US burger chain Burgerfi opens flagship store in London, second UK site: US burger chain Burgerfi has opened its flagship UK location – in Bloomsbury, London. The company, which launched its first UK site in Wembley in September, has opened the new venue in Woburn Place. Founded in 2011, the company has teamed up with sustainability chef Arthur Potts Dawson to produce a menu with plenty of Aberdeen Angus beef and a big focus on recycling. The burgers are “cooked to order in a minute”, with all ingredients prepared daily. The brand’s signature offering is the CEO Burger (double Wagyu beef and brisket blend patty with homemade candied bacon and tomato jam, truffle aioli and aged swiss cheese). Other offerings include the Burgerfi Bacon Cheeseburger, Breakfast All Day Burger, and Vegifi Burger. Other menu items include hotdogs, hand-cut fries with toppings, onion rings, and desserts including custard concretes, floats, shakes, as well as craft beer and wine. Operated by Ground Round, the restaurant opening is led by Jamie Wood, son of The Rolling Stones’ guitarist Ronnie Wood, and hospitality veteran Constantine Kulukundis, of Chinawhite in Piccadilly. Wood told TLE: “I walked into a Burgerfi on holiday in Miami and loved the way you could order a quinoa burger with a lettuce bun. I wanted to bring this back to the UK and enforce the organic and sustainable message at home.”

Punch passes 100th apprentice milestone: Punch has passed a major milestone after its 100th team member completed their apprenticeship qualification. All 100 apprentices have had access to a wide range of training materials, workshops and e-learning modules, which are all part of the Punch Progress training and development offer. The 100th apprentice, Mathias Sexton, worked at Punch’s Old Quay Inn, Truro, where he completed a Level 2 NVQ followed by a Level 3 NVQ in hospitality supervision and leadership. Punch worked with training provider Lifetime Training to provide training, support and development to achieve the skills required in the hospitality industry. Punch learning and development manager Helen Willis said: “We are really pleased to have seen our 100th learner complete an apprenticeship qualification and reach such a momentous milestone. Apprenticeships offer a vital gateway for many young people like Mathias, enabling them to learn valuable skills so they can excel across the workplace. We’re delighted our apprenticeships are thriving in what is a tough jobs market. We look forward to welcoming and supporting more apprentices.”

Whole Foods Market reports second consecutive year of profits: Whole Foods Market, which has nine sites in the UK, has reported its second consecutive year of profit in the UK. The company lost money for eight consecutive years in the UK but turned to profit in its 2015 financial year. Companies House accounts for the year to 25 September 2016 show turnover up 3% on a like-for-like basis to £117.2m, from £114m the year before. Pre-tax profit was £1,206,000, down slightly from £1,312,000 the year before. Administrative expense improved by eight basis points to 40.5%, with a drop of 39 in the total number of staff during the year. In total, Whole Foods Market has 430 stores in the US, Canada and UK.

Bourne Leisure boss calls for VAT cut during school holidays: The boss of Bourne Leisure has called on ministers to reduce VAT for the tourism industry during school holidays to test the effect of the tax cut. Dermot King, whose company owns the three Butlin’s seaside resorts, Warner Leisure Hotels and Haven holiday parks, said Britain’s hospitality industry could not compete with foreign destinations due to the tax burden. He told the Mail on Sunday: “If you stay at a hotel in Clacton you are charged VAT at 20% for the privilege but in a Barcelona hotel you’re charged just 10%.” The £127bn-a-year tourism sector is Britain’s fourth-largest industry and employs 10% of the UK workforce. King said: “If you want to rebalance the economy then tourism is the easiest industry to grow. It can create jobs fast, especially for young people, and that growth wouldn’t be sucked out of another part of the economy. You are persuading more British families to stay at home and more overseas families to holiday here.” He said of a zero rate of VAT for the hospitality industry: “It would create 100,000 jobs and have a return in just three years. For those reasons I urge the government to think about its tax strategy.” King admitted that so far ministers had been reluctant to cut VAT, but added: “If the government finds a full VAT cut too expensive, one thing it could do to test whether it works is to reduce VAT for school holidays.” Hemel Hempstead-headquartered Bourne Leisure, which employs 5,166 staff, was ranked fifth in this year’s Big Companies category of the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For list.

