Beds and Bars reports near double-digit increase in UK like-for like sales: Beds and Bars, the pan-European hostel operator led by Keith Knowles, has reported a near double-digit increase in its UK like-for-likes sales over the past three months. The company saw like-for-likes increase 11% in December and February while they were up 6% in January, compared with the previous year. The company told Propel that March was “looking even better” based on the first three weeks of the period. Last month, the company sold the leasehold of its Covent Garden site back to the landlord. The property was home to a Belushi’s bar and has four letting bedrooms above. In January, Beds and Bars reported group turnover increased by 5% year-on-year, rising to £41.9m in the year to the end of March 2016, compared with £39.7m the year before. Group Ebitda on a like-for-like basis increased year-on-year to £4.57m, up 26% on a like-for-like basis compared with the year before.

Rick Stein opens first London restaurant today: Chef entrepreneur Rick Stein will open his first London restaurant today (Friday, 17 March). Stein will launch Rick Stein Barnes having acquired The Depot Riverside Restaurant & Bar in Mortlake from Tideway Restaurants last year. The 3,600 square foot venue can accommodate up to 110 diners internally, with courtyard seating for a further 40. The Depot sits within Tideway Yard, which comprises a former stables, coach house and depot dating to 1901. The Yard is now home to numerous independent businesses and residential apartments. The menu will feature some new London specials, including stifado rabbit stew with caramelised onions, red wine, cinnamon, currants and sautéed potatoes and a London cure smoked salmon with horseradish cream and homemade walnut bread. Stein said: “I’ve often been asked if I’ll ever have a restaurant in London and, to be honest, I’ve always said I wouldn’t. But when I went to have a look at The Depot it struck me how perfect a place it was – overlooking the Thames, being wonderfully close to central London but far enough out to feel like you’re in your own community, a little village almost.”

Square Pie opens Britain’s first pick ‘n’ mix mini pie bar: Gourmet pie company Square Pie is bringing its award-winning mini pies to Bristol, with the launch of a kiosk as part of the newly renovated retail offering at the Vue cinema site in Cribbs Causeway. The “pick ‘n’ mix” pie bar, which opens today (Friday, 17 March), will be the first of its kind in the country, a pastry take on pick ‘n’ mix that will allow customers to personalise their meal with a choice of six mini pies, wedges and a selection of dipping sauces. Square Pie will debut a new beef bolognese mini pie at the site, alongside favourites steak and ale, barbecue bourbon beef, chicken and mushroom, and cheese and onion. Founder Martin Dewey said: “We’re thrilled to be working with Vue to bring something totally new to its customers in Bristol. Pick ‘n’ mix proper little pies while watching a great film, what could be better?” Vue head of retail Paschalis Loucaides added: “We’re excited to bring a new retail experience to Vue Bristol Cribbs and delighted to be working with Square Pie.”

Caffe Nero reports rising sales in Ireland: Sales at the Irish arm of Caffe Nero more than tripled to €2.1m last year as it expanded its presence in the country. Last year, Caffe Nero Ireland opened a further three stores in Dublin as well as its first outside the capital, bringing its total number to eight. This contributed to revenues increasing by 210% to €2.132m in the 12 months to the end of last May. The company also saw a 69% reduction in pre-tax losses for the year to €138,000. In newly-filed accounts for the company, its directors said the losses arose “due to continued startup costs in this new territory”. Caffe Nero has previously announced plans to invest €20m in Ireland to open 40 stores and create up to 350 jobs. Caffe Nero’s first Irish outlet opened in Merrion Row in Dublin in March 2014 and its stores include seven in Dublin and one recently opened in Drogheda. In the accounts, the company’s management added it believes there are strong growth prospects for the branded coffee market in Ireland. Caffe Nero is the largest independent coffee retailer in Europe and last year operated 613 stores in 247 UK and Irish towns generating revenues of £257m and pre-tax profits of £25.5m.

