualties. However, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and thank Christie & Co for helping us, once again, find such ideal sites.” Jersey Farm Country Hotel, near Barnard Castle, will be renamed Runa Farm and will be “luxurious boho and earthy”, while Whitworth Hall & Deer Park – seven miles from Durham city – will be “an excess of opulence, sophistication and glamour”. Christie & Co director Mark Worley, who completed the sales, said: “The foreign travel restrictions imposed upon us all, have benefited the domestic pub and hotel industry and, as wedding income has been pushed into next year and beyond, hospitality buyers can now see the financial appeal of purchasing this type of business.” TAG has a hotel portfolio of 12 sites now.
Boparan to bring back two more Carluccio’s sites: Boparan Restaurant Group will continue the gradual reopening of its Carluccio’s estate with another pair of sites. The company, which paid £3.2m to acquire 30 Carluccio’s sites and buy the rights to the brand in May, will reopen its St Pancras restaurant in London on Thursday, 17 September. Meanwhile, its outlet at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent will offer pizza delivery and click-and-collect only from Tuesday, 22 September, before allowing dine-in from Wednesday, 30 September. The move will take the brand’s total number of reopened sites to 20.
Ten Entertainment promotes Graham Blackwell to interim chief executive: Ten Entertainment Group has promoted chief operating officer Graham Blackwell to interim chief executive as Duncan Garrood steps down with immediate effect. Blackwell has more than 30 years’ experience within the industry and has served on the Ten Entertainment Board since the company floated in 2017. The company stated: “His unique experience and outstanding execution skills make him ideally placed to lead the business through this next phase. Graham will continue to be supported by Antony Smith as chief financial officer with guidance and oversight from Nick Basing, interim executive chairman.” Basing said; “The board were unanimous that Graham is the stand-out candidate to lead the group. He has been instrumental in the business transformation over recent years. His track record has been outstanding and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him. I’m delighted trading has begun so encouragingly. This is a function of the widespread consumer appeal of our offer, the quality of our operating estate and our strong leadership team. Under Graham’s direction, I am confident we will return to our trajectory of growth in sales and profitability.” Garrood announced in June he would leave the business to join Empiric Student Property, which is a provider and operator of student accommodation.
Coastal & Country Inns acquires North Yorkshire village site for sixth outlet: Coastal & Country Inns, led by Chris Hannon, has acquired a 16th century North Yorkshire coaching inn for its sixth site. The company has reopened The Crown Inn, located in the village of Roecliffe, near Boroughbridge, which went into voluntary liquidation last year. Hannon said: “When we heard The Crown was for sale, having fallen on hard times, we knew this was too good an opportunity to miss. This very special inn had enjoyed a golden period under the 11-year stewardship of Karl and Amanda Mainey and it is our mission to restore those glory days. The new management team at the Crown are Lukas and Veronicka Alman, who have moved from Coastal & Country Group’s Peak District Inn – the Devonshire Arms in Hartington.
Flight Club operator to reopen Electric Shuffle site next week: Red Engine, which operates Flight Club, will reopen its shuffleboard concept Electric Shuffle next week. The venue in Canary Wharf will welcome customers back on Thursday, 17 September. The site will reopen with a number of safety measures in place including semi-private playing areas, bookable tables in the bar and the option to pre-order food and drink. Electric Shuffle was launched in Cabot Square in December in the premises formerly occupied by Thai restaurant Sri Nams. Red Engine reopened its six Flight Club sites at the beginning of August with full safety measures in place.
Dunkin’ to trial checkout-free store: Dunkin Brands, which operates Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins, is gearing up to test a checkout-free store, in an undisclosed location in California next month. The pilot will allows customers to grab coffee and baked goods without interacting with anyone or scanning anything at a kiosk. Once consumers opt-in to the platform, they can use a QR code displayed on their phone to enter the test store that will be fitted out with self-serve stations for coffee and doughnuts. Dunkin’ has already rolled out “next generation” stores in parts of California that are equipped with touchscreen kiosks and digital menu boards that display the progress of orders. The latest test builds on that innovation, the company told Nation’s Restaurant News.
