Hakkasan Group to expand into Saudi Arabia: UK-based restaurant and nightclub company Hakkasan Group is to expand into Saudi Arabia. The company has signed a deal with Al Khozama Management Company to open five restaurants in the country, including Hakkasan, Yauatcha and Sato No Hana, during the next five years. Hakkasan Group has more than 50 sites across the Middle East, Europe, US, and Asia and this launch is a continuation of its business strategy of taking its brand portfolio into new high-growth markets across the world. Chief executive Neil Moffitt said: “Saudi Arabia has a flourishing restaurant sector and is an ideal location for the Group to open our restaurant brands Hakkasan, Yauatcha and Sato No Hana. With a dynamic economy and growing numbers of tourists visiting Saudi Arabia, we are excited about bringing a new and fresh dining experience for locals and the global customer coming to the region. Importantly, this partnership builds on our global expansion strategy by rounding out our portfolio in the Middle East, where we already have a presence in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, and soon Bahrain.” Al Khozama Management Company president Abdulaziz Al Habib added: “Hakkasan Group excels in creating dining experiences that are unmatched. We look forward to working together to cater to this segment and introduce to the market a new level of excellence in dining unprecedented in the Kingdom.”




TGI Friday’s launches ‘restaurant of the future’ in Newcastle, two further new-concept sites to follow: TGI Friday’s has launched its “restaurant of the future” in Newcastle, with two more new-concept sites set to open in the UK before February. The new venue has opened in the £25m Grey’s Quarter dining area at Intu Eldon Square shopping centre and features new menus, a spacious bar and lounge, and live music and DJs, who will appear on the “Friday’s-first stage and performance area”. The breakfast menu includes classics such as American pancakes and Jack Daniel’s American breakfast, while the venue also offers a bottomless Prosecco brunch at weekends. The lunch menu includes fresh and light options, such as duck salad, chargrilled chicken sandwich and Texas chilli bowl. The main menu features TGI Friday’s originals alongside new creations from chef Terry McDowell, including bacon lollipops, six different types of chicken thighs, and the Gravy Seal Burger (chicken escalope, beef burger, popcorn shrimp, caramelised onions and Colby cheese served with beef gravy). TGI Friday’s UK chief executive Karen Forrester said: “These new restaurants will retain the heritage of Friday’s but mix it with new offerings for all times of the day and night, whether that is breakfast, a relaxed meeting over coffee or an indulgent, celebratory, evening meal with live entertainment.”




Thai Leisure Group transforms Chaophraya brand: Thai Leisure Group has transformed its Chaophraya brand, with the roll-out of a new menu, heightened service levels and a change of visual identity. Chaophraya’s “new dining experience” is focused on taking guests on a “culinary and cultural journey, combining the new menu with traditional Thai hospitality and opulent decor”. The journey is expressed through the new menu design and estate signage, as well as a new website and digital and printed media. A video series has also been filmed in Thailand to heighten understanding of the brand and how it takes inspiration from the country. Chaophraya will also encourage guests to embrace the traditional Thai way of dining – “family style” – with multiple dishes shared at the table, while challenging misconceptions associated with Thai food such as eating with chopsticks – only noodle dishes are eaten this way and, instead, a spoon and fork will be presented at the table. Thai Leisure Group managing director Ian Leigh said: “In an ever more competitive category, we recognised an opportunity to differentiate Chaophraya from its competitors by reinforcing its position as a contemporary dining brand, sitting between casual and fine dining. The changes have seen us take Thai to the next level, inspired by Thailand but not married to the concept of absolute authenticity. This has been well received by our guests, seeing an increase in first-time customers experiencing the brand, continued great feedback and an increased spend per head of just over £1.50.” Thai Leisure Group, which is jointly owned by Thai chef Kim Kaewkraikhot and British entrepreneur Martin Stead, also operates the Thaikun, ChaoBaby and Yee Rah brands.




