Coffee shops lead rise in new store openings on the high street: Coffee shops led the rise in new store openings in British high streets last year, according to new research. Figures from PwC and the Local Data Company revealed in total the number of coffee shops increased by 4%, or 80 units, in 2015, thanks to companies such as Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee, which plans to open an extra 500 UK stores by 2020. The research showed British high streets lost 14 stores a day last year although the rate of closure has slowed to its lowest level in five years. About 5,138 shops closed down in town centres in 2015, compared with 5,839 in the previous year. Bank branches and cheque-cashing shops were particularly badly hit as well as clothing chains, convenience stores and mobile phone shops – the latter led by the collapse of Phones 4U. However, this was offset by 4,640 new openings last year, taking the net number of store losses to 498, compared with 987 in 2014. It also represents the lowest levels of churn – entries and exits – since 2010 as retailers adapt to changing consumer shopping habits. Mike Jervis, insolvency partner and head of deals retail specialist at PwC, said: “The openings are concentrated on experience type outlets, especially food and beverage and I’d also expect to see more growth in discount store openings this year. The closures reflect ongoing structured changes in retail banking and the higher regulatory hurdles facing so called money shops.” He added anecdotal evidence showed retailers choosing not to renew their leases was also adding to store closures, with the trend set to continue as more leases expire.



STR Global – UK has most hotel rooms under construction in Europe: The UK has the most hotel rooms under construction in Europe with 14,785 rooms in 178 hotels, according to a new report. STR Global’s February 2016 pipeline report also revealed there are 163,826 rooms in 1,139 hotels under contract in Europe – a 14.9% increase compared with last year. Under contract data includes projects in the “in construction”, “final planning” and “planning stages” but does not include projects in the “unconfirmed” stage. The region reported 62,885 rooms in 465 hotels under construction for the month – an 8.6% year-on-year increase. As well as the UK, three additional countries reported more than 5,000 rooms under construction: Germany (9,169 rooms in 44 hotels); Turkey (8,341 rooms in 51 hotels); and Russia (7,959 rooms in 39 hotels).



Costa has best value coffee per caffeine content, new survey shows: Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee has the best value coffee per caffeine content, a new survey has revealed. Money-saving website compared the cost and caffeine content of a standard 12 fluid ounce cup of Americano coffee at the UK’s most popular coffee shops. The findings showed Costa’s 12oz (80mg) Americano had the most caffeine overall at 195mg per serving and the best price per 100mg of caffeine at £1. At the other end of the scale, Caffe Nero coffee had the lowest caffeine content, which makes it the most expensive in the study at £2.56 per 100mg of caffeine – two-and-a-half times that of Costa. Greggs was the second best for cost versus coffee strength at £1.06 per 100mg of caffeine, followed by Pret A Manger at £1.30 and Starbucks at £1.40. said the reason for the variation in coffee levels is to do with the number and size of espresso shots in each serving, the blend of bean used and the preparation method. UK manager at Shane Forster said: “Many of us have a favourite place for our prized cup of coffee, but if it’s a caffeine rush you are looking for it is well worth taking into account the hugely varying levels of coffee strength and considering what you get for your cash at the main coffee shops on the high street.” The average person should consume no more than 400mg of caffeine in a day and pregnant women should have no more than 200mg, according to the European Food Safety Agency.



