Bel-Air to begin expansion with first sit-down restaurant in Farringdon, second London site: Healthy fast food brand Bel-Air, which operates a grab-and-go site in Shoreditch, is set to start expansion by opening a sit-down restaurant in Farringdon next month. Bel-Air has taken a 1,032 square foot unit at the new UK headquarters of law firm Bird & Bird in New Fetter Lane. The 40-cover restaurant will open on Monday, 30 January with extra room for 16 diners outside. New additions to the breakfast menu include the Egg Sidecar – two organic eggs, poached or scrambled, with a choice of eight sides. The lunch menu will include salads and “hot stuff” alongside bottomless filter coffee from Ozone and Sandows Nitro cold-brew on tap. There will also be homemade juices on tap and “Warrior Shakes”. The venue will feature a curved marble counter, palm trees and a mixture of banquettes and natural pine stools. Founder Andrew Bredon, who returned to the UK from Los Angeles with an ambition to bring a “slice of the Californian way of life to London”, said: “We’ve spent the past year experimenting in our Shoreditch kitchen to strike the perfect balance. Everything at New Fetter Lane will be bigger, better, faster and, for the first time, our customers can eat in too.” Bel-Air will be joined by Black Sheep Coffee and Nusa Kitchen as the first operators to lease leisure units at the site.

Tapas Revolution secures £2.5m funding for restaurants roll-out: Tapas Revolution, led by celebrity chef Omar Allibhoy and managing director Mac Plumpton, has secured £2.5m investment from equity investor Mobeus Equity Partners to fund expansion. The money will initially support the opening of the brand’s sixth and largest restaurant – in Newcastle – on Monday, 13 February, and a further site in Bath in April. Plumpton, who previously held senior roles at Planet Hollywood Europe and Belgo, told Insider Media: “The Mobeus investment is an exciting step in the Tapas Revolution journey. We have a number of new restaurant locations in our sights and this funding will allow us to take the Tapas Revolution concept more widely.” Amit Hindocha led the deal for Mobeus and will join the Tapas Revolution board. He added: “We are excited to be working with Mac and Omar on the opening of more Tapas Revolution restaurants. They have developed a high-quality, authentic Spanish offering which resonates well with consumers.” Mobeus was introduced to the deal by New World Corporate Finance. The firm was advised by Mike Johnson, former managing director of Whitbread’s restaurant division (operational), Charles Russell Speechlys (legal) and WK Corporate Finance (financial). Tapas Revolution’s other sites are in Birmingham, Bluewater in Kent, Sheffield, and Shepherd’s Bush and Shoreditch in London.

Amber Taverns gets go-ahead to turn Newcastle post office into pub: Community pub operator Amber Taverns has been given the go-ahead to convert a former post office in Newcastle into a pub. The company bought the building in Shields Road at auction last summer for £180,000 and plans to invest £650,000 in its transformation. Amber Taverns licensing compliance manager Diana Freeman and north east area manager Paul Storey told councillors the pub would help clean up Shields Road’s reputation after a local publican objected to the application over fears a new bar would give “undesirables” more chances to prey on victims and commit crime. Freeman said Amber’s responsible strategy would “encourage others to step up their game” and the bar could open as soon as April. Storey said Amber Tavern’s pubs in Gateshead town centre, Low Fell and South Shields had improved their local areas. Amber Taverns agreed to scale back the closing time from 1am to 12.30am. Neither police nor the council objected to the application, Chronicle Live reports. Amber Taverns, which launched 11 years ago, has built a portfolio of 130 pubs.

McDonald’s invites bids for significant stake in Japan business: McDonald’s is inviting bids for a significant stake in its Japan business just days after reaching a deal to sell its China and Hong Kong franchises. The company owns almost half of its Japanese unit and is looking to sell up to 33% with bids due next week, reports the Wall Street Journal. Numerous private equity firms are reported to be considering bids, with Morgan Stanley running the sale. McDonald’s, which has agreed to sell the bulk of its China and Hong Kong business to state-backed conglomerate Citic and US private equity firm Carlyle Group, said in January last year it was looking to sell a portion of its stake in its Japanese business. A spokeswoman said: “McDonald’s is continuing to explore a potential sale of a portion of its ownership in McDonald’s Japan. There have been no decisions made at this time.”