Aberdeen-based cafe and deli operator to turn former bank into third city site: Nicky Turnbull, who operates two venues in Aberdeen – Cognito Deli in Union Grove and Cafe Cognito in St Swithin Street – is set to open a third site in the city. Turnbull has submitted plans to convert a former Bank of Scotland branch on the corner of Midstocket Road and Beechgrove Terrace into a cafe, the Evening Express reports. A building warrant application estimates it will cost £100,000 to convert the property.

Tullymore House continues expansion of Fratelli brand with third site, in Belfast: Hospitality group Tullymore House is to continue the expansion of its Italian restaurant brand Fratelli after securing a new site in Belfast. The company has acquired the derelict former Holy Rosary church and surrounding land in Ormeau Road. It will invest £1m to turn it into its third Fratelli restaurant, creating more than 40 jobs. Project manager Colin Johnston told the Irish News: “We plan to regenerate this section of Ormeau Road with a sympathetic redevelopment of the building, which has stood on the site since 1898 but has been derelict since 1980. The Ormeau Road project is part of an ongoing investment programme in the hospitality sector by Tullymore House, including planned extensions to Fratelli restaurants in Galgorm in Ballymena and Belfast city centre.” Tullymore House recently invested more than £11m in a redevelopment programme of its Galgorm Resort and Spa. The company said it also has a significant investment programme planned for the Fratelli brand in 2017 totalling more than £1.5m and creating up to 60 jobs.

YO! Sushi opens flagship New York site: YO! Sushi has opened its flagship site in New York, in the Flatiron district at 23 West 23rd Street. It offers several options from the chain’s executive chef Mike Lewis that are exclusive to the location, including sushi grilled with a blowtorch, a fried chicken sandwich with a fruity sauce, a “super-sized” shaved ice dessert, and a yuzu broth-based ramen. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations. The company opened a location in Boston last autumn and now has six other locations in the country, including in Tampa and Paramus, New Jersey.

Cambscuisine to start Smokeworks expansion with second Cambridge site: Pub and restaurant operator Cambscuisine, led by Oliver Thain and Max Freeman, is to start expansion of its Smokeworks barbecue concept by opening a second site. The company will open the new venue in mid-June in Station Road, Cambridge, on the site of the former Great Northern Kitchen & Bar, reports the Cambridge News. Cambscuisine opened the first Smokeworks in Free School Lane in the city centre in 2014 and has been on the hunt for a “bigger” second site for the concept. The company operates seven sites in and around Cambridge. Its other restaurants include The Cambridge Chop House and “eclectic modern brasserie” Millworks, which opened in October.

Bermondsey Pub Company takes over three Dexters sites: Bermondsey Pub Company, the Ei Group managed operation, has taken over three Dexters Alehouse and Kitchen sites. The move sees Bermondsey Pub Company operating Dexters sites in Brigg and Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire and is also understood to include the outlet in Hull. Both Lincolnshire sites will trade under their original names, with the Brigg venue due to reopen this week. The pub in Wrawby Street has been closed for “essential maintenance work and a rebrand”. A Bermondsey Pub Company spokesman told the Scunthorpe Telegraph: “We can confirm we have acquired Dexter sites in Brigg and Cleethorpes. Both pubs will trade under their original names, The Black Bull in Brigg and The Fisherman’s Arms in Cleethorpes, and we will offer a similar drinks range to the one we’ve inherited in conjunction with a classic pub food menu that has choice for all. All employees have been retained.”

Victorian-themed restaurant to launch in Borough Market next month: Victorian-themed restaurant Vintage Borough will open overlooking London’s Borough Market at the end of April. The all-day venue in Stoney Street will offer European plates, sharing platters, and charcuterie and cheese boards. Dishes will include crispy artichokes with garlic herb crème fraiche, harissa beans with charred tender stem and salted ricotta, and pork and fennel fettucine with salmoriglio breadcrumbs. Suppliers will include Neal’s Yard, while there will also be a curated wine list, Hot Dinners reports. The decor resembles a “rough jewel box” designed by an “interior fashion label” to echo the history of the local area using steel-caged light fittings and decaying wooden stalls.