Whitbread to open third Bar + Block, at Whiteley Shopping Centre: Whitbread is to open its third Bar + Block restaurant after securing a site at the Whiteley Shopping Centre in Fareham, Hampshire. The 4,500 square foot, 177-cover venue will open in February and include a central feature bar with copper detailing, a large open kitchen, branded mosaic signage at the entrance, and a mix of upright seating and leather booths. Exposed brick walls will be adorned with contemporary art pieces, including the brand’s signature neon cow and preserved moss ‘Hello’ sign, as well as wall calligraphy detailing the Bar + Block brand story. The venue, which follows on from the brand’s launch in Birmingham earlier this year and a second site in King’s Cross, London, which opens next month, will also offer a 24-cover external seating area. Bar + Block has an emphasis on high-quality steaks at affordable prices, all hand-cut to order, while the “Butcher’s Block” will feature a range of rotating specials. Bar + Block will also offer an extensive drinks list, with a focus on craft beer and cider from BrewDog, innovative cocktails, and a specially curated wine list. David Murdin, chief operating officer of brand developments for Whitbread Restaurants, said: “We’re really looking forward to bringing Bar + Block Steakhouse to Whiteley. This is an exciting time of growth for the Bar + Block brand, with our flagship site opening in London.” Whiteley centre manager Neil Carter added: “Whiteley continues to be recognised as the place to come for great dining and I am delighted Bar + Block will add to our extensive restaurant line-up.”




Brixton-based Brazilian restaurant Carioca begins expansion with Boxpark Croydon site: Brixton-based independent Brazilian restaurant Carioca has started expansion after bringing a “bite of Brazil” to Boxpark Croydon. The new “Rio street food unit” is open daily, offering dishes that reflect the “spectacular style of Carmen Miranda”. The all-day breakfast menu features maize muffins with an array of toppings, while evening dishes include Favela Cantalago (pulled, braised, slow-cooked beef with bell peppers, onions, banana and bacon farofa, and white cabbage slaw on a fried cassava rosti), as well as Brazilian-style burger alternative The Pele and feijoada with four different cuts of meat. Maurilio Goncalves launched Carioca in Brixton’s Market Row in 2012. The name is a local term for the people of Rio de Janeiro. Goncalves said: “We are very excited to be part of the line-up at Boxpark Croydon alongside so many other fantastic traders. We can’t wait to give everyone a taste of true Brazil’s amazing flavours, bright colours, lively atmosphere and warm hospitality.” Boxpark Croydon features 34 traders at the 2,000-capacity site next to East Croydon station. Other brands include The Breakfast Club, MeatLiquor, Beijing street food specialists Mamalan, Craft Beer Co and Mexican restaurant Chilango, which has opened its first south London outlet. Traders are spread across two floors made up of shipping containers. The project is a collaboration between London Borough of Croydon and CGLP, a joint venture between Schroders and Stanhope.




Be At One receives tenfold increase in customer feedback with Feed It Back service: Cocktail bar brand Be At One has revealed it has received a tenfold increase in customer feedback after subscribing to Feed It Back, the EPOS-linked guest feedback service. Be At One, which has 33 sites across the UK, signed up to the service in August as it looked to improve its guest experience. Feed It Back is the only guest feedback system that integrates in real time with Zonal’s Aztec EPOS system, enabling feedback questions to be personalised to the guest’s visit. Be At One guests can give feedback via the company’s mobile app and website, while people who book a table online automatically receive a feedback request the day after their visit. Be At One digital marketing manager Giles Denning said: “We are getting high volumes of great-quality feedback, which provides actionable insights. General managers are able to log in regularly to view feedback and deal with any issues immediately. The system is simple to manage and provides us with an overall net promoter score KPI (key performance indicator), which allows us to track against the industry.” Feed It Back head of customer success Julia Platia added: “We’re delighted to be working with such a progressive and successful operator as Be At One and proud of the results we have achieved with them. Feed It Back lets guests share their views in a fast, fun and engaging way, while giving operators more insight and more volume.”




Starbucks launches Christmas cold brew: Starbucks has launched its first Christmas cold brew – the Spiced Sweet Cream Nariño 70 Cold Brew. Starbucks Rewards members can already get a taste of the new beverage before it joins the line-up across stores in the US and Canada later this month. The new drink is slow-steeped for 20 hours before cinnamon, anise, nutmeg and vanilla flavours are added and topped with house-made sweet cream. Yoke Wong, of Starbucks’ beverage development team, said: “Although we’ve offered iced and blended versions of our holiday espresso beverages before, this is our first time creating a cold coffee holiday beverage. The spices complement the cold brew and bring out the cocoa notes in the coffee. It’s a flavour reminiscent of the holiday season.” The beverage is the latest addition to Starbucks’ cold craft portfolio, following the launch of Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew and Nitro Cold Brew during the summer.