BrewDog in battle with Aberdeenshire Council over hotel, restaurant and conference centre plans: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has become embroiled in a row with Aberdeenshire Council over the company’s £5m plans to build a hotel, restaurant and conference centre next to its brewery in Ellon. It said the council was looking to sell land required for the project at “60 times fair market value”, making the proposition unviable. BrewDog stated on its blog: “We want to build a world-class hotel, outstanding restaurant, conference centre and bespoke distillery just behind our brewery in Ellon. This project would see us invest £5m into the area and create over 80 local jobs. However, the project cannot go ahead because the council is refusing to sell us the land at fair market value. Indeed, it is insisting on charging over 60 times fair market value for the land we need to make this exciting local project happen.” The company said it had the 2.5-acre piece of land valued at £5,000 per acre in May by surveyor DM Hall but the council had “demanded £300,000 per acre”. BrewDog said the council’s demands meant it could not “afford to build the distillery and hotel in Ellon” and would “look to do this elsewhere”. In September, Aberdeenshire Council agreed to move a neighbouring recycling facility at Ellon to allow BrewDog’s brewery expansion to go ahead. Work on The BrewDog Overworks standalone sour beer facility is due to begin on Monday (16 January), alongside an increase in capacity at its brewhouse and expansion of its brewery bar. At the time of the recycling facility announcement, Cllr Richard Thomson said: “It is very encouraging to watch as the BrewDog success story continues to unfold across the globe from its base in Aberdeenshire. I am pleased councillors have been able to support the company’s ambitions to further expand. We wish the company every success for the future in what we hope will be a long and productive association with Ellon.”

Turtle Bay set to turn Kentish Town pub into restaurant: Caribbean restaurant Turtle Bay has applied to open a site in Kentish Town, north London, on the site of the former Auntie Annie’s Porterhouse pub. The company has applied for an alcohol licence for the site in Kentish Town Road, on the corner of Patshull Road. Turtle Bay has been scouting the Camden area for possible sites in recent years, according to the Camden New Journal. It had been looking to move into the ground floor of the former Crown and Goose pub in Delancey Street, Camden Town, which was eventually taken by the Guitar Guitar music shop. In Kentish Town, it has asked Camden Council for permission to trade until 1.30am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 12.30am on other nights. Auntie Annie’s – originally the Wolsey Arms – had several refits before closing in 2014. New flats have been developed upstairs. Turtle Bay, which is backed by Piper Private Equity, was formed by Las Iguanas co-founder Ajith Jaya-Wickrema and has 33 sites across the UK, having opened its first restaurant in Milton Keynes in 2010. The company will open its 34th venue on Sunday, 29 January in Croydon on the site of former nightclub Tiger Tiger.

Chipotle chief blames ‘slip in customer service’ on staff performance programme: Chipotle Mexican Grill chief executive Steve Ells has put much of the blame for a “slip in customer service” on the company’s Restaurateur programme, which enables high-performing employees to rise through the ranks. Last month, Ells said the company had internally rated half of its roughly 2,100 restaurants with a “C” grade for service after taking its “eye off the ball on the customer service side”. He cited flaws such as messy soda stations, dirty tables, and slow-moving lines. Speaking at the ICR Conference in Orlando, Florida, Ells said: “When teams focused on becoming a Restaurateur, they lost their focus on the customer.” He also said the company’s tools designed to improve its people culture had left restaurant teams with “little or no time for basic things like training and customer service”. For instance, every crew member would interview each candidate for a job, which would require applicants be pulled off the line, while applicants had to return to the restaurant multiple times. As a result, he said the company had to review 17 candidates for every open position. He told Nation’s Restaurant News that Chipotle had streamlined its interview process and Restaurateur programme, which had “made a big difference”. This is a critical issue for Chipotle, which is trying to dig itself out of a massive slump following an E.coli outbreak. At the conference Chipotle announced that although preliminary same-store sales fell 4.8% in the fourth quarter, they improved to a 14.7% increase in December compared with a 30% decline a year ago.

