Veeno to launch ten franchise sites in 2018 before eyeing international openings: Italian wine cafe Veeno is to open ten sites under franchise next year as the company steps up expansion. The company, founded by Nino Caruso and Andrea Zecchino in 2013, will open its fourth franchised site on Thursday (14 December) in Eccelesall Road, Sheffield. Caruso told Propel the company, which now operates 18 sites in total, would accelerate expansion of the franchise business in 2018 and then consider a move abroad if it can find the right partners. It will open a site in Brighton in the first quarter of 2018, with the pipeline including Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle. The company has just opened its first two London sites – in Kingston and St Paul’s – and Caruso said the company was keen to add further sites in the capital as well in the regions. He added: “We are now looking to develop the business in London as well as cities smaller than where we’ve opened previously. We don’t know some of these areas as well as franchise partners. We have come a long way since we opened our first site in 2013 and have a platform in place to really push on, particularly on the franchise side. The format will remain the same – we can be flexible when it comes to sites. We’re looking at shopping centres as well as the high street – it’s a case of finding the right locations. We’re also keen to go into train stations and airports and we’re looking for a franchise partner that can help us.” Caruso said the company would also add “one or two” company-owned sites in 2018, with one set to be in Warrington, Cheshire. He added: “We’re very much looking to grow both sides of the business. Our target remains 80 sites by 2020 but it’s possible we will go above that. There’s certainly the potential for us to go abroad and there has been a lot of interest. It’s something we’ll probably look at in 2019 depending on finding the right partners but the UK market remains our immediate focus.” Caruso said current trading was “going very well”, with sites looking busy in the run-up to Christmas. He added: “These are really exciting times and we’re looking forward to growing the business.”

Four Winters set for further UK growth after London investor acquires majority stake: Liquid nitrogen ice-cream parlour brand Four Winters is set for further growth in the UK as part of $10m plans by its new owners. London-based investor Omar Alkhawaja has acquired a majority stake in Four Winters in a management takeover by current co-founder and chief executive Zeid Zabian. As part of the deal, the headquarters of Four Winters has moved from Jordan to London. The company currently has three parlours in London and is opening a site at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent in January. A spokeswoman told Propel another six sites would open in the UK in the next three years as part of the company’s expansion plans. Alkhawaja has purchased the shares from retail Saudi conglomerate Fawaz Al Hokair for an undisclosed amount resulting in Alkhawaja being appointed global chairman. Zabian will remain as chief executive of the business overseeing growth plans for existing and new territories. The new board of directors has committed to investing $10m in the next three years, with the aim of opening 50 parlours. The board has identified new sites in Los Angeles, New York and North Africa in addition to further sites in Jordan and the UK. Zabian said: “Our goal is to make sure we have the right organisational structure in place to strengthen our performance, which includes our 50 company-owned parlour target and the development of a franchising platform. While our growth plans are ambitious, we believe in our product and have a stellar global team to ensure expansion targets are met. We are looking forward to continued brand growth and success in 2018 and beyond.” Alkhawaja added: “This acquisition shows just how much I believe in Four Winters and everything the brand represents. Expanding in North America, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East as well as other potential territories is very exciting, but we do have our work cut out for us. That is why working with strong and committed partners as well as investing a substantial amount of our capital in our supply chain is very important. I am sure with the team we have and the vision in place, we are well poised to expand to all corners of the globe.”

Gusto strengthens executive team by appointing Boparan’s Matt Snell as commercial director: Premium casual dining restaurant brand Gusto, which is backed by Palatine Private Equity, has appointed Matt Snell as commercial director. Snell will join in January in a new role created to strengthen the executive team at the expanding brand, which has doubled in size since the Palatine investment in 2015. Snell joins Gusto from Boparan Restaurants, where he was brand director for Giraffe World Kitchen. Gusto chairman Jeremy Roberts said: “I am delighted to welcome Matt to the board. His wealth of experience and enthusiasm will assist the team greatly with the continued growth of the business.” Last week Gusto opened its 19th site, in Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands, following a £1m investment and creating more than 50 jobs. Palatine Private Equity supported managing director Sue Crimes and her team in a management buyout of Gusto from Living Ventures in 2014. Last month, the company told Propel it aims to open three sites in the south of England in the next 18 months having established itself across the north west, Yorkshire, the Midlands and Scotland. Gusto opened its first London-based restaurant, in Chislehurst, in the summer.