Pull’d launches £350,000 crowdfunding drive to open second site in London: Pull’d, the new slow-cooked fast casual brand, has returned to crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to raise £350,000 to open its second site in London. The company, led by a former adviser to Prezzo and Tasty, Sam Plumptre, and the corporate financier Chris Clarke, is offering a 36.42% equity stake in return for the investment. Having opened its inaugural site in Cannon Street in September 2014, it is now looking to build on its presence in the City by adding a second venue. The pitch states: “During 2015 we have augmented our offering, having reacted to customer trends and tastes towards healthier meals. In addition to adding our fresh juice bar, Squeez’d, we have released three new salads, which sell extremely well. We have also added healthier snacks that are more congruent with what nutrition-conscious customers in the City are seeking. Over the last year we have proved our concept works – significantly growing week-on-week sales and building a loyal and recurring customer base that love our food. Our site has a 1,000 square foot kitchen, which exceeds our present requirements but has the capacity to service more sites. We therefore believe this is the right time to open a second site, leveraging this kitchen to service it, and that’s why we’re here! We would like to build upon our presence in the City of London and open our second site just outside of our current catchment area (which we believe is circa 2km). We would also consider areas on the fringes of the City such as Farringdon, Clerkenwell, Old Street, London Bridge, Tower Hill and Canary Wharf; our key aim is to open in the vicinity of offices and benefit from high footfall.” The company forecasts a pre-tax loss of £105,931 in the 12 months prior to the crowdfund, which would reduce to £31,981 by 2018. It anticipates sales rising from £230,548 to £552,963 over the same period.


Gusto Italia pizza and pasta concept begins expansion with second Lancashire site: Italian pizza and pasta concept Gusto Italia is set to begin expansion by opening its second site in Lancashire. Gusto Italia’s original venue is in Bamber Bridge, but owner Vito Bruno will open a second venue, in Ashton-on-Ribble, in May. Gusto Italia serves pasta and wood-fired pizza to eat in or take away. Bruno told Blog Preston: “There are no other Italian restaurants nearby so we thought it was time to expand. We’re a family friendly restaurant and there’s going to be the same good food and atmosphere as we have in Bamber Bridge. We’ll have the same open oven and kitchen and there should be space for 80 to 100 people.” The new Gusto, in Watery Lane, will be set over two floors and open from 10am until midnight.


Theo Randall opens new casual dining concept in London: Celebrity chef Theo Randall has opened his new casual dining concept in London. Randall, who recently relaunched his restaurant at the Intercontinental in London, has opened Theo’s Simple Italian at Hotel Indigo London Kensington in Earl’s Court, reports Hot Dinners. The 54-cover venue serves cicchetti, such as grilled bramata polenta with smashed salt cod and red anchovies, and classic bruschetta with roasted datterini tomatoes, fresh marjoram and new season olive oil. There is also an Italian deli on site selling seasonal produce and a cold counter featuring homemade pastries in the morning and cakes, charcuterie and cheeses in the afternoon. Randall has brought in William Leoni to run the kitchen, who worked with him at the InterContinental and, before that, was at Sartoria. The menu includes Carne Salata (fresh rocket salad with cured black Angus beef, aged balsamic vinegar and parmesan), and Pappardelle con Ragu di Coda di Bue (fresh pasta with slow-cooked oxtail ragu and red wine. Drinks feature a mix of local and Italian craft beers plus an all-Italian wine list.



St Austell Brewery submits boutique hotel plan: St Austell Brewery, the new owner of the Head Weir House, located next to its Mill on the Exe pub in Exeter, has submitted plans for the redevelopment of the property to provide hotel accommodation. The company bought the property in December 2015. It has now submitted an application to Exeter City Council covering a change of use from residential dwelling to boutique hotel. The proposals will provide 11 guest rooms as well as creating the large beer garden thanks to the consolidation of the two properties. Headweir Mill House was originally attached to a 16th century mill located just below Blackaller Weir. A building is believed to have occupied the site since the early 18th century. The house was refurbished and updated later in the 19th century and retains many original features. Many of these will remain following the new works. Speaking at the time of the acquisition, Adam Luck, St Austell Brewery estate director, said: “We are very excited to have taken on this impressive building in a picturesque riverside spot along the River Exe, just a stone’s throw from Exeter city centre. Working closely with our long standing tenants, John Milan and Steve Bellman from Inns of Cornwall and Devon, the new guest accommodation enables us to offer our customers the