Glasgow-based Bread Meats Bread to open gourmet kebab restaurant: Glasgow-based burger restaurant concept Bread Meats Bread is to open a gourmet kebab restaurant in the city. The company is launching Babs in West Nile Street this Easter, reports Glasgow Live. The concept is billed on its website as “kebabs done right using ethical and local Scottish seasonal produce”. Bread Meats Breads currently has two restaurants in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh.

Peterborough-based restaurateur secures second site for Mattoni concept: Peterborough-based restaurateur Goretti Lobato has secured the second site for her Mattoni concept. Lobato, who launched the concept in Hampton Vale five years ago, will open the new venue in the village of Eye. She will now convert the former Riva restaurant, which closed last week, and reopen it as Mattoni next month. The menu will not be as extensive as the Hampton restaurant and will start with daily specials and build following customer feedback. Lobato told Peterborough Today: “The Hampton restaurant is quite small and it has just got so busy. We turn quite a lot of tables every night but I get so many phone calls and I hate telling them we can’t fit them in. I just feel the time is right to offer them an alternative and had been looking for the right location for some time when I heard the premises at Eye was available. It is a great opportunity to spread our wings.”

Living Ventures bar and restaurant Australasia supports Tim Bacon Foundation: Australasia, the Living Ventures bar and restaurant in Manchester, is adding a donation of £1 to each table bill, which will directly support The Tim Bacon Foundation. The discretionary donation will be added throughout January and will go to the charitable foundation, which was established in the name of the late Tim Bacon, restaurateur and founder of Living Ventures, who lost his battle with cancer last year. The foundation was launched to help bring cancer treatment closer to patients in the UK and to recognise Tim’s achievements and continue his legacy, echoing his legendary generosity of spirit. The first appeal undertaken by the foundation, which is being overseen by Bacon’s business partner and close friend Jeremy Roberts, aims to raise £500,000 for its chosen cause during 2017. The appeal will support The Christie Hospital and University College London, which aims to raise funds for proton beam therapy centres in Manchester and London. It will also support Maggie’s Centres, which provides free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their families and friends and is a key partner to Christie Hospital’s clinical services.

Pret A Manger to open Liverpool city centre site: Pret A Manger will open a site in Liverpool city centre later this year. Work to strip out the interior of former Liverpool pub The Exchange in Old Hall Street, which closed last year, is under way. Pret A Manger could not confirm a specific opening date but the building’s owner, Downing Developments, said it hoped the new venue would open in the spring. Downing Developments head of property management John Clegg told the Liverpool Echo: “Situated directly opposite the exit to Moorfields station and with tens of thousands of potential daily customers on their doorstep, we expect them to flourish. Pret, and the new business space above, will provide a big and immediate lift to our building and will facilitate further step-change improvements we are planning at No.1 Old Hall Street.” Pret A Manger has two other branches in the city – in Derby Square and the Liverpool ONE leisure complex.

Young’s reopens The Victoria in Surbiton following major refurbishment: London pub retailer Young’s has reopened The Victoria in Surbiton following a three-month refurbishment. The community pub has been divided into four spaces. The Lounge features a wood-burning stove, chandeliers and velvet chairs, while the bistro-style Dining Room has an open kitchen and offers a menu of “British favourites and seasonally changing classics”. The Round Room has a rediscovered skylight ceiling, while The Simpson Room is a private dining space with audio-visual equipment and a book-filled fireplace. The garden has been transformed into a “Mediterranean hideaway strung with fairy lights, palm trees, fire pits and heated wooden huts”. It also houses Young’s Burger Shack concept. Dining Room dishes include small plate starters such as grilled Cornish sardines with tomatoes, beetroot and toasted sourdough, while mains include spaghetti squash with pied de mouton mushrooms. Sides include “rumbledthumps” (a kind of bubble and squeak topped with melted cheese). Seasonal guest craft ales Camden Hells Lager, Founders All Day IPA and Beavertown Neck Oil are all available at the bar, while wines are divided by flavour, rather than region.

