Oakman Inns on track to have raised almost £12m through Downing bonds: Oakman Inns and Restaurants has now raised almost £12m through a series of five bonds issued through Downing Crowd, the Crowd platform managed by investment firm Downing LLP. Steve Kenee, of Downing, stated: “The latest bond officially went live on 2 January and has already raised £1.7m out of the £1.8m target. This has come from 184 investors who have, on average, been investing £9,000 each. Once this bond closes we will have raised almost £12m for pubs managed by Oakman, which is testament to both the faith our investor base has in the way we present and manage risk and the strength of Oakman as an operator of high-quality pub restaurants.” The current bond offers investors a 7% fixed-rate return over 23-month terms for a minimum investment of £100, secured against the freehold of the White Hart in Ampthill, Bedfordshire. Peter Borg-Neal, founder and chief executive of Oakman Inns, said: “Crowdfunding investors have provided invaluable debt funding support for a number of our freehold pubs. We’re delighted to be working with Downing Crowd again on this latest project. The White Hart is a superb property that boasts a variety of warm, friendly spaces for like-minded individuals to meet over quality food and drink as well as a function room and eight bedrooms. It has considerable potential for further development and we are very pleased to have acquired such a high-quality freehold in what is clearly a good location.”

Individual Restaurants reports turnover growth, second-best Ebitda result: The restaurant operator behind the Piccolino and Restaurant Bar & Grill brands has reported record turnover after growing like-for-like sales and opening a new site. Newly filed accounts for Individual Restaurants show a turnover of £67m for the year ending 31 March 2017, up 7% on the previous year’s figure when it broke the £60m mark for the first time. The company said the record sales were driven by like-for-like growth of 1.8% and the opening of Opera Grill in Chester in August 2016. Individual Restaurants also generated its second-best Ebitda performance of £7m, with directors hailing this as an “excellent performance” against the backdrop of headwinds on all cost lines. However, the company posted pre-tax losses of £951,553 in 2016/17 as opposed to profits of £1.5m in the prior year. A consortium known as W2D2 bought and delisted Individual Restaurants in 2011. W2D2’s directors include Individual Restaurants founder Steven Walker, Vernon Lord and Iceland founder Malcolm Walker.

Arkell’s reports turnover rise, profits dip after increased spend: Arkell’s Brewery has reported turnover rose 2.8% to £21,571,698 in the year to 31 March 2017. Profit before tax rose 18.3% to £3,252,871, helped by three property disposals. Profit before property disposals was down 6.1% due primarily to an increased spend on the refurbishment of pubs. Capital expenditure was £7,640,961, compared with £5,506,355 the year before. A dividend of £572,000 was paid compared with a dividend of £559,000 the year before. Chairman James Arkell said: “Our figures with all this expenditure have shown less trading profit but underlying income will rise in the coming year. We sold three pubs and our own beer sales were up. However, dried yeast for the craft lager is relatively expensive and the hops continue to add more expense in making beer. Wine sales were up and robust. Bad debts rose in the year even though we monitor them like mad. But it is a sign of the times that show how difficult it is to run a pub from both the sharp end of the pub and the brewery. In the main, managed pubs we up in turnover and profit but temporary tenancies still present a financial problem.” This year, Arkell’s celebrates its 175th anniversary. “We are planning some exciting events, starting with a major alteration at the brewery,” Arkell added.

Hop Stuff Brewery hints at crowdfunding campaign early this year to fund taproom expansion: Hop Stuff Brewery managing director James Yeomans has given his strongest signal yet that the company plans to launch a new crowdfunding campaign in early 2018. In an email to shareholders, the brewery owner said like-for-like sales at its debut taproom site in Woolwich, south London, were up 9% year-on-year, while brewery volume had continued to increase beyond current capacity. Since Hop Stuff Brewery’s £750,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube last year, the brewery has confirmed a new bar site in Ashford, Kent, as well as moving into a new 20,000HL brewhouse in Thamesmead, south east London. The next round of funding (Funding III) would be used to advance the bar business further, with plans for eight taprooms by the end of 2019 as well as allowing Hop Stuff Brewery to reach new international markets. Last month, the company opened its second taproom, SE8, in Deptford, south east London. Previously, Yeomans told Propel: “We can do one or two more taprooms and wait for the cash flow to generate to open more or we can use our Woolwich site as proof of concept and look at crowdfunding to finance it. We’ve managed three taprooms and a new brewery with the funds so far and I’d love to have taprooms across the south of England. They are an excellent shopfront for our brewery.” Hop Stuff Brewery has forecast revenues of £3.5m this year, revised up to £4.6m on the successful completion of its third round of funding. Yeomans added: “It was a significant gamble when we decided to open our first taproom but it was the right thing to do. We think it’s a simple concept done well.”