Cubitt House owner to launch Japanese and Nordic-themed dining and shopping destination in Belgravia this month: Barry Hirst, owner of London gastro-pub operator Cubitt House, will launch a Japanese and Nordic-themed dining and shopping destination in Belgravia this month. The five-storey Pantechnicon store will have bars, restaurants and a roof terrace as well as two floors of brands all from Japan or the Nordic countries. It will fill a 190-year-old Georgian building in Motcomb Street that has stood largely empty for five years while being restored in partnership with the Duke of Westminster’s family property company Grosvenor. Among the dining destinations are Café Kitsuné, the first permanent outlet to open in the UK from duo Masaya Kuroki and Gildas Loaëc. Overlooking Café Kitsuné is an open gallery space hosting Sachi – a 30-seat pop-up dining spot featuring comforting Japanese dishes. The gallery pop-up is a preview of the mainstay 100-seat Sachi restaurant, bar, cocktail lounge and street terrace on the lower ground floor, opening in the spring. On the east side of Halkin Arcade is Sakaya, an immersive bar and boutique bottle shop with a selection of handcrafted Japanese barware, spirits and wine. On the second floor, inspired by travels across the Nordics, is Eldr – a 70-seat restaurant with seasonal menu showcasing Nordic cooking methods and traditions while the top floor features the 130-seat Roof Garden at Pantechnicon, which has a fully retractable electric glass roof. Hirst originally planned to launch the venture in June but was forced to delay. It will now open on Tuesday, 22 September, with about 120 staff. Hirst said: “We are a group of people who share a passion for travel, culture and hospitality. Together, our mission is to have fun creating a platform for new creative talent from Japan and the Nordics, and to share our discoveries with everyone, all in one place.”
Fortnum & Mason chief executive Ewan Venters quits post: Ewan Venters, who has been chief executive at Fortnum & Mason since 2012 left the role on Tuesday (8 September) to take the same position at art galleries business Hauser & Wirth. Fortnum’s chairman Kate Hobhouse said: “Ewan has been a highly successful leader of this business, delivering consistent growth in profits, extending the footprint of the brand with new stores and driving product innovation. Ewan had a vision to make our brand more relevant to more people more often, and he has certainly fulfilled that. He leaves behind a business that is positioned to overcome the current difficulties of the retail sector and achieve even more success.” Venters said: “It is a tremendous wrench to leave Fortnum’s. I have enjoyed every minute of my time here. It is, however, time for a new challenge.”
Leon launches £15 unlimited coffee deal: Natural fast food brand Leon has launched a deal offering 30 days of unlimited coffee for £15. The offer is available on any kind or size of coffee, any day of the week. Leon stated: “Coffee keeps us going, is good for your gut and, in the case of our Leon coffee, it also helps save the rainforest. That’s because every cup we serve donates to the World Land Trust, which helps preserve endangered and ecologically important habitats. In fact, every seven cups you drink saves one square metre of rainforest. Leon Coffee is also organic and Fairtrade, and served with a choice of organic dairy milk from Welsh co-operative farms, along with alternative organic options of coconut and oat milk.”
Applegreen wins New York contract: Applegreen has announced it is part of a consortium – Empire State Thruway Partners – that has been awarded and signed a conditional 33-year lease for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the 27 motorway service areas on the New York state thruway. The company stated: “The sites are located on the New York state thruway, which is a 570-mile superhighway system crossing the state. The thruway handles about 250 million trips annually, and accounts for an estimated eight billion miles of travel each year. The 27 service areas offer essential services on the route, including fuel and quick service food and beverage, operating round the clock. Total food, beverage and retail turnover for 2019 was approximately $118m. Subject to the lease award completing, the consortium will invest $300m between the second half of 2021 and 2025 in redevelopment capital expenditure, which will be comprised of a mix of equity and project finance debt to be obtained by the consortium. Applegreen will operate all 84 food and beverage outlets and a retail store on each site. Applegreen is expected to have a minority shareholding in the consortium and its equity contribution for the transaction is still to be determined and will be agreed as part of completing the consortium’s financial plan. It is not expected there would be any equity contribution required from Applegreen before 2023.”
Paul UK launches ‘at-home’ range for nationwide delivery: French bakery and cafe brand Paul UK is to launch its first nationwide range of bread-making kits and product bundles. The 38-strong group will introduce “Paul at Home” on Friday (11 September), available for next day delivery across mainland UK. The bread-making kit includes 500g strong white bread flour, 15g active dried yeast, a bread proving basket, a Paul cotton sac a pain for keeping the bread fresh, a dough scraper, and recipe booklet (£33). There is also a larger kit that includes rolled oats, 1kg of strong white bread flour and 1kg of multigrain bread flour (£38). Other sets include a selection of three Paul jams with a branded cotton tote bag (£16.25); and a coffee and hot chocolate box (£22.75). Paul UK chief executive Mark Hilton said: “Consumers will no longer need to be near to a Paul shop to experience our products. The plan is to expand the range further with new items scheduled to be released later this year and into 2021.” The brand is also expanding its delivery service across Greater London with a next day delivery service – when ordered by noon – across Zones 1 and 2, and a recently launched range available on Amazon Fresh in most parts of London, Surrey and Hertfordshire.
