Curious Restaurants reports like-for-like growth of almost 30%: Curious Restaurants, which operates The Jones Family Project in Shoreditch, east London, has reported like-for-like sales grew nearly 30% in March. The company, founded by Duncan Watts and Amit Joshi, said it was “extremely pleased with the performance given it was a pretty soft month in the restaurant trade in general”. Curious Restaurants has just launched a £600,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open its first two Jones Family Kitchen sites and roll out the concept. It is offering a 19.35% equity stake in return for the investment. So far, it has raised £235,550 from 94 investors with nine days remaining. The largest investment to date is £85,000. The pitch states: “We are about to enter the next stage of our business life by building the first two Jones Family Kitchens. These restaurants will be smaller, more accessible siblings to the flagship Jones Family Project. Our aim is to establish the Jones Family Kitchen at the upper end of premium casual dining and grow a business across the UK. The Jones Family Kitchen model is based on a smaller 80 to 100 seats with a single bar. We believe this is a more replicable model and easier to roll out across the country. Our business plan involves us building two of these sites each year for the next three or four years. They will be in London and the larger regional towns and cities.”

Northamptonshire-based gourmet burger company Mu Mu opens third site: Northamptonshire-based gourmet burger company Mu Mu has opened its third site in the county, this time in Wellingborough. The new restaurant has launched in High Street. Mu Mu opened its first site in Kettering in 2014 followed by an outlet in Northampton in December 2015. The concept offers elaborate burgers, pizzas, cocktails and “freakshakes”, which are milkshakes topped with cakes, doughnuts and other sweet things. The restaurants feature an industrial, urban theme and loud music. Last year, owners Gareth and Emily Disante said they were looking to build a chain of six sites in the East Midlands.

Giggling Squid uncovers secret cellar with vintage wine worth £20,000 beneath new Windsor restaurant: A team working on a new restaurant in Windsor for Thai restaurant group Giggling Squid has uncovered a secret cellar stocked with vintage wines worth £20,000. Builders uncovered a trap door and hidden staircase to a cellar, which was filled with two feet of water. They found cases of unopened wine alongside stock-taking notes dating to 1980. Before the restaurant, which will open this summer, was taken over last year by Giggling Squid, the site housed Casual Dining Group-owned Bella Italia and Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi. Prior to this it was owned by Italian restaurateur Peppino Battocchi, who operated Don Peppino’s at the site until the early 1980s. Giggling Squid co-founder Andy Laurillard told The Times: “We planned to increase the site by extending it at the back but this astonishing discovery might present the perfect solution. Our wine expert thinks the contents of the cellar are worth around £20,000 – if the contents aren’t spoiled. He is still going through the stock deciphering the old, faded and damp labels.” In February, Giggling Squid acquired its first London site, in Wimbledon, which will open in the summer. The group operates 20 sites, with another to open in Brentwood, Essex, in April. Giggling Squid took a £6.4m investment from the Business Growth Fund in 2015 to accelerate growth plans.

JKS Restaurants brings Bubbledogs to Swingers site: JKS Restaurants has brought its gourmet hotdog and champagne concept Bubbledogs to the Swingers crazy golf emporium in the City. JKS has replaced its Hoppers concept, which offers snacks from southern India and Sri Lanka, with Bubbledogs. It line ups alongside better burger brand Patty & Bun and the Elliott brothers’ Pizza Pilgrims, offering hotdogs that include the Happy Gilmore (with baby gem lettuce, bourbon-caramelised onions, horseradish ketchup and cheese), and Chocolate Dog (with Jivara chocolate ganache in a sweet cinnamon brioche bun, and cherry and banana sauce), Hot Dinners reports. Swingers is set over 16,000 square feet of Brown’s Buildings, close to the Gherkin, and offers two, nine-hole crazy golf courses, five bars, a two-storey clubhouse with gin terrace, and nightly DJs. JKS Restaurants was founded by the Sethi family and also operates the Trishna and Gymkhana brands.