Former Domino’s chief executive and general counsel to launch gourmet chicken concept: Former Domino’s Pizza chief executive Chris Moore and the company’s former general counsel and company secretary Adam Batty are to launch gourmet chicken concept Happy Bird in Bristol at the end of this month. The fast-casual concept is the brainchild of Batty, who is founder and chief executive of Happy Bird, while Moore, an investor in a number of food businesses, is non-executive chairman. Happy Bird will launch at Clifton Down shopping centre in Whiteladies Road using high-welfare, free-to-roam poultry with seven homemade sauces and healthy sides along with shakes and healthy smoothies. Batty said: “We think great-quality chicken that tastes like chicken used to taste should not be the exclusive preserve of a handful of the finest restaurants in the city. Fast, convenient chicken shouldn’t mean a deep-fried, MSG-crammed, four-week-old bird factory-farmed in Thailand.”

Longshot sells Bel & the Dragon site in Godalming because it does not fit new operating model: Godalming’s Bel & the Dragon site has been closed after parent company Longshot sold the site to an unnamed buyer. Longshot explained the move by citing its plan to convert all its Bel & the Dragon locations to country inns that offer bedrooms – something it said was not possible in Godalming. Chief operating officer Hector Ross said: “We love the area but we felt we could never add bedrooms into Godalming and we don’t have any car parking. What makes a country inn is a restaurant, bedrooms and a garden and in Godalming we didn’t really have a garden. We couldn’t put in bedrooms because it is an old church and it was too difficult. We didn’t have that amount of passing trade and, try as we have, 2017 was a difficult trading year for us in Godalming, whereas it wasn’t in other sites. We didn’t see the pick-up we expected.” The company said it had sold the building and hoped the Old Church would move on to “great new things”. Longshot is looking to open a new Bel & the Dragon Country Inn in the area. “Maybe not in Godalming but very close to it,” said Ross. “We will, of course, use funds from the sale to buy another site.” The company continues to own six sites in Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire – in Churt, Cookham, Kingsclere, Odiham, Reading and Windsor.

Kricket to open second permanent site, at White City’s Television Centre: Indian small plates concept Kricket is to open a second permanent restaurant, at Television Centre, the former home of the BBC in White City, west London. Having run a site at Pop Brixton for almost two years, founders Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell opened Kricket’s first permanent restaurant in Soho in January 2017. The new 3,600 square foot site will be much larger, with a 140-cover restaurant, open kitchen, cocktail bar and terrace. Campbell said: “We are really excited to be moving into the Television Centre, an iconic building in the heart of west London. We will be accompanied by some great names in the industry and together we will make Television Centre and surrounding areas a new centre of gravity for food, drink and entertainment.” Television Centre managing director Alistair Shaw added: “Kricket White City will further enhance a leading line-up of independent restaurants at Television Centre as it opens to the public this year.” Television Centre will feature 432 homes in its first phase, with restaurants to include pizza company Homeslice, better burger brand Patty & Bun and a second site for D&D London’s Bluebird brand. Also set to open in early 2018 is a Soho House members’ club, 47-bedroom hotel and an Electric cinema. Television Centre is a joint venture between Mitsui Fudosan, AIMCo and Stanhope.

Smoking Goat to shut Soho site this month to make way for Crossrail development: London-based Thai barbecue restaurant Smoking Goat, which started expansion in October, is to close its debut site in Soho later this month. The restaurant in Denmark Street, which launched on the site of a former bar three-and-a-half years ago, will close on Sunday, 14 January. The venue is closing as Denmark Street undergoes redevelopment as part of the Crossrail project. Following its launch in 2014, Smoking Goat gained critical acclaim leading co-founders Ben Chapman and Brian Hannon to open a second site, in Shoreditch, as well as “side-of-the-road restaurant” Kiln in Soho’s Brewer Street. Chapman said: “We’ve had an unforgettable three years in Denmark Street and that’s largely down to a brilliant team who’ve flourished and become co-owners, and our incredibly loyal crowd of regulars. I know of no other place where people regularly eat dinner, leave and then come back in the same night.” Hannon added: “Denmark Street is undergoing some exciting changes and the developers have been hugely supportive to allow us to continue service amongst it all – but it’s now time to leave them to crack on. The fun will continue at Smoking Goat Shoreditch and we’re not saying goodbye permanently to a pocket of London we’re so fond of – we hope to be back in the future.” Smoking Goat Soho will host a series of “Last Days of the Goat” dinners from 11 to 13 January.

