Bistrot Pierre reports 32% increase in turnover, all new sites meeting expectations: Private equity-backed restaurant group Bistrot Pierre has reported turnover increase 32% to £25,760,000 in the year to 30 June 2017. Gross profit increased 32% to £9,530,000, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Bistrot Pierre, led by Robert Beacham, stated: “Despite the significant increase in overheads during the year, earnings before pre-opening costs, depreciation and amortisation has been maintained at £1,809,581 (2016: £1,885,141).” The company opened five new sites – in Weston-super-Mare, Birmingham, Altrincham, Mumbles and Mere Green – during the year and another in Kidderminster on 30 June. “All new sites opened during the year have traded in-line with, or ahead of, the directors’ expectations while customer feedback remained overwhelmingly positive,” the company stated. On 17 August this year the company secured another £3m of funding that will be used to open new restaurants in line with the strategic plan. Since the year-end, a site has opened in Middlesbrough and new sites in Southport and Preston have been secured. The company made a pre-tax loss of £897,327 in the year compared with profit of £33,972 the year before. The number of employees during the period increased to 789 compared with 574 the previous year. Bistrot Pierre, which currently operates 21 sites, received £9.8m from private equity firm Livingbridge in 2015 to support its expansion plans.

Escape room company Tick Tock Unlock fails in crowdfunding bid to raise £1m to open first London site: Regional escape room multi-site company Tick Tock Unlock has failed in its bid to raise £1m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to launch its first site in London. The company, founded by Ali Khan and Samrien Hussain, was offering a 20% equity stake in return for the investment. Crowdcube said: “Unfortunately Tick Tock Unlock did not reach its funding target before the closing date.” Tick Tock Unlock currently has company-operated venues in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester along with a franchised site in Glasgow. It was aiming to raise the funds to open its first site in London as it eyes a nationwide roll-out of owner-operated venues. The pitch stated: “Tick Tock is an immersive entertainment company with a single, unifying goal – create amazing experiences for our guests. We are unique in our product mix, and are looking to launch our London venue including free-roaming virtual reality experiences, and licence our technology and content internationally. Our focus is on creating a high-growth, location-based entertainment company. By owning all stages from concept to carefully crafting games to operations, we believe we have built a distinct competitive position in the entertainment-leisure sector. Escape games have seen an incredible growth globally, and virtual reality is establishing itself as an amazing growth opportunity in the out-of-home entertainment market. A total of 75% of the spend will be on the London venue and product development.”
Mudman to bring Greyhound Cafe concept to UK with London opening: Mudman, the master franchise operator of Au Bon Pain, Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin’ Donuts in Thailand, is to bring its Bangkok-style Greyhound Cafe concept to the UK. The company is opening the site in Berners Street in Fitzrovia, London, in January. The brainchild of Thai designer Bhanu Inkawat, Greyhound was unveiled as a fashion house in 1980. Later in 1998, Bhanu launched Greyhound Cafe in the neighbourhood of Sukhumvit and today there are 17 sites across Asia. Greyhound Cafe London will be set over two floors with a bar and dining room on the ground floor and a further dining room in the basement. Divided between small and large dishes, Thai-style “single plates” and a sizeable vegetarian section, the menu at Greyhound Cafe will pay homage to Thai cooking with Greyhound’s signature twists. A list of cocktails that spotlights both Thai heritage and new-generation drinks will be developed in partnership with Thai spirit distillery Mekhong, using the eponymous rum spirit as the base. There will also be Thai craft beer and coffee. Bhanu said: “London and Bangkok share a mutually cosmopolitan outlook, so I am very excited to be introducing Greyhound Cafe to Londoners. Although we are Thai at heart, the restaurant will be anything but a traditional Thai restaurant. Our inspirations come from far and wide, some recipes were handed down from our grandmothers, some were dishes from our travel memories and others were inspired by our midnight fridge raids. Just like in Bangkok, we mix traditional and international, street and couture, all fused together in a beautiful, chaotic way.”

McDonald’s begins review of global media account: McDonald’s has begun reviewing its global media account, putting 14-year incumbent OMD on alert. McDonald’s said it was looking at moving away from a single global media agency and, instead, it would select a number of local agencies. It is the first formal media review McDonald’s has held in 14 years after Omnicom’s OMD won the business. That coincided with the launch in 2003 of the global “I’m lovin’ it” campaign, created by Omnicom stablemate DDB. The review comes after McDonald’s hired Bob Rupczynski in March as vice-president of global media and customer relationship management. He told The Wall Street Journal the goal of the review was not to drive down agency fees and was about ensuring best service.