Hollywood Bowl to open £2.4m Derby city centre site: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator, is to open a £2.4m venue in Derby city centre. The 22,000 square foot site will open at Intu Derby’s new leisure development in early April featuring 18 fully computerised bowling lanes with plush seating, a Hollywood Diner and bar. Any bowling lane can be pre booked, including four VIP lanes that include action replays, personalised messaging and social media interaction. The diner will offer freshly made American classics, including gourmet burgers, hotdogs and shakes. Hollywood Bowl Derby will also be one of the first bowling centres in the country to offer a cashless “tap to play” amusement area, in response to the growing trend for cashless facilities, the company said. Consumers will be able to top up “fun cards” to use on arcade games, including new versions of retro favourites, with many allowing players to win child-friendly prizes. Hollywood Bowl Group chief executive Steve Burns told Hospitality & Catering News: “It will be our 56th centre in the UK and our second to launch this year. Designed as a ‘next generation’ Hollywood Bowl, it is set to be one of the most innovative bowling centres in the country.” Last month, Hollywood Bowl Group signed to anchor the 225,000 square foot leisure extension at Intu Lakeside in Essex. In December, the company reported sales increased 23.9% to £106.6m in the year to 30 September 2016. Group adjusted margin was up 42.6% to £29.4m.

Middletons gets buildings watchdog thumbs up for £1.5m Leicester steakhouse: Middletons has won the stamp of approval from a national heritage watchdog for opening a £1.5m steakhouse in a long-neglected Leicester bank building. Historic England has removed the grade II-listed former NatWest bank building in Leicester’s St Martins – considered to be one of the city’s architectural treasures – from the national Heritage At Risk register. The building, which dates to 1900, had stood empty for 16 years and was falling into disrepair. Following an ambitious £1.5m restoration by the Middletons Steakhouse Group, the building reopened to the public as a restaurant in October. Historic England inspectors have since visited the property and have now confirmed it is no longer “at risk”. It will be removed from the 2017 national heritage At Risk register, which is due to be published in the autumn. Middletons managing director Stephen Hutton said: “We are delighted Historic England has recognised the fantastic refurbishment we carried out on this former bank. Bringing this building back to life has been a three-year project and we are very proud of this achievement and the fact this historic building is open once again for people to enjoy.”

Mixology Events launches cocktail bar and store concept TT Liquor in Shoreditch: Mixology Events, which is led by Alastair Tatton and Stephen Thompson, has opened cocktail bar and store concept TT Liquor in Shoreditch. The venue in Kingsland Road is set across three floors, with a specialist liquor store and subterranean cocktail bar. Padlocked “deposit boxes” are available for hire so guests can keep private liquor collections at the venue. The upper floors host Mixology Events’ signature cocktail-making classes, experiences and events. TT Liquor offers 1,000 liquors, including rare bottles and gift sets that combine glassware, equipment and spirits. Everything stocked in the liquor store is also available in the cocktail bar at a “drink-in” price. The 120-capacity cocktail bar features four menus, each embodying a dedicated era. Mixologists explain the history of each cocktail, its relationship to other cocktails, and analyse its ingredients and flavours, while cocktails are accompanied by small plates. Jail cells within the bar – remnants from the building’s use as a police station in the 19th century – host tasting experiences including classes on whisky, rum, gin and beer. Each vault houses ten to 15 guests. The cocktail classes take place in a range of lounge spaces for up to 170 guests in total, available for private hire as studios or events spaces.

Fuller’s launches London Pride Unfiltered: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has launched London Pride Unfiltered – the brewer’s biggest beer launch in a generation. The 4.1% ABV, unfiltered variant comes in 30-litre kegs and is aimed at opening the brand up to a “new consumer and a new drinking occasion”. The beer is brewed true to London Pride’s original recipe but is dry hopped after to add character and flavour. With a goal of making the beer as natural as possible the beer is centrifuged, but not filtered or pasteurised, to retain taste and complexity. The company said London Pride Unfiltered has been “unashamedly designed to appeal to today’s younger consumer”. It is the first time since its launch in 1959 that the London Pride name and recipe has been used to diversify the range. Fuller’s Beer Company managing director Simon Dodd said: “London Pride on cask is a truly great beer and cask ale is, and always will be, the backbone of Fuller’s beer range. However, the recent investment we have made in brands like Frontier Craft Lager have proved Fuller’s has relevance to different consumers and different drinking occasions and we can compete in today’s dynamic beer arena with our own range of very drinkable beers. The London Pride brand name has heritage and authenticity and we feel the time has come to leverage these qualities and bring London Pride to a more contemporary environment.” Head brewer Georgina Young added: “By only using a centrifuge, we get a hazy beer but retain additional flavour to give London Pride Unfiltered more of the traditional character you have in the cask beer than in the conventional London Pride keg version.”