Sukho Group to bring Thai street food concept Zaap to Leicester for fourth site: Sukho Group is to open a restaurant for its Thai street food concept Zaap in Leicester for the brand’s fourth site. Yorkshire-based Sukho operates Zaap venues in Leeds, Newcastle and Nottingham as well as four restaurants under the Sukhothai name – three in the Leeds area and one in Harrogate. Zaap is known for its Thai street food dishes served in venues that ape a bustling Bangkok market. Zaap Leicester is set to open in High Street featuring a menu of more than 80 street food dishes, including Thai red curry with chicken, pork or prawns, crispy pork belly and rice with Zaap sauce, egg-fried rice with shredded crab meat, and spicy Thai herb salad with deep-fried whole sea bass. Drinks will include bubble tea, Thai black iced coffee, smoothies, and cocktails such as Thai Passion Mojito and Thaistar Martini. A company spokesman told the Leicester Mercury: “If people have been to Thailand on a gap year, holiday or honeymoon, we want to bring back some memories – and for anyone who’s never been, we want to give them an education.” Sukho Group director Ban Kaewkraikhot has previously said the company is aiming to open an initial ten Zaap restaurants across the UK.

Healthy eating cafe Farm Girl to launch Chelsea venue next month for third London site: Healthy eating cafe Farm Girl is set to open a venue in Chelsea, south west London, next month for its third site in the capital. The venue will open in Park Walk on Thursday, 1 February offering the brand’s first dinner menu alongside its usual fare of health-conscious, Australian-influenced dishes and superfood smoothies and cocktails. Farm Girl’s first all-day menu will feature dishes such as coconut bacon BLT, smoothie bowls, and oven-baked aubergines for brunch, with the evening menu featuring hearty dishes such as cod croquettes with green herb sauce, lamb gyro with roasted pistachio yogurt, and apple and pear crumble for dessert. As at Farm Girl’s Notting Hill and Soho cafes, the cocktail smoothies will include drinks such as strawberry and lavender-infused vodka created with mixologist Gianfranco Spada, of the Experimental Cocktail Club. The venue’s interior will feature green leather, pink marble and illuminated arches to create “an otherworldly, sensory experience”, Hot Dinners reports. In September, Farm Girl opened a concession in Carnaby after teaming up with clothes chain Sweaty Betty. Farm Girl was founded in Australia and launched its first UK venue in Portobello Road in 2015. The concept was inspired by owner Rose Mann’s childhood on a farm outside Melbourne.

JD Wetherspoon to close West Sussex pub: JD Wetherspoon is to close its pub The Gatehouse in Chichester, West Sussex, at the end of the month. The pub is part of the Chichester Gate development at the edge of the city that is anchored by a Cineworld cinema. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Chichester Observer: “We can confirm the Wetherspoon pub, The Gatehouse, will close from 29 January. The last day of trading at the pub will be 28 January. No member of staff will lose their job and they will be offered jobs at other Wetherspoon pubs. Wetherspoon will continue to operate The Dolphin & Anchor in Chichester. We appreciate customers of The Gatehouse will be disappointed with the decision. However Wetherspoon, like other companies, has to make commercial choices. We would like to thank the customers for their loyalty over the years.” It is understood Wetherspoon made a decision not to renew the lease.

London-based Jamaican restaurant Rudie’s to launch grab and go version at Boxpark Shoreditch this month: London-based Jamaican restaurant concept Rudie’s, which made its debut in Dalston in 2015, is to launch a grab and go site later this month, in Boxpark Shoreditch. The 30-cover venue will open in two units at the park on Monday, 15 January and showcase a range of Jamaican tapas-style dishes of Rudie’s regulars such as jerk chicken, curried goat and the Boss Burger. Rudie’s said the new menus were part of an ongoing mission to showcase a more diverse range of Jamaican dishes and introduce diners to the diversity of the island’s cuisine. Grab and go “Boxfood” options will include the Jerk-It-Up (signature real jerk chicken with sweet potato and rice ‘n’ peas or chow chow slaw), Hellshire Beach (king prawns sautéed in pepper sauce with avocado salsa and fried bammy), and the vegan Ital Vital (plantain with Appleton rum sauce, sweet potatoes and chow chow slaw). Rudie’s roti wraps will remain on the menu with curried goat, jerk chicken, jerk pork, and callaloo and mushroom fillings. Beverages will include Jamaican soft drinks alongside fresh juice and a range of rums and punches to match the food.

Ivy Collection to open Blackheath site this month: The Ivy Collection is to open a site in Blackheath, south east London, this month. The 87-cover Ivy Cafe will open in Montpelier Vale on Wednesday, 31 January with a 20-cover Parisian-style terrace overlooking Greenwich Park, Hot Dinners reports. Ivy Cafes offer a more laid-back atmosphere compared with the collection’s brasseries, grills and restaurant, offering contemporary British food and afternoon tea. Last month, The Ivy Collection opened brasseries in Cheltenham, York and King’s Cross, with further openings lined up this year in Birmingham, Brighton, Cambridge, Dublin, Guildford, Leeds and Winchester. The other Ivy Cafes are in Marylebone, Richmond, St John’s Wood and Wimbledon.