Las Iguanas to launch new menu next week: Casual Dining Group-owned Las Iguanas will launch its new menu on Tuesday (21 March). The 13 new additions include a Cuban sandwich, consisting of roasted pork belly, pulled pork, Emmental cheese and ham with sweet mustard and green pickle relish, as well as Sea Bass A Lo Macho – a fillet of sea bass with mussels, crayfish and prawns in a white wine, spinach, paprika and cream sauce. New drinks on offer include Chilli Paloma infused with Ancho Reyes and the Lulo and Agave Cooler. Meanwhile, Las Iguanas has collaborated with animation company Aardman, which is behind characters such as Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, on the design of its new children’s menu. Iggy the Iguana is now the face of the menu, which also features activities including colouring, word puzzles, mazes and basic Spanish. Menu items include wacky tacos, crazy quesadilla, cod bites and crispy chicken, with desserts featuring juicy fresh fruit, wobbly raspberry jelly and Latin speciality churros, a doughnut made for dunking into a chocolate dip. There are also smaller versions of dishes on the “grown-ups” menu available on request. Las Iguanas operates 54 restaurants across the UK.

Hackers Hackers target McDonald’s account to launch Trump ‘tiny hands’ tweet: Hackers have targeted McDonald’s corporate Twitter feed to tweet an attack on US president Donald Trump. The account is mostly used to communicate menu changes and answer gripes about meals. However, a tweet sent out from the account yesterday stated: “@realDonaldTrump You are actually a disgusting excuse of a president and we would love to have @BarackObama back, also you have tiny hands.” The pinned tweet was deleted nearly 20 minutes later. McDonald’s has issued a statement saying the account was “compromised”. The company said: “McDonald’s Twitter account was hacked earlier today when a critical tweet was sent out about President Trump. Twitter notified us that our account was compromised. We deleted the tweet, secured our account and are now investigating this.” Donald Trump is believed to be a fan of McDonald’s food.

Curious Venues launches Lost Property bar beneath Nottingham’s oldest hotel: Curious Venues, the Brown and Brown Industries brand behind Nottingham restaurants and bars Curious Manor, The Parlour, Cured, and Brown’s Cafe and Bistro, has opened a bar beneath the city’s oldest hotel. Lost Property is the brainchild of Daniel Brown and has opened beneath Mercure Nottingham City Centre Hotel in the Lace Market. Lost Property offers the Curious menu plus a selection of themed cocktails tying in with some of the hotel’s famous guests, including Charles Dickens, whose signed bill is on display at the hotel. Gin and vodka cocktails are made with in-house infusions, with sections of the venue used for cocktail creation. Koolesh Shah, managing director of London Town Hotels Group, which operates the hotel, said: “We are delighted to work with Dan and his team at Curious Venues to offer such a different space. When we purchased this hotel in 2009, we always had a vision this was a unique hotel, this vision has now come to fruition.” London Town Group has a portfolio of hotels and properties in the UK, working with global franchisors such as Accor and Intercontinental Hotels.

South London-based operator acquires Croydon pub for bar and Lebanese restaurant concept: South London-based operator Crown & Pepper, led by Rajesh Shukla, has acquired Croydon pub and live music venue The Edge and will convert it into a new bar and Lebanese restaurant concept, The Canopy & Keg. The company operates two bar restaurants under the Crown & Pepper brand, in Caterham and Croydon, offering Indian cuisine and shisha lounges. Crown & Pepper also operates the Aja Lounge in Croydon High Street. The Edge will close in “the next few weeks” for the conversion to take place, the Croydon Advertiser reports.