Sugar Hut to open second site this month, in Liverpool: Sugar Hut, the brand launched by The Only Way Is Essex star Mick Norcross, will open its second site this month, in Liverpool. The venue in Victoria Street will open on Friday, 25 November. The three-floor site blends a modern British dining room, cocktail lounge and two clubs into one. It also features a private dining room and event spaces, a fully interactive photo booth, make up and powder rooms and 34 booth tables in the clubs that offer phone charging facilities from tables and a personal Sugar Hut Honey hostess for the evening. Each floor has either live music or a DJ and there will be a selection of club and events menus, worldwide wines, cocktails and drinks. Sugar Hut Group chief executive Terry Pullen said: “Our passion and experience within the hospitality and entertainment business has inspired us to extend our brand to Liverpool by opening a unique venue serving fresh food, quality drink and uplifting music in luxury landmark premises. I am also excited to announce Newcastle and Cardiff Sugar Huts will follow hot on the heels of Liverpool.” Last month, Sugar Hut reopened its inaugural site in Brentwood, Essex, following rebranding and a major refurbishment.




D&D London to open Aster at Nova development in Victoria: Restaurant operator D&D London has confirmed its new venue in the Nova development at Victoria will be called Aster. The 10,000 square foot space will be designed by Russell Sage Studios and be set across two floors, comprising a cafe and deli on the ground floor and an upstairs restaurant and bar. The kitchen will be headed up by executive chef Helena Puolakka, who has returned to the company after leaving in 2013. The menu will feature the Nordic cuisine of her Finnish heritage using the classic French techniques she has refined during her career. Traditional Nordic delicacies such as fish roe, pickled herring and wild berries will sit alongside cinnamon buns and open sandwiches of house-cured var salmon on rye in the cafe and deli. Upstairs in the restaurant, the menu will feature meatballs a la Lindstrom, with beef and beetroot; and juniper-smoked turbot with tender leeks and butter sauce. Puolakka said: “In Nordic countries, craftsmanship, the presence of hand-made food and local produce has always been a key part of daily life. At Aster, a sense of belonging and the harmony in my Nordic-French cuisine is important, whether we are cooking for the laid-back deli or the more refined restaurant.”




Nando’s opens Sevenoaks site, sets Blackburn date: Nando’s has opened its site in Sevenoaks, Kent. The new restaurant is in the former Marks & Spencer Simply Food store at Bligh’s Meadow shopping centre. The venue was due to open at the end of the summer but was delayed by building work. The restaurant has been granted a licence to open from 7am but Nando’s said it has no plans to offer breakfast at the site. The only Nando’s that serves breakfast is at Gatwick airport. Meanwhile, Nando’s said it would open its 130-cover Blackburn site at the end of February as part of the Vue cinema complex redevelopment. The restaurant was originally due to open at Christmas last year but a row broke out over whether Nando’s definition of “halal” met the strict guidelines of the Lancashire Council of Mosques. A company spokesman told This Is Lancashire: “There is no decision yet on whether the restaurant will be ‘halal’ or not. This will be made nearer the time. We base our decision on a range of criteria such as local population, type of restaurant, potential openings in the area, distance to the nearest restaurant serving ‘halal’ chicken, and distribution factors.”




Gourmet Burger Kitchen to open second Glasgow restaurant, third Scottish site: Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which was acquired by South African fast food group Famous Brands in September, will open its second site in Glasgow, on Monday (7 November). The restaurant, which will be the brand’s third site in Scotland, is in the Glasgow Fort shopping centre and follows the success of its debut site in the city in St Vincent Street. The new restaurant is Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s 78th site worldwide, with the opening creating 39 jobs. The store opens as the company adds a Christmas burger to its menu – Seasoned Meetings – which contains a 6oz beef patty, baconnaise and chilli chocolate ketchup, topped with an onion ring and chorizo, jalapenos, mature cheddar cheese and bourbon-glazed mushrooms. Gourmet Burger Kitchen marketing manager Laura Pettingale told Glasgow Live: “We’ll be joining a great line-up of restaurants and shops at Glasgow Fort and we can’t wait to be part of the buzz in the centre, especially as Christmas approaches.” Phil Goodman, centre manager at Glasgow Fort, added: “We are delighted to welcome Gourmet Burger Kitchen to our dining offering. It is a great addition and, as only one of three in Scotland, we are confident it is going to prove extremely popular with our customers.” Earlier this week, Gourmet Burger Kitchen reported its pre-tax profits had almost trebled following a boost in turnover. The company saw turnover increase 21% to £67,417,000 for the year ending 28 February 2016, compared with £55,807,000 the year before, according to accounts filed with Companies House. Pre-tax profit nearly trebled to £3,328,000, compared with £1,114,000 the previous year.