Fever-Tree shares lose fizz as bar closures bite: Fever-Tree’s share price slipped more than 5% after lock-down-enforced bar and pub closures left the brand too reliant on supermarket sales. Overall, revenue fell 11% year-on-year in the six months to 30 June, dropping to £104.2m from £117.3m. In the UK, a fifth of sales fell away but this was compensated by sales in the US – a smaller, newer market for the company – rising 39%. Fever-Tree said it had used the lock-down period to significantly adapt its budgets towards accommodating the at-home cocktail market, creating its first UK television advert and rolling out larger product sizes in supermarkets. Underlying profit for the period came in at £23.8m, down from £36.7m a year earlier. However, Fever-Tree raised its dividend by 4% to £5.41, after increasing its net cash position by more than a third in the first half of the year. Fever-Tree chief executive Tim Warrillow said the company had not laid off any staff during the pandemic, instead shifting some employees between divisions and hiring extra hands to help with its renewed focus on off-trade sales. He added the firm was now preparing with its bar and restaurant partners for a return to normal levels of trade. Warrillow said: “We have had an encouraging start to the second half of the year and, while we certainly aren’t immune to the ongoing challenges of covid-19, our performance and our investments so far this year, coupled with the growing interest in long mixed drinks, gives me confidence we will exit the crisis in an even stronger position than we entered it.”
Ex-Merchant House Group owner to launch pizza, beer and cocktail concept in Hackney: Nate Brown, previous owner of London-based Merchant House Group, is to launch a pizza, beer and cocktail concept in the capital. Brown has teamed up with Shane Long, owner of the Francisian Brewery in Cork, to open Nebula in Hackney on Saturday (12 September). The venue in Hackney Road will have space for more than 200 covers. Ten beer taps will line the back bar, with rotating lines in the fridges from breweries near and far, accompanied by spirits and cocktails, headed by the signature Nebula Negroni. The pizza offering will feature “cheeky twists”, alongside staple classics and dips for the crust. The pizzas and Nebula Negroni will eventually be available for takeaway and delivery. The music programme will reflect the local cultures and vibe, with regular DJs playing. Brown said the sense of community is now more important than ever, and every aspect of Nebula was designed with the neighbourhood in mind.
House Cafe Company to reopen Rail House Cafe in Victoria with new menu:House Cafe Company will reopen Rail House Cafe in London’s Victoria on Tuesday (8 September) with a new menu and extended outside terrace onto Sir Simon Milton Square. Executive group chef Henry Omereye and Rail House Cafe’s head chef Josh Deacon will reintroduce popular classics, including miso-glazed salmon and octopus and nduja skewers, alongside new additions for the “grill” – dry-aged rib eye and cote de boeuf. There will also be a selection of cocktails alongside wine, beer, cider and soft drinks. The venue is also running a “back on track” offer until Monday, 21 September, giving diners 50% off food. House Cafe Company also operates the Riding House Cafe in Fitzrovia, which reopened last month, while Village East has been relaunched as the Loyal Tavern.
Linda Lee reopens flagship Korean restaurant Koba: Koba, the fine-dining Korean barbecue restaurant from Linda Lee, has reopened. Established in 2005, the site in Fitzrovia, London, will be open for lunch and dinner from Tuesdays to Sundays. Although the restaurant will offer a slightly reduced menu, it will still serve its most popular dishes including panjeon seafood pancakes and dolsot bibimbab served in a hot stone bowl. Guests will be able to watch food being cooked on the centrepiece table barbecue. Until the end of September, diners will receive a complimentary glass of Korean plum wine and each table will also be given a serving of glass noodle dish japchae. Koba is the fifth of Lee’s six restaurants to reopen, after four of her five On The Bab venues opened their doors to the public. She hopes to reopen the final On The Bab site, in Soho, soon.
Brew York to invest £1.5m in expansion after securing new brewery site: York-based Brew York is to invest £1.5m in expansion after securing a new brewery site. A 13,000 square foot unit at Handley Park in Osbaldwick, York, is the latest addition to the Brew York portfolio as it presses on with ambitious plans following a “challenging” few months of trading. The new site will house the main brewery, immediately increasing production capacity from 880,000 pints a year at the current Walmgate site to close to four million pints annually – with scope to comfortably double that again should demand increase further. Work has started on the unit, with full operations expected to commence from December at the latest. Founded in 2015, Brew York had seen year-on-year growth following regular reinvestment of profits and head brewer Lee Grabham said significant investment in a new canning line just prior to lock-down was key to the position the business is in today. “When lock-down struck, it enabled us to pivot the business in a way we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. At a critical time, when cans became the only saleable items we had, we gained the capability to can in one day what would previously have taken us a full week to package.” The canning line and large vessels will move to the new location but the original kit will remain at Walmgate for small scale, special brewing projects. For the beer hall, taproom and shop it will be largely business as usual.