Starbucks brand perception takes hit following refugees hire vow: Starbucks’ pledge to hire refugees in response to President Donald Trump’s travel ban may end up hitting the company’s pockets. Starbucks’ “brand perception” has slipped dramatically since chief executive Howard Schultz vowed to hire 10,000 migrants in 75 countries during the next five years, according to the YouGov Brand Index. The research found the company’s rating had dropped by two-thirds since late January, when Schultz announced his new policy. Two days before the announcement, 30% of consumers said they would consider buying from Starbucks. Since the announcement, that number has dropped to 24%, the Mail Online reports. On 20 January, Schultz wrote in a letter to employees: “We are in business to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time – whether that neighbourhood is in a red state or a blue state; a Christian country or a Muslim country; a divided nation or a united nation. That will not change. You have my word on that.”

Healthy eating concept Skinny Kitchen makes Northern Ireland debut, third UK site: Healthy eating concept Skinny Kitchen has opened a restaurant in Belfast, the brand’s third UK site. The restaurant in Boucher Road operates a no-booking policy and offers a menu that “takes conventional meals and uses a waistline-friendly approach”. Dishes include lean steak mince and sweet potato chips, flaxseed waffles, protein bowls, low-carb pizzas and guilt-free desserts, alongside low-calorie cocktails and fresh pressed juices. The company uses locally sourced, natural ingredients such as free-range eggs and meat and aims to satisfy the needs of various diets, from high protein/low carb to vegan and vegetarian. The concept was launched in Ibiza in 2014 by former Bournemouth University student David Mason and three friends, who were looking for somewhere to eat that meant “all their hard work in the gym before their summer holiday didn’t go to waste”. When they couldn’t find anywhere, they decided to set up their own business on the island under the banner “eat clean, rave dirty”. Skinny Kitchen is backed by investors in the Lineker’s and Ocean Beach Club brands. The other Skinny Kitchen sites are in Bournemouth, Canterbury, and two in Ibiza.

BrewDog reveals its year in numbers: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has revealed the numbers behind the company’s performance in 2016. BrewDog, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, opened nine bars in 2016 and served 789,876 pints of Punk IPA, making its signature brew the highest-selling craft beer in the UK. It also shipped 214,000 hectolitres of beer by truck and sold 385 different guest beers online. The company brewed 82 different beers during the year, while it also released 259 recipes in its DIY Dog book, a document containing every BrewDog beer made in “one open-source home-brewing bible”. BrewDog increased its workforce during the year to 750, including 405 bar staff, while investor – or Equity Punk – numbers increased to 55,000. In terms of its AGMs, BrewDog said 6,000 Equity punks enjoyed the events at which 48,500 beers were poured and where 20 tours of its Columbus facility took place in eight hours at its Punk AGM USA. The company now has 300,000 followers on social media. This year has already been busy for BrewDog. This month, the company opened its DogTap Columbus brewpub at its new US brewery in Ohio and launched a “puppy parental leave” initiative for staff. During 2017, the company also plans to launch a bottling line, refrigerated supply chain, and sour brewpub in Ohio as well as a new book and updates to its app and website. Its first batches of Lone Wolf gin and vodka will be released soon and the company will launch a new IPA “some time during the year”.

Heston Blumenthal’s pub to close next month for shake-up of offer: The Michelin-starred pub in Berkshire owned by Heston Blumenthal is to close its doors for a three-week transformation. The Hinds Head in Bray will close on Monday, 27 March to undergo a major redesign. The new look will be themed around the building’s unique history, referencing its origins as a hunting lodge and coaching inn. As part of the refurbishment, the restaurant in High Street will offer a choice of three, four and six-course menus that will change on a monthly basis. The menus will celebrate British cooking and the eclectic style the restaurant has become known for in the past 11 years. On the ground floor, the space will be remodelled to create a larger dining area, but the grade-II listed oak panelling, antique beams and open fireplaces will remain. The wine collection will also be expanded and housed in its own private cellar, with a glass wall overlooking the dining room. Upstairs, guests will be able to explore the newly created lounge space with its own bar, which will be filled with sofas, armchairs, rugs, trophies and candles. A smaller menu of bar snacks will also be available from the kitchen.

Wadworth appoints first brand marketing managers: Brewer and retailer Wadworth has created two positions in line with its updated business strategy implemented under chief executive Chris Welham. Katherine Bond has been appointed beer brand marketing manager for off-trade and export, while Danny Champken comes on board as on-trade beer brand marketing manager. Bond joins from the Pets At Home Vet Group, where she was national campaign marketing manager. Apart from her primary role, Bond will lead the creation of consistent beer branding across all communications, including online, packaging, POS and consumer promotions for off-trade retailers. Champken joins from brewer and operator SA Brain, where he was cask development manager. His remit will see him manage the strategy for beer brands in the on-trade for Wadworth’s own pub estate and national pub company and free trade customers, while working alongside Bond to ensure complete synergy across all channels. He will also look to activate energetic consumer and trade campaigns. Wadworth head of marketing and communications Elaine Beckett said: “Wadworth created these positions as part of its ambitious new strategy and we are delighted to have Katherine and Danny on board to increase brand awareness and ultimately help to grow our beer sales. Their combined energy and experience in consumer marketing and within the hospitality sector makes them a fantastic addition to the Wadworth team.”