Arc Inspirations reports record opening week at second Manahatta site: Arc Inspirations has opened its second Manahatta site, this time in Leeds’ Greek Street – with it achieving the company’s best ever opening week. The new venue, the company’s 15th in total in its portfolio, is set over 5,500 square feet, can accommodate 150 covers, and has created more than 60 jobs. Manahatta Greek Street adopts a “downtown chic” decor and brings a “taste of New York to Leeds”. It serves an extended food menu in comparison with its sister site in Leeds’ Merrion Street, including an all-day American-style brunch available seven days a week until 4pm. Martin Wolstencroft, owner and managing director of Arc Inspirations, said: “I’m extremely proud to have finally opened Manahatta, Greek Street, even more so as it’s our second site in Leeds. The prestigious Greek Street location is a fantastic setting and will complement the existing Merrion Street site perfectly. Our £1.2m investment into creating this second site not only reinforces our offering and reassures customers of its quality, but allows us to create a brand we can roll out to other cities in the future. The expansion cements our reputation as pioneers of innovative dining and drinking experiences in the north of England, and I’m confident we can continue to offer the people of Leeds a fantastic experience every time they visit.” Arc Inspirations has a £20m-a-year turnover.

Bel-Air and Black Sheep Coffee secure sites at Leadenhall Building to complete retail line-up: Healthy fast food brand Bel-Air and London-based independent coffee shop Black Sheep Coffee have secured sites at the Leadenhall Building in the City to complete its retail line-up. The companies have signed leases after agreeing deals with British Land and Oxford Properties, who are joint partners behind the project. Black Sheep Coffee has taken 2,100 square feet and Bel-Air has taken 1,760 square feet ahead of opening this spring to join Leonid Shutov’s first restaurant in the City, which opens later this year, reports Property Week. The Leadenhall Building will be Bel-Air’s third restaurant after its sites in Shoreditch and Farringdon. Meanwhile, Black Sheep Coffee, which provides speciality coffees and coffee-inspired cocktails, operates six sites with the Leadenhall deal one of five new sites in the pipeline. It is also opening at Regents Place, the Centre Point building and Principal Place as well as the South Bank Tower, its first site south of the Thames. The Leadenhall Building provides 610,000 square feet of office space over 45 floors. British Land and Oxford Properties exchanged contracts for the sale of the Leadenhall Building to CC Land on 1 March. Completion is conditional on approval by the shareholders of CC Land. The joint venture is represented by Davis Coffer Lyons.

Little Lion Entertainment opens second Crystal Maze Experience, in Manchester: Entertainment company Little Lion Entertainment has opened its second Crystal Maze Experience, in Manchester. The live experience, inspired by the Channel Four show that ran from 1990 to 1995, has taken over the Old Granada Studios, which were once home to Coronation Street and The Royal Family. It builds on Little Lion Entertainment’s first location, which opened in London last year. The Crystal Maze Manchester features 24 new games alongside new iterations of old favourites. Once in The Crystal Maze, groups of eight contestants work their way through four zones – Aztec, Medieval, Industrial and Future – completing a series of timed challenges before heading to the famous dome itself. Chief executive Tom Lionetti-Maguire told The Business Desk: “We had been considering where our second venue would be for a while and every time we came to Manchester, it just made sense. Then we found this space at Old Granada Studios and we have been working on it since September. It is quite different to our venue in London thanks to more space and height. There is everything from a mini-roller coaster and giant ball pit to a giant-sized version of space invaders.”

McDonald’s to sell sauces on grocery channel: McDonald’s appears to be planning to sell bottles of the sauces used in Big Macs, Filet-o-Fish and McChicken sandwiches at retail chains in North America. Foodology first reported on the development earlier this month after observing the products at the Grocery & Specialty Food West Convention. New York Post followed up on the development last Friday. Heinz Kraft is believed to be involved in the distribution in Canada. There has been no confirmation from McDonald’s regarding how broad the sauce initiative will be in the US.