Nando’s to open second UK motorway services site next month, second to serve breakfast: Nando’s is to open its second motorway services site in the UK next month. The company is opening the restaurant at Cobham Services, which is between junctions nine and ten of the M25 in Surrey. The venue, which will have capacity for 138 guests –114 inside and 24 outside – will launch on Wednesday, 29 November. Opening from 6am, it will also be only the second Nando’s to serve breakfast after its Gatwick airport site. Regional managing director Diego Ulian told Get Surrey: “We’re thrilled to be opening our new restaurant at Cobham Services and we’re looking forward to hosting and feeding visitors with peri-peri goodness very soon.” The service station, which is operated by Extra MSA, has more than 20 shops and restaurants including Greggs, McDonald’s and Harry Ramsden’s, which is owned by Boparan Restaurant Holdings. The other Nando’s service station site in the UK is on the M40 near Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire.

Wild Beer Co gets go-ahead for £10m brewery project: Somerset-based brewer Wild Beer Co has been given the go-ahead for its £10m brewery project at the Royal Bath and West Showground. The company has been given permission by Bath & North East Somerset Council for the development that also includes a bar and restaurant, office facilities and a visitor centre. A spokesman told Somerset Live: “It will not only increase our capacity to brew, but will naturally create new job and career opportunities alongside providing a destination venue for people to visit – be that to the taproom, restaurant or our fermentation hall. We are proud to remain in Somerset and be a contributing factor in the food and drink scene both locally and on a national and international scale.” Earlier this year, Wild Beer Co, which was founded by Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis, raised more than £1.8m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube towards the project. The original brewery site at Westcombe Dairy will also be maintained and developed into a “barrel-ageing mecca”, one of the first of its kind in the UK.

Bob & Berts gets go-ahead for 12th site: Northern Ireland coffee company Bob & Berts, which is backed by the Business Growth Fund, has been given the go-ahead to open its 12th site – and first in County Armagh. The company has been granted permission by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to open the site in High Street, Portadown. In addition to the Portadown site, the company has its third venue in County Tyrone in the pipeline with a site earmarked in Cookstown, reports Armaghi. Bob & Berts has also confirmed an interest in opening in Armagh city centre. Bob & Berts began life on the north coast with an outlet at Portstewart while its most recent site opened in Market Square in Dungannon. In August, the company secured £2m from the Business Growth Fund to support its expansion plans as it looks to open 30 new outlets across Northern Ireland, as well as Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

JD Wetherspoon denies poppy ban after Twitter hoax causes uproar: JD Wetherspoon has clarified it has not banned staff from wearing Remembrance Day poppies, after a spoof Twitter account claimed it had. The fake account generated a lot of angry replies after claiming “ever expanding multiculturalism” was the reason staff would not be wearing poppies this year. But the tweet, which has gone viral, was exposed as a fake from what Wetherspoon described as a “troll” account. Wetherspoon said in a statement: “We do support the Poppy Appeal in all our pubs.” From its official Twitter account @jdwtweet, it added: “Yet again, the spoof Wetherspoon Twitter account @Wetherspoon_UK has crossed the line with its distasteful and insensitive tweet about the wearing of poppies. JD Wetherspoon is in no way connected with this Twitter account and neither shares nor condones its posts. In our opinion, although the unofficial spoof account is stated to be a parody account, tweets like this are simply not funny. #Digitaltrolls.”

Dessert restaurant operator Icestone Gelato opens 11th site as it adds to Liverpool presence: Dessert restaurant operator Icestone Gelato has opened its 11th site as it adds to its presence in Liverpool. The company has opened the flagship branch above better burger brand Five Guys in Queen Square. It is one of the company’s biggest sites with more than 150 seats. The restaurant makes its own fresh gelato every day and serves a selection of waffles, cookie dough, crepes, fondue, profiteroles, cheesecakes alongside milkshakes, smoothies and mocktails. The menu also has a “back to school” section that features traditional hot dinner-style school puddings with custard, reports the Liverpool Echo. Icestone Gelato has outlets across the north and Midlands, including its other Liverpool site, in Myrtle Street.