Former Jamie Oliver chef director to launch solo venture in Bristol: A chef who has worked closely with Jamie Oliver is to open his first solo restaurant, in Bristol. Sam Elliott has worked for Oliver during the past decade around the UK, holding the position of chef director for the past three. Elliott has bought the former Byzantium restaurant in Redcliffe for his first venture – Pasture. The restaurant will open at the end of February focusing on fire-based cooking and local ingredients, including an in-house butcher. It will also feature regular live music. Elliott told the Bristol Post: “Jamie has taught me the importance of surrounding myself with great people and building really strong relationships with suppliers. My supplier map will be illustrated on the back of the menu detailing who we work with and who has helped bring Pasture to life. Our bar will feature local beer, cider and spirits and will be managed by Craig Edney, who has been at the sharp end of the hospitality industry for more than 25 years. Our children’s menu will be super-healthy. I was instrumental in the development of award-winning children’s menus over the years and will endeavour to do the same at Pasture.”

Cosmo re-invests in Nottingham after shake-out in buffet restaurant scene: Buffet brand Cosmo Authentic World Kitchen is re-investing in replacing booth seating at its Milton Street site in Nottingham after a major shake-out of the buffet restaurant competition in the run-up to Christmas. Restaurant director James Brion said: “Nottingham is one of the most dynamic and vibrant eating out destinations in the whole of the UK but it is also an extremely competitive place to operate a restaurant. We have seen countless names come and go in the past two years and anyone who stands still won’t last long because there are always new names for customers to try and although Nottingham diners are very loyal, they will notice if we let our standards slip. That’s why we are always working hard to introduce new dishes and why we’re investing heavily in new seating and counters, which will make sure we improve the customer experience. An incredible amount of hard work goes into running a restaurant like ours and, bearing in mind people pay one fixed price for unlimited dining, we believe we’re extremely good value for money.” The end of last year saw the closure of World Cuisine Buffet, formerly Red Hot World Buffet, which opened in Trinity Square in 2013 with 500 seats, after its landlord took possession of the site. Last month, world buffet eatery Peachy Keens in Upper Parliament Street was placed on the market after being closed a few months earlier.

Fried chicken and cocktails concept Woolf & Bird closes Norwich city centre site: Fried chicken and cocktails concept Woolf & Bird has closed its site in Norwich city centre. Francis Woolf and business partner Felix Rehberg opened the restaurant in Exchange Street in March last year as a sister site to their Nelson Street venue, Woolf & Social, which Woolf said would remain open and “continues to grow”. Woolf & Bird offers Norfolk free-range chicken alongside cocktails designed to complement each dish. Woolf told the Eastern Daily Press: “When we took on the large site at Exchange Street we only saw big things but existing as an independent, ethical fast food restaurant in such a large space was not sustainable. We found ourselves competing with chain restaurants, whose corporate structure and funding mean they can weather the tough times while some independent outlets suffer and die. Sadly, we have become a casualty of this. The kitty has run dry.”

Costa franchisee wins innovation award: Costa Coffee franchisee Scoffs, which operates 29 Costa sites, has won the Costa Coffee Innovation Award for Costa Crate, which was constructed in two recycled shipping containers at the entrance to Oakwood Hill in Loughton, Essex, and opened in March last year. Key features of the store include a balcony on the first floor complete with “grass” and a meeting room that can be booked free by local businesses as an alternative to the office boardroom. Antony Tagliamonti, managing director of Scoffs Group, said: “We were thrilled the Costa team recognised the creative innovation that has gone into Costa Crate Loughton. As a well-known and well-loved brand, it has been a real boost to the Loughton area to have a national brand invest in the Crate scheme to support and attract other businesses to the site.” Jim Attwood, Costa partnerships director, said: “We were delighted to present Antony and the Scoffs Group team with the Costa Innovation Award for their creative thinking.”

Wadworth reports major growth in contract brewing operation: Wadworth, the Wiltshire-based pub operator and family brewer, has had a bumper yield with its contract brewing operation in the past 18 months, brewing more than 9,000 barrels of contract beer including 3,500 barrels of lager. The company said a focus on offering bespoke beer and lager as well as brewing to original own-brewer recipes had provided a “significant business opportunity”. The company has also invested in its kegging capability to fulfil draught packaging options. Wadworth sales director Jonathan Thomas said: “This has been a great period of growth in contract brewing for our business, where we have been able to provide a range of services to large and small brewers of cask, craft beer and lager. We are looking at further growing our volumes in this area over the next three years. We know this is a growth area for Wadworth as we see capacity stretch with major brewers or smaller craft brewers. This service also enables breweries undertaking investments, relocations or improvements to move their brewing seamlessly to Wadworth.” Devizes-based Wadworth operates more than 200 pubs across the south west.