Oh You Pretty Things sold in pre-pack administration for just £20,000, new document reveals: Champagne and cocktail company Oh You Pretty Things was sold in a pre-pack sale for just £20,000, a new report has revealed. Mixed Blessings F&B, which traded as Oh You Pretty Things and entered administration in October, was bought by Nottingham F&B, a company that lists Craig Ince as a director, who was also the sole director and shareholder of Mixed Blessings. Oh You Pretty Things has bars at the Trafford Centre in Manchester, Metrocentre in Gateshead, Trinity Kitchen in Leeds, and Intu Lakeside in Essex. Earlier this year, it launched its first concession – Champagne Stories – with John Lewis at its department store in Oxford Street, London. The report by administrators Julien Irving, Andrew Poxon and Robert Barker, of Leonard Curtis Recovery, showed Nottingham F&B was the only company to make an offer. An initial bid of £18,000 for the business and assets, including a £5,000 goodwill payment, was made but secured creditor First Merchant said it would not release its security “given the level of consideration it was anticipated would be available to it under its fixed charge”. The goodwill payment was subsequently increased by £2,000 and the offer accepted. As a result of the sale, First Merchant, which was owed £109,883, received a distribution of £5,000. No distribution was made to unsecured creditors, who were owed a total of £288,786. The report also revealed the circumstances that led to the administration. Ince first met with Leonard Curtis Recovery in August. Trade across the group had not been “as successful as projected” and a number of sites were loss-making. The reported stated: “Supporting the group’s losses resulted in substantial inter-company loans. The loans impacted on the company’s cash flow to the extent the company had fallen into arrears with its landlord and suffered a build up of trade and tax liabilities. The director made attempts to source third-party investment by using a peer-to-peer lending platform in order to fund working capital, although this was unsuccessful.”

Just Eat takes 500,000 UK orders in a day for first time, developing ‘wand’ re-ordering app: Just Eat, the online food delivery business, has reported it has taken 500,000 UK orders in a day for the first time. The company stated: “In the UK on Saturday, 2 December we hit the monumental target of our first ‘half-million order day’ leading up to the X Factor live final. Such a fantastic achievement for our Just Eat family!” Meanwhile, the company has revealed it is developing the Just Eat Ordering Wand, which will allow customers to reorder their last takeaway in one swoosh. Once the user has logged into the wand app, it will show their last order and by pressing a button on the wand and waving it, the LED light at the tip of the wand will flash confirming their order has been placed. The company stated: “Not yet available to customers and currently in testing, the Just Eat Ordering Wand is all about making the ordering process as simple as possible so every Just Eat customer can pull a pizza from thin air in the comfort of their chair.” UK managing director Graham Corfield added: “We are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to use technology to offer more choice, ease or simply make the takeaway experience more enjoyable. One-wave wand ordering is very exciting technology. It takes that feel-good moment of being able to order your favourite meal at the touch of a button to the next level. It’s still very much at trial stage but has the potential to make mealtimes magical.”

Quintessential Brands’ turnover passes £90m boosted by UK revenue rise: Spirits producer Quintessential Brands has reported turnover increased to £92,155,000 for the year ending 31 March 2017, compared with £80,852,000 the previous year. Revenue increased to £34,408,000 in the UK, compared with £26,850,000 the year before. Sales were also up in Europe to £6,286,000 from £2,576,000 and the US to £7,601,000 compared with £5,894,000 the year before. Revenue in the rest of the world was down to £43,860,000 from £45,532,000, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Pre-tax profit was up to £462,000, compared with £167,000 the year before. The company stated: “The turnover increase was driven by volume growth in the group’s branded spirits portfolio and private label supply contracts. The group continued to invest in operational efficiencies, marketing activities and the internal brand marketing team to drive growth and expansion in line with strategy. A key part of the strategy is to grow and develop the brand portfolio and profits are currently reinvested into the business in the form of marketing expenses to drive future growth. The results were in line with expectations of the group’s directors. It is expected a competitive production and supply environment will persist in the near and long-term. The group strives to retain existing contracts and win new contracts through a focus on quality of production, customer service and innovation of liquids and packaging. The directors continue to look at potential opportunities to grow the group including opportunities to increase production capacity and operational flexibility. The group continues to develop new products and brands that will be launched in subsequent financial periods.”