Tom Kerridge not to take Knightsbridge restaurant slot: Two Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge will not take over the Rib Room at the five-star Jumeirah Carlton Tower. The Knightsbridge restaurant has opened without Kerridge’s involvement with no apparent explanation. Kerridge said he planned to introduce a “swinging sixties” feel to the restaurant, recalling the era of mini-skirts, psychedelia and pop-art of the Rib Room’s first decade. But relations between Kerridge and the hotel appear to have soured since the announcement was made. Last week, Kerridge revealed Dubai Holdings, the owners of the Jumeirah Carlton Tower, had “changed its intentions” for the Rib Room and gone ahead without him. It has been reported Kerridge was given no reason for the change of mind. He said: “We are all hugely disappointed this project is not working out as we wanted since we had exciting plans to create a dining experience that would have celebrated the heritage of the building. However, Jumeirah has made a decision to reopen The Rib Room without any notification and without the restaurant transferring management. The fact there has been no sign of the planned refurbishment has left us in a very difficult position.” A statement from Kerridge’s team said: “We would like to reiterate and make clear the reopening of the Rib Room has absolutely nothing to do with Tom Kerridge, The Hand and Flowers or The Coach, contrary to the considerable publicity earlier in the year, which identified the Rib Room would be the first London opening for Kerridge in 2017.”

Taco Bell lodges plans for second Scottish site and UK drive-thru: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell has lodged plans to open its second Scottish site – and second UK drive-thru. The company has applied to Renfrewshire Council to open the restaurant in Linwood at Phoenix Retail Park. The two-storey restaurant would be built on land near the Showcase Cinema, KFC and Ashoka Shak. It is expected to seat 102 diners, reports Renfewshire 24 News. The Adil Group, which operates more than 120 KFC, Burger King and Costa Coffee sites across the UK, is to open Taco Bell’s first Scottish site, in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow city centre in December. Taco Bell has 18 sites in England, including its only other drive-thru, in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire.

Newport-based Niche Hospitality to open fifth site in city next month: Newport-based Niche Hospitality is to open its fifth site in the Welsh city next month. The company is launching steak and chicken restaurant concept Sixteen, in High Street, on Thursday, 16 November. The building, which was previously home to the Parc Central restaurant and bar, will feature three spaces – the lobby, the restaurant and the terrace. Lewis Lewis, who co-owns the business with Seng Koh, told Insider Media: “We believe our new restaurant Sixteen is offering something really exciting and new for the city of Newport. The menu centres on first-class steak sourced from around the world including from Argentina and Wales as well as supreme quality chicken and it’s all prepared fresh and in house for convivial sharing.” Niche Hospitality already operates Mojo the FoodBar, Dog ‘N’ Dough, Riverside Sports Bar & Kitchen, and Hide and Sea in the city.

Jamie Rollo – Merlin does not seem to be overpricing on admission compared with its peers: Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has argued Merlin Entertainments does not seem to be overpricing on admission compared with its peers. He said: “Merlin has come under some scrutiny for its pricing (eg Madame Tussauds £35, Legoland Windsor £60, London Eye £26, all adult gate prices), which sound high, particularly for a family. However, fewer than 5% of its customers pay this walk-up price, in the same way very few hotel guests pay the rack rate. In reality, Merlin’s average admission/ticket price per capita was £11.76 for its Midway Attractions division, £14.33 for Resort Theme Parks and £19.50 for Legoland parks last year. These are in-line with or below comparable operators, and relatively low we think given the parks offer a full day’s entertainment and some of the Midway sites are often banner city centre attractions. Note these are reported net of VAT, and include annual pass visitors, so the price to infrequent visitors is likely higher, but the same goes for the competitors, suggesting Merlin is not out of kilter. We think most of the problems Merlin has faced this year are external factors, including terrorist attacks in London and adverse weather in the US and Europe, and indeed its competitors have all referenced the same issues, suggesting Merlin is not facing anything specific.”