FSK Group to relaunch former Town and Country Inns nightclub in Birmingham when roadwork chaos ends: Mechu nightclub in Birmingham, formerly owned by bar group Town and Country Inns, has closed until severe disruption caused by roadworks associated with the city’s £500m Paradise development has ended. Birmingham-based Town and Country Inns blamed the two-year roadworks outside its Mechu, Apres and Fleet Street Kitchen venues in Summer Row for it entering administration in November. Co-owners Mark Jones and Nigel Owen left the business after trading in Birmingham for almost 40 years. However, the company was bought out of administration by FSK Group, led by Alan Rees and Benjamin Smith. FSK Group will keep the Apres and Fleet Street Kitchen sites open but has closed Mechu and will reopen it as a three-in-one “club with a difference” in May or early summer. The site currently has a licence for up to 1,000 people and can stay open until 4am. Events manager Carrie Harvey told the Birmingham Mail there would be a bar lounge hosting 200-capacity gigs and an upstairs club room. She added: “Once (the roadworks) are gone, it will certainly improve business. If not, they will have been a complete waste of time.” FSK Group also operates a Fleet Street Kitchen in Mere Green. The Apres venue in Cheltenham, the only Town and Country Inns site outside the Midlands, closed following the November buyout.

Las Iguanas and Jackson & Rye secure sites in same Birmingham building: Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas and Cote-owned Jackson & Rye have secured sites in the same Birmingham building. The brands have agreed deals to open restaurants in Somerset House in Temple Street, reports the Birmingham Mail. Las Iguanas will open at the former site of bar and restaurant Temple Street Social, which has been empty since closing in summer 2015. Meanwhile, Serenity beauty salon, which is also part of Somerset House, will be transformed into American diner Jackson & Rye. The brand, which was bought by Cote in January 2016, currently has six sites having opened its first venue outside London, in Guildford, in December. Temple Street will also be home to Revolution Bars Group brand Revolucion de Cuba, which is due to open at the end of the year.

Cambridgeshire Hotels acquires first venues: Cambridgeshire Hotels, a newly formed firm owned by US-based hotelier Aston Management Company, has acquired its first venues in the UK. The company has bought the Dolphin Hotel in St Ives and The Pike & Eel Hotel in Needingworth, both in Cambridgeshire, for £3.4m and £1.36m respectively. Ravi Gupta, one of the company’s founders and directors, told The Hunts Post: “Initially, the hotel rooms will be upgraded to achieve parity with the common mid-scale market chains. The hotel’s restaurant is renowned for its carvery so tradition will be maintained but changes will be made to the evening menu to serve cuisine more akin to TGI Friday’s and Nando’s. Major renovation of the public area is planned in the next 18 months to enhance the appearance of the hotel and make it the place to go. The company understands St Ives is a historic town with great tradition. We wish to employ our resources to help the community prosper and prosper alongside the community.” Gupta said the company plans to install a sports bar in the hotel with large-screen televisions showing live sports.

Leicester-based Stonebaked Pizza Co closes Nottingham site only six months after opening: Leicester-based Stonebaked Pizza Co has closed its Nottingham restaurant only six months after opening. The company opened the site at the Intu Victoria Centre’s new Clocktower dining area in August. However, Intu has confirmed the restaurant has closed. General manager Nigel Wheatley told the Nottingham Post: “We’re sorry to hear Stonebaked Pizza Co has closed and we’d like to wish its staff members all the very best. We are currently in discussions with a number of restaurants that are keen to have a store in our centre.” It is the third venue within the dining area that has shut within the past six months, following the closure of Coast to Coast last month and Joe’s Kitchen in October – both brands owned by The Restaurant Group. Stonebaked Pizza Co opened its debut site at the Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester in 2014.

Heron & Brearley signs deal with coffee company Melitta: Isle of Man-based Heron & Brearley has signed a deal with coffee company Melitta to be its exclusive coffee partner. The deal will see Melitta provide coffee for Heron & Brearley’s estate of pubs and bars as well as its convenience stores on the island and its Market Town Tavern pubs in the UK. Heron & Brearley head of operations Diane Edington said: “The team from Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions really impressed us, both with the quality of their coffee blends and with their proven industry experience. I am supremely confident that consumers on the Isle of Man are going to love our high-quality and great-tasting coffee, and I’m excited to see how this partnership will help us attract customers throughout the day as we extend our opening hours to meet consumer demand.” Melitta new market manager Laura Sherwood added: “Our two companies have a fantastic reputation and heritage in foodservice and we’re really excited about how we can support and drive the development of Heron & Brearley’s coffee offering across its estate.”