Music festival trader The Cheese Truck closes crowdfunding campaign after raising £130,000: Music festival trader The Cheese Truck has completed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising £130,000 to open its first permanent sites in London. The company, launched by Matthew Carver, has been selling gourmet cheese sandwiches at music events across the UK since 2014 but is now looking to open stores in Camden and Deptford. It was aiming to raise £100,000 and was offering a 16.67% equity stake in return for the investment, which will be used for the Camden site. It has now closed the campaign having raised £130,000 from 179 investors. The pitch stated: “The Cheese Truck made a name for itself serving irresistible grilled cheese sandwiches across London and the UK from two converted 1970s Bedford ice cream vans named Alfie and Audrey. We now plan to open our first two fixed premises, Archies Bar in Deptford and The Cheese Bar in Camden. Our bricks and mortar plans will be the main focus in 2017. Using Camden as a base, we plan to implement and tighten our Cheese Bar business model, which will ensure our future expansion plans are successful. We’ll be using the money from this round to pay for equipment, fit-out and working capital of our flagship site in Camden. So far we’ve been self-funded through cash flow. We plan to open a third site in year three, funding it with cash flow in the business. Then we will continue to open at a rate of one site per year until we hit seven to nine sites in London, ensuring all sites are profitable and hit targets. We’d then look at a trade sale for the business.”




Bistrot Pierre to open 17th site next month, in Altrincham: Private equity-backed restaurant group Bistrot Pierre will open a site in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, next month. The company is opening the venue – its 17th to date – at The Stamford Quarter shopping centre on Friday, 2 December, creating 30 jobs. The two-storey restaurant will seat 170 diners and feature floor-to-ceiling windows, French-styled interiors, a bar area, and outside seating. Bistrot Pierre co-owner Rob Beacham told The Business Desk: “Altrincham is well known locally as a foodie destination so we’re really excited to be joining a community that enjoys great food, especially in time for Christmas.” Bistrot Pierre, which was founded by Beacham and John Whitehead in 1994, received £9.8m from private equity firm Livingbridge last year to support its expansion plans.




Sam’s Kitchen to start expansion with Frome opening: Bath-based restaurateur Sam Wylde, who owns Sam’s Kitchen in the city, is set to start expansion of his concept by opening a second venue, this time in Frome, Somerset, on Sunday (20 November). The new site will offer a restaurant and bakery on the ground floor and a New York-style wine bar upstairs featuring sofas and an open fire. The restaurant will have an open kitchen, a large, wood-burning stove, and banquette seating “covered by Frome feathers”. It will offer “rustic food sourced from local farms” and also sell bread baked on-site. Wylde told Somerset Live: “We’ll be using our wood-burning oven regularly. You can roast an entire animal inside and, of course, it can also be used to cook pizzas. We’ll be sourcing our meat from a local butcher that opened just a few doors down. The menu will change daily and we’ll be trying to replicate a similar format to that in Bath – a comfortable environment for people to come in and graze and use our superfast Wi-Fi without the need to spend too much.”




Old Amersham Hotels acquires first pub, in Cotswolds, fifth venue in total: Old Amersham Hotels, which operates four hotels in the Cotswold and Chiltern regions, has acquired its first pub – the Horse & Groom in Upper Oddington, near Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds. Following a deal brokered by agent Colliers International, the company bought the 16th century, grade II-listed pub off an asking price of £850,000. The Horse & Groom boasts “upmarket Cotswolds credentials”, with honey-coloured stone walls, exposed timbers and open fires. Colliers International hotels director Peter Brunt said: “In addition to its 16th century surroundings, the Horse & Groom delivered profits in 2015 of £140,034, underlining the fact that as well as being in one of the best locations in the country, it is also a first-rate business proposition. We have seen a flurry of activity in the market post-Brexit, and off-market deals are proving a popular way in which to sell a property – offering opportunities for new owners to get their hands on some spectacular pubs and inns, with prices ranging from £1m to more than £3m.” Colliers International said it had agreed seven sales in the west totalling £8m since the referendum in June, and predicted the market would “remain robust through the rest of the year”.




Gaucho launches online wine shop: Gaucho has opened an online shop specialising in Argentine wine. It offers a range of wines previously only available at Gaucho restaurants, by the bottle at retail prices. Its launch has been spearheaded by Gaucho director of wines Phil Crozier. In 1999, Crozier became the first buyer to launch an all-Argentine wine list outside the country, and later launched an all-Argentine wine list featuring wines exclusive to Gaucho in 2015. Among wines available are Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Torrontes, Semillon and Pinot Noir from Patagonia, reports The Drinks Business. There is a minimum purchase of six bottles.