Five Guys to open site at Derby shopping centre next month: Better burger brand Five Guys will open a site at Intu’s shopping centre in Derby next month. The company will open a 2,612 square foot space on Monday, 27 November in the new leisure extension, close to Hollywood Bowl and Paradise Island Adventure Golf. Five Guys head of property Neville Maling said: “Securing a prominent space alongside the city’s best new leisure extension is an important part of our expansion plans. With this exciting leisure offer, 23 million visits each year and 2.2 million catchment population, Intu Derby is the perfect fit for Five Guys.” Intu regional managing director Nick Round added: “We’ve been well placed to support Five Guys’ UK expansion in recent years, with new openings across our national portfolio of shopping centres. The restaurant will perfectly complement the centre’s rapidly growing leisure offer.” Five Guys, which was founded in Virginia in the US in 1986 by the Murrell family, has 75 sites in the UK. It opened its first in Covent Garden in 2013 with restaurants listed on its website as “coming soon” including Colchester and York.

Heavenly Desserts opens sixth site, in Oxford: Artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts has opened its sixth site – and most southerly to date – in Oxford. The company has opened the venue in London Road in the suburb of Headington. Desserts include Ferrero Rocher cookie dough and the signature I’ll Have What She’s Having (ice cream, waffles, strawberries, chocolate and strawberry sauce). The concept also offers pancakes, fondant, cheesecake, cakes and indulgent milkshakes, reports the Oxford Mail. Heavenly Desserts was founded in 2008 and has stores in Nottingham, Birmingham, Leicester, Preston, and Derby while it is opening a site in Liverpool on Thursday (2 November). In May, the company launched a franchise concept with plans to open 200 sites across the UK. The other sites listed on its website as “coming soon” are in Bradford, Cardiff, Chester, Coventry, Lincoln, Manchester, Northampton and Norwich.

Corbin & King appoints Verb to drive restaurant digital strategy: London restaurant operator Corbin & King has appointed Verb Brands to drive its restaurant digital strategy. Verb has been tasked with rebuilding Corbin & King’s online properties and drive the success of the brand online after winning a competitive pitch. Corbin & King head of marketing and PR Helen Snook said: “I am delighted to be working with Verb to enhance and grow the digital presence of our restaurants. Its team’s passion, commitment and creativity was evident from our first meeting and I am confident we have the right partner with whom to realise our ambitions and countless opportunities online.” Founder and managing director of Verb Chris Donnelly added: “Working and innovating on a portfolio of iconic London venues is why we do the jobs we do – throughout 2017/2018 we will be using our brand and digital team to deliver highly custom experiences for each of the venues and deploying the performance marketing team at Verb to drive success and growth online.” Corbin & King operates seven restaurants in central London, including the Wolseley, and The Beaumont.

Merseyside-based operator Mikhail Investments to open second Punch Tarmey’s, in St Helens: Merseyside-based operator Mikhail Investments is to take its Irish pub concept Punch Tarmey’s to St Helens. The company is investing £500,000 transforming the former Zoo Bar building in Westfield Street into the new venue, which is due to open in December. It will be the second Punch Tarmey’s, which is named after company owner Andrew Mikhail’s Irish great-grandfather Michael Tarmey, who was a champion boxer in the early 1900s. The first site opened in Southport last year. Mikhail Investments also operates The Bold Hotel and Khepri restaurant and nightclub, both in Southport, and the Eccleston Arms Hotel in St Helens. Mikhail told the St Helens Star: “We are delighted to be opening another site in St Helens and we’re very excited about the plans we have for it.”

Teesside-based Italian restaurant lodgers plans for second site: Teesside-based Italian restaurant La Porto Italiano has lodged plans to open its second site. La Porto Italiano, which is rated the best restaurant in Billingham on TripAdvisor, has applied to Stockton Council to open a venue in Norton. Owner Adil Lletmis is hoping to open the restaurant in Norton Road by April. Lletmis told Gazette Live: “Our aim is to be as successful there as La Porto Italiano Billingham.” On TripAdvisor, customers at the Billingham branch praised the “very tasty” food, while others dubbed the restaurant a “gem”.

Feltham-based mobile catering company set to open first restaurant: Feltham-based mobile catering company Trinity Catering Services is set to open its first restaurant. The company has lodged an application with Hounslow Council for an alcohol licence to open Leda in Brentford, which would serve “Indo-Fusion” food. The restaurant, based in a parade of shops in London Road, would have 45 covers over two floors with the main seating on the ground floor with extra tables in the basement. The restaurant would be open until 11.30pm most nights, reports Brentford TW8.