Franchisee takes on second Papa John’s site in Staffordshire: Steve Huson, who operates a Papa John’s franchise in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, has taken over his second Staffordshire site, this time in his home town of Stoke-on-Trent. Huson joined Papa John’s in 2016 after being a Subway franchisee for more than ten years. He took over the Papa John’s site in Newcastle in September, boosting sales by 75%. He said: “I will employ a similar strategy in Stoke-on-Trent, with the aim of keeping staff motivated and delivering top-quality pizza to ensure our customers keep coming back for more. It is so exciting to be opening in my home town. I am looking forward to growing sales in the new outlet and have plans in the pipeline to add another Papa John’s soon.” Papa John’s has more than 350 sites across the UK and over 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.

Shepherd Neame reopens Kent village pub following £1m refurbishment: Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has reopened The Minnis Bay Bar and Brasserie in the village of Birchington following a £1m refurbishment. The investment comes as part of the company’s strategy to “provide great destinations for eating and drinking in the best locations”. The site has been remodelled and features a new bar with a coffee lounge and 100-seat restaurant. The ice cream beach hut has also been refurbished along with new toilets, staff area and cellar. The menu takes inspiration from its seafront location, featuring classic and modern seafood dishes as well as stonebaked pizzas cooked in the new pizza oven. Director of retail and tenanted operations Nigel Bunting told Kent Live: “This is a wonderful setting and we wanted to make sure we did justice to it.”

Petersham Nurseries to open Covent Garden site in June with restaurants, wine cellar and bar: Petersham Nurseries, whose Richmond cafe once held a Michelin star under chef Skye Gyngell, is to open its long-awaited restaurant, bar, deli and flower shop in Covent Garden in June. The 16,000 square foot space in Capital & Counties’ Kings Court development in Floral Street will focus on sustainable British produce with an Italian influence, The Handbook reports. Phase one of the project, featuring a delicatessen, wine cellar, and homes and gardens shop, will open in late June, with phase two seeing the launch of two restaurants, a bar and courtyard in September. The cafe at Petersham Nurseries’ Richmond site won its Michelin star in 2011, retaining it the following year. However Gyngell, who now runs Spring in Somerset House, dubbed the award a “curse”, adding at the time: “Since we got the star we’ve been rammed every single day, which is really hard for such a tiny restaurant. And we’ve had lots more complaints. People have certain expectations of a Michelin restaurant.”

Ossett Brewery rebrands amid brewery expansion: Ossett Brewery Pub Company is undergoing a rebrand as it invests in the growth of its brewery. The company is building a cold storage warehouse to extend capacity at its West Yorkshire site because of demand for its beer. Work has already started on the site of Ossett’s existing brewery and the 12,000 square foot warehouse is set to open by the end of the year. The brewery employs 28 staff and will increase its workforce by 40 during the next three years with plans to move into packaged products. Ossett beers are sold across its own estate of 24 pubs and restaurants as well as via wholesalers. Owner Jamie Lawson told The Business Desk: “The main company logo remains the same but we have toned down the colours, making it fit better into a wider variety of applications. For the new pump clips we have deconstructed the full logo somewhat to create a sleeker design. We have found it difficult to effectively fit the full logo on to the front of a limited-size pump clip, so we have used our ‘red bar’ only, which prominently displays the company name. With a major new brewery expansion coming this autumn, we feel we are now in a better position to elevate our brands to new successes.”