Shrewsbury-based multi-site operator to open American-style diner concept in town: Shrewsbury-based multi-site operator Sam Wood is set to open an American-style diner concept in the Shropshire town. Wood is launching Biggie’s in Frankwell on the site of the former boutique hotel The Silverton, reports the Shropshire Star. He currently runs The Libertine cocktail bar and The House of the Rising Sun in Butcher Row, as well as a sushi bar in Wyle Cop. A statement on The Libertine Facebook page said: “Very proud to announce we are bringing a new concept to Frankwell. It’s a ‘Biggie’ deal – the modern-day American diner you have been waiting for. Whether you want some food your taste buds won’t forget, watch a game of football washed down with a pint of beer or indulge in one of our outrageous shakes and fresh American waffles – you have found your new local.”




Manchester-based Yard & Coop to start expansion with Liverpool opening next month: Manchester-based fried chicken concept Yard & Coop is to start expansion by opening its second site next month, in Liverpool. The company, founded by Carl and Laura Morris, will open the restaurant in the Liverpool ONE leisure complex in Hannover Street, creating 40 jobs. The site will be split over two levels, covering the ground-floor and basement levels. It will also offer seating in themed chicken coops. A number of local artists have been commissioned to decorate the building’s interior, with a range of drawings and installations focused on the brand’s fox character. Laura Morris told You Move: “We’re incredibly excited to join the Liverpool ONE family and have spent lots of time developing a space we can feel really proud of.” The concept launched 18 months ago in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.




Cardiff restaurant team opens second site for Porro concept: The team behind Cardiff’s Potted Pig restaurant has started expansion of its Porro spin-off by opening a second site. Porro, which offers relaxed Italian/British cuisine, launched in High Street, Llandaff, last year. It has now opened its second site, in Cardiff, after securing a six-figure investment from Finance Wales. Porro chef and co-owner Tom Furlong told Insider Media: “We’ve had a fantastic first year at our restaurant in Llandaff. Opening a second in Cardiff made sense. There’s a great community spirit in Roath and Penylan and we’re excited to be part of it. We’re very much focused on community spirit and work closely with local suppliers.” Finance Wales deputy fund manager Cenydd Rowlands, who structured the deal, added: “Porro has a winning combination of great food and a well thought-out business expansion plan.”




Neapolitan-inspired pizza concept Panzo opens in Exmouth Market: Neapolitan-inspired pizza restaurant concept Panzo has launched in London’s Exmouth Market. Anna Skigin has partnered with Eccellenze Campane, an agricultural centre in Naples, to create the 50-cover restaurant, which features decor with Scandinavian and Italian influences and outside seating areas to the front and rear. Pizzas are individually sized and made with double-cooked lighter dough and topped with seasonal ingredients, a concept inspired by the Neapolitan panuozzo sandwich, which also features on the menu. Eccellenze Campane produce is also available to buy, including olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes. All drinks are served on tap, including a range of proseccos, beer and wine, using eco-friendly kegs. Skigin said: “I noticed so many pizzas in London focus more on the dough over the ingredients and flavours on top. I wanted to create a pizza that wasn’t so heavy without compromising on flavour, concentrating on the ingredients and produce used. Exmouth Market is the perfect location – it’s a true food-lover’s paradise.”




Former bankers acquire Somerset gastro-pub: Hospitality newcomers Simon MacLeod and Mike Rose have left senior management positions in the banking sector to take over an award-winning gastro-pub in Somerset’s Blackdown Hills. They have bought the Candlelight Inn in Bishopswood following a nationwide search for their “dream property” through agent Colliers International. The 130-cover Candlelight Inn, renowned for menus featuring local produce and ciders, was on the market for £600,000. Rose said: “In our previous lives we advised people on investing in the hospitality sector and lent money to enable them to buy a pub, hotel or restaurant – and we really wanted to get involved. We fell in love with the stunning location and fabulous food. The team here are outstanding, and that made the decision for us.” Colliers International hotels director Peter Brunt added: “Candlelight combines a great deal of useable space with a snug and inviting atmosphere. Bishopswood is on the Somerset/Devon border among beautiful rolling hills and wooded valleys but, despite its rural setting, it is less than eight miles from Taunton, Yeovil or Exeter and the A303 passes the bottom of the road, making it ideal for the overnight visitor trade. I am sure Simon and Michael have got a fantastic business. Their first venture into the hospitality sector backs up what we have been saying about the investment potential for a good pub or hotel.”