Fentimans shines in fastest-growing overseas sales list: Fentimans Botanical Beverages has been listed in the Sunday Times table of Britain’s 100 SMEs with the fastest-growing overseas sales. The drinks manufacturer, which employs 38 staff, has seen an 80.21% rise in international sales growth during the past two years, placing it 30th in the table. The Sunday Times said: “Since 1905, this Northumberland firm has been infusing, blending and botanically brewing ingredients such as ginger, juniper and burdock to create its mixers and soft drinks. Six years ago, Fentimans started focusing on exports and it now sells to more than 70 countries. Strong sales in the US, Belgium and Austria helped overseas sales grow to an annualised £5.9m in 2015.” The annual Sunday Times list is in its third year and ranks British private companies with total sales of between £5m and £25m in their latest year of accounts. Earlier this month, Fentimans reinvented its mixer tasting notes as it looked to kick-start plans to triple turnover.

Former Flying Pizza owner opens £2m high-end Mediterranean restaurant in Leeds: Martin Pickles, who owned The Flying Pizza restaurant in Leeds that was acquired by San Carlo Group in 2011, has joined forces with fellow entrepreneur Martin Hicks to build a high-end Mediterranean restaurant in the city. The £2m restaurant – Convive – is part of the University of Leeds-owned Weetwood Hall estate but retains an independent identity. Convive seats 120 and features an alfresco area under a retractable roof. It is twinned with Mediterranean restaurants across Europe to create “inspiration through innovative chef swaps and ingredient sourcing”. Pickles will manage the restaurant and look after the strategic direction of the business. After a decade at The Flying Pizza, he ran the Garrick Club’s restaurants and private dining rooms for five years in Covent Garden. This followed 14 years at Langans in London, where he worked alongside Hicks for the first time. Pickles told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “A high-end Mediterranean restaurant is what Leeds has been crying out for and I’m delighted to be back in the city I love and delivering the most exciting restaurant Leeds will have seen in many years.” Hicks is managing director of Weetwood Hall and has established it as a leading conference venue. He said: “We’ve created a true destination restaurant to rival anything in the city centre.” Profits from the Weetwood estate and Convive are gift-aided to the University of Leeds.

Tamarind Collection to launch new Indian dining concept in Soho: Tamarind Collection, which is behind the Michelin-starred Tamarind restaurant in Mayfair, is to launch a new Indian dining concept – Tamarind Kitchen – in Soho this spring. The 100-cover restaurant in Wardour Street will span two floors and feature a private dining room for up to 20 guests and a subterranean, late-night cocktail bar. The interiors will be designed by Russell Sage Studios and blend “soulful touches with the sophisticated”. Tamarind Kitchen will bring a “convivial Indian dining experience to the heart of buzzy Soho”, with reimagined dishes from Tamarind Mayfair. The menu will offer fish, meat, game and vegetarian dishes, with many cooked in an authentic tandoor oven. Starters will include a game platter (tandoor-cooked quail, duck and guinea fowl on a bed of vermicelli), while mains will include a traditional south Indian alappuzha fish curry with kingfish, spiced with tamarind, mustard and curry leaves. Tamarind of Mayfair, which won its Michelin star in 1999, is set to be refurbished early next year, while the group also owns Zaika of Kensington, which holds two AA rosettes. Tamarind Collection also plans to launch a south Indian concept in Fitzrovia.

Former The Square chef and sommelier unite to open modern British cuisine concept Lorne in Victoria: Chef Peter Hall and sommelier Katie Exton have teamed up to launch modern British cuisine concept Lorne in Victoria. The restaurant in Wilton Road aims to make the wine and food of equal importance. Hall and Exton met while working at two Michelin-starred French restaurant The Square in Mayfair and Lorne’s menu focuses on seasonal produce with an emphasis on using trusted suppliers. Exton’s wine list is “concise and regularly changing”, alongside a seasonally changing cocktail list and London-brewed bottled beers, as well as Monmouth Coffee and teas from Rare Tea Company. Exton has also worked at The River Cafe and was head sommelier at Chez Bruce, while Hall formerly worked at three Michelin-starred restaurant Benu in San Francisco. Also involved in the project are restaurateur Clive Watson (Blixen) and chef Phil Howard (The Square, Elystan Street).