Arkell’s Brewery acquires Cotswolds hotel off guide price of almost £2m: Swindon-headquartered brewer and retailer Arkell’s Brewery has acquired The Priory Inn in the Cotswolds sold off a guide price of £1,950,000. The company has bought the property in Tetbury from Dave and Tanya Kelly through agents Christie & Co. The Priory Inn consists of 14 en-suite letting rooms, four trade areas including an 82-cover restaurant and a large car park. Having owned The Priory Inn since February 2004, the Kellys have increased the annual turnover from £400,000 to in excess of £1,300,000 and have now decided to take on a new challenge outside the hotel industry. Arkell’s chairman James Arkell said: “We are delighted to be in Tetbury, a historic market town. The Priory Inn fits into our expanding portfolio of town bars with rooms.” The Kellys added: “After a very personal journey owning and operating The Priory Inn, we confidently hand the reins to Arkell’s family brewers knowing it will maintain the venue’s position at the heart of Tetbury’s great community.”

Freshii closes only UK site but vows Belfast return, opens 11th venue in Republic of Ireland: Canadian-based health brand Freshii has closed its only outlet in the UK just eight months after launching it in Belfast. The company opened the store in March, announcing a month later a second store would launch in the city followed by a third in Newry as part of plans for ten outlets in Northern Ireland. At the time, Freshii Ireland master franchise holders Dave O’Donoghue and Cormac Manning said the company was on track to open up to 50 stores on the island of Ireland within five years. However, a Freshii spokesperson insisted the company remained committed to Northern Ireland, telling the Irish News: “We love Belfast and can’t wait to get back open again.” Meanwhile, Freshii has just opened its 11th store in the Republic of Ireland, in Point Square in Dublin’s docklands. Since founder and chief executive Matthew Corrin opened the first Freshii site in Toronto in 2005, the brand has grown to more than 300 stores in 20 countries. Each Freshii restaurant features its own look and feel to fit within its local community.

Karali Group brings chicken wings concept Sticky Sisters to Essex for third site: Burger King UK franchisee Karali Group has opened a third site for its chicken wings concept Sticky Sisters, this time in Harlow, Essex. The restaurant has opened in the Harvey Centre creating 40 jobs and offering dine-in and takeaway services. Sticky Sisters specialises in chicken served with sauces ranging from mild to “ferocious”. There is also a gameshow-style wheel customers can spin if they can’t decide which sauce to choose. Sticky Sisters offers dipping chicken wings or tenders, platters of chicken and chips, and items in a bun including beef brisket, fish fingers, chickpea and spinach, and spicy bean. There are also rustic-style wraps, salads, sides and desserts alongside beer, wine, soft drinks and milkshakes. Karali Group managing director Salim Janmohamed told Essex Live: “We’re excited to bring our range of sauces and fun dining experience to Harlow as we continue to build the Sticky Sisters brand.” Karali Group opened the first two Sticky Sisters sites in May, in Leeds and Farnborough, while it operates 59 Burger King sites.

New Ascot Brewing Company owners launch £200,000 crowdfunding campaign to grow capacity and sales: The new owners of Ascot Brewing Company have launched a £200,000 crowdfunding campaign to ramp-up brewing capacity and sales. The Surrey-based micro-brewer was acquired by local businessmen Chris Davies and Mike Neame earlier this year. They are offering 25.54% equity in return for the investment and so far 80 investors have raised £54,560 with 46 days remaining. The pitch states: “Ascot Brewing Company was founded in 2007 focusing on cask ale and local pub trade. Seeing an unlocked potential in the brand, we acquired the brewery in early 2017 and have already taken steps to grow its sales to existing customers such as JD Wetherspoon, Co-op, Budgens and Waitrose as well as to new pubs, hotels and national retailers. We have relaunched with new branding and expanded the team, including the recruitment of award-winning head brewer John Willatts. We have focused on key accounts such as Co-op leading to extended range and listings, as well as new relationships with wholesalers to expand reach across the country. We believe this is just the beginning. We plan to increase brewing capacity to meet demand; build the team focusing on UK sales and export; roll out contactless NFC ‘smart pump clip’ technology; expand sales channels with an on-site shop and online sales; increase attendance at trade and consumer events with our horsebox taproom; and develop new products and formats including lager, keg, cans and new bottles. Ascot Brewing Company has ambitious goals to increase sales from the current £102,000 per annum (Ebitda -£20,000 to year-end June 2017).”