London Fields Brewery owner had ‘£3m debt from drug trafficking conviction wiped out by prosecutors’: A London brewery boss on trial for “cheating the taxman of almost £730,000” had a £3m debt from a drug trafficking conviction wiped out by prosecutors because he does not have the money to pay, a court was told. Jules Whiteway-Wilkinson, founder of London Fields Brewery in Hackney, was ordered to repay £2.1m of criminal profits after being jailed in 2004 for supplying drugs to warehouse partygoers in Shoreditch. His debt had risen to more than £3m because of interest charges. Wood Green Crown Court was told prosecutors agreed to write off the debt after receiving a £100,000 payment from the brewer’s parents. The disclosure came as barrister Andrew Campbell-Tiech QC began his defence of Whiteway-Wilkinson who is accused, alongside wife Rosemary Spence, of deliberately failing to pay VAT, national insurance, PAYE and student loan contributions totalling £727,203 to HM Revenue and Customs during a three-year period. Whiteway-Wilkinson and Spence deny the allegations. Campbell-Tiech told the court: “Debt is not fraud. All the unpaid tax did not enrich him or his wife. All of it was ploughed back into what was ultimately a failed business venture.” Campbell-Tiech said Whiteway-Wilkinson began supplying drugs to stop other dealers operating at his parties. He was jailed in 2004 for 12 years for drug trafficking, Released in 2010, he set up London Fields Brewery but suffered a “devastating” blow after prosecutors’ attempts to make him pay his confiscation order “attracted negative publicity”. The trial continues.

Former Claridge’s and River Cafe chef returns home to launch Newcastle restaurant: Former Claridge’s and River Cafe chef Nick Grieves has opened a restaurant in Newcastle. The Durham-born restaurateur has opened The Patricia in Jesmond Road, which features a menu with British cuisine at its heart while embracing European influences and offering natural and biodynamic fine wine. Grieves formerly owned The Garden House in Durham before moving to work in London. He told Chronicle Live: “I am delighted to have opened in Jesmond. I lived here for eight years and always think of it as home. Working at different restaurants has allowed me to hone my own tastes and skills while learning about the industry. Since my time away, the food scene in Newcastle is definitely on the up. The Patricia offers something just a little different to anywhere else around here.” The Patricia is named after Grieves’ grandmother, who has supported him in his new business venture that will seat about 30 diners.

Bermondsey Pub Company backs educational initiative for schoolchildren: Bermondsey Pub Company, the Enterprise Inns managed operation, is partnering with Stride Ventures for a second year to support its Putting Young Minds to Work course, which gives young people the opportunity to learn more about the business world. Stride Ventures, an organisation that aims to open young people’s minds to enterprise, has designed the course to address calls to introduce employability skills at an early age. Pupils work in teams to create their own businesses with a loan of up to £40. Activities include planning and pitching ideas, product development, costing, budgeting, marketing, and sales and business planning. As well as financial support, Bermondsey Pub Company will select finalists at a Dragons’ Den-style pitching process, as well as providing lunch and pub tours for the winning teams. Bermondsey Pub Company operations director Richard Woodard said: “Pubs will always be a central hub for the local community and this scheme gives us the chance to reach out directly to support and develop the schoolchildren who are part of those communities.” Following the success of last year’s partnership, the pubco has increased the number of sites taking part in the initiative from two to six.

CH&Co Group’s specialist City arm Lusso secures £3m contract with US-based multinational engineering firm: Lusso, the specialist City caterer and part of CH&Co Group, has added the US-based multinational engineering firm Aecom to its client portfolio. The new three-year contract, worth about £3m, will see Lusso provide catering, hospitality and concierge services for 1,200 Aecom employees at its new London head office in Aldgate Tower. Lusso secured the contract following an in-depth tender process. Managing director Paul Hurren said: “Aecom is a fantastic addition to the Lusso portfolio and I congratulate the team on an exemplary tender process. As well as presenting a quality proposition of delicious, sustainable food and excellent service that understood and matched Aecom’s requirements, we showed that we understood them on a cultural level too. This combination is a great foundation for building a strong client relationship. It’s been an incredible year of growth for Lusso but delivering the very best for our clients remains at the heart of what we do. We look forward to forging an exciting, progressive partnership with Aecom and to bringing quality, innovative solutions to its employees.”