Marston’s premium division Revere eyes historic Leeds venue: Marston’s premium division Revere Pub Company has applied to open a venue in The Leeds Club, a former gentlemen’s club that became an events and conference venue. Marston’s has applied for permission to develop the grade II-listed building in Albion Place to offer Revere’s gastropub-style menus, steaks, craft beers, cocktails and wine. Revere already operates cocktail bar The Lost and Found in the city’s Greek Street. According to the proposals, the new bar would be split over two floors, with a separate dining room. The new business would create about 45 jobs, the Yorkshire Evening Post reports. Last week, Revere announced it is set to start expansion of its Foundry brand by opening a second site, this time in Harrogate. The Foundry Project will open on Friday, 28 April with a focus on cocktails, craft beer and Caravan coffee, as well as sourdough pizzas, burgers and sharing platters.

Creams Cafe to open Brentwood site: Dessert cafe operator Creams Cafe is to open a site in Brentwood, Essex. The company is opening the venue in High Street on the site of the former Garlock shop. The new cafe will be opposite milkshake store Yaya, which counts rap artist Lethal Bizzle and Dean Chapman, who plays Tommen in Game of Thrones, among its fans, reports Essex Live. Creams Cafe serves waffles, crepes, sundaes, milkshakes and 36 varieties of ice cream in the style of Italian gelato. It has 46 sites in the UK and is set to continue expanding with another 58 venues listed as “opening soon” on its website.

Manchester-based bar and restaurant operator lines up second site in city: Manchester-based bar and restaurant operator Dan Pollard is lining up his second site in the city. Pollard, who owns The Pen And Pencil in Hilton Street, plans to launch a venue in nearby Stevenson Square. The as-yet-unnamed venue will include a cocktail bar and restaurant spread over two floors in the former Flawless photography studios, next door to celebrity hairstylists Reuben Wood. Pollard told Manchester Confidential: “I’m looking forward to adding something new to the Northern Quarter’s rich mix of food and drinks venues.”

Former FA chairman’s hotel group acquires third site, in Manchester: A hotel group co-owned by former Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has acquired its third site, this time in Manchester. Vine Hotels has bought Best Western Cresta Court, a three-star, 148-bedroom hotel in Altrincham that offers three function suites and the Townfields bar and restaurant. Rooms at the hotel were refurbished recently, while seven executive rooms have been added and Townfields relocated and updated. Vine Hotels chief executive Garin Davies told Insider Media that Cresta Court was a “great business and anyone who hasn’t visited the hotel for a while will be very pleasantly surprised by the high levels of quality and service”. Vine, which has hotels in Sheffield and Southampton, is jointly owned by Dyke, Garin Davies and Andrew Rouse.

Whitbread lines up 102-bedroom Premier Inn on outskirts of Reading: Whitbread is lining up a 102-bedroom Premier Inn on the outskirts of Reading. The company wants to build the £8m hotel, which would feature a 190-cover Beefeater restaurant, on the site of the empty Oakdene Court office complex in Reading Road, Winnersh. Oakdene Court, just off the Showcase Cinema roundabout, has been empty since 2012. Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants acquisition manager Stuart Rose told Get Reading: “The site at 613 Reading Road is well positioned for a new hotel and leisure development. It benefits from excellent transport connections and is very accessible for existing businesses in the Winnersh Triangle Business Park. Our next step is to engage local residents and businesses on the proposals ahead of submitting a planning application in the coming months.”

Chester hotel goes on the market for more than £36m: A 218-bedroom hotel in Chester has been put on the market with offers sought in excess of £36m. Hallmark Hotel The Queen Chester, which is located opposite the city’s train station, is being marketed by agent Christie & Co. The property features 218 bedrooms split across two interconnected buildings. They are the Queen, the original grade II-listed property with 131 rooms, and the Kings, a former office now housing the remaining 87 rooms. Barrie Williams, managing director of hospitality at Christie & Co, told Insider Media: “After receiving unsolicited bids, we advised management that the investor market for these types of hotels/locations remained strong. Hallmark Hotel The Queen Chester offers fantastic value enhancement and asset management opportunities to generate further revenue and profit for the business, some of which the owners are currently implementing and others that have the benefit of planning permission.”