Islington-based pizzeria Zia Lucia to start expansion with Brook Green site: Islington-based pizzeria Zia Lucia is to start expansion by opening a second site in London, this time in Brook Green. The concept, which launched in Holloway Road in June last year, offers wood-fired pizzas featuring 48-hour fermented dough. The new 50-cover restaurant will open next month in Blythe Road with extra seating outside. Zia Lucia, Italian for “Auntie Lucia”, is the brainchild of Claudio Vescovo and Gianluca D’Angelo and offers four types of dough – traditional flour, vegetable charcoal black base, wholemeal and gluten-free. Unusual toppings include nduja, spianata salami, truffle honey, burrata, gorgonzola and vegan butternut squash cream. The menu also features Italian-style starters, seasonal specials, salads and desserts. The drinks menu focuses on spritzers, negronis, bottled beer from Italy and local brewers, and wine and prosecco sourced from small Italian producers. D’Angelo said: “The area embraces our ‘neighbourhood’ spirit and we hope to become the go-to destination for pizza-lovers in the West End.”

Hospitality payment app Zapaygo launches £500,000 crowdfunding campaign for expansion: Zapaygo, a lifestyle and payment app for the sports, concert, leisure and hospitality sectors, has launched a £500,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube for expansion. The app allows users to pre-order and pre-pay for food, drinks or goods before arriving at a venue or have them delivered to their table or home. Founder Richard Dilworth is offering a 5% equity stake in the company in return for the investment and so far £122,310 has been raised from 55 investors with 29 days remaining. The largest investment has been £50,000. The pitch states: “Zapaygo has contracts with listed and large corporate companies to ensure it reaches millions of users and thousands of venues. Of our initial partners, Verteda EPOS has about 750,000 weekly users and NEC Group will promote Zapaygo monthly to 28 million people. Planned revenue streams are processing fees, marketing advertising discounts and rewards, brand placement, and big data. Benefits to businesses include less cash on site, an ability to market to existing customers and Zapaygo users and offer discounts and rewards to encourage repeat visitors, and combining app orders and orders to staff in one payment. Benefits to users include rewards and discounts, using Zapaygo as an approved form of ID verification in venues through Paycasso, linking accounts with other Zapaygo users, and peer-to-peer payments and messaging. Commercial highlights include a key strategic commercial partnership that will deliver global brand awareness and trust, mass user and venue adoption, robust technology, EPOS integration benefits, flexible payment-processing with market-leading providers, revenue opportunities via ads and consumer trend data, and a scalable model capable of replication internationally.”

Cupcake concept Flavourtown opens first standalone bakery, in Parsons Green: Flavourtown Bakery, which sells cupcakes, brownies and cakes at markets, online and through stores such as Harrods and Selfridges, has opened its debut standalone site, in Parsons Green, south west London. The company has launched the store in Fulham Road, which opens from 7.30am to offer Caravan coffee and breakfast pastries alongside the brand’s usual treats. The new venue features its own flavour – Parsons Green Peanut Pie, which has an Oreo crust with a peanut butter cream cheese filling – alongside new flavours such as Toasted Hazelnut Tart and a Boss Brownie, Hot Dinners reports.

JD Wetherspoon named Britain’s most admired company in restaurants and pubs sector: JD Wetherspoon has been named the most admired company in Britain’s restaurants and pubs sector. The company was ranked 74th in the UK as part of a study by Management Today of Britain’s largest public companies. Management Today asked Britain’s largest public companies across 24 sectors to evaluate their peers. Analysts at leading city investment firms were also polled. Participants judged companies from zero (poor) to ten (excellent) in 12 criteria. Wetherspoon managing director John Hutson said: “The restaurants and pubs sector is extremely dynamic and competitive and it is rewarding to be seen as the best. Many of the companies listed in the overall rankings have been established far longer than Wetherspoon so it proves just how successful the company has been since it was founded in 1979. Our success is due to the sterling work of staff in our pubs and head office, our suppliers and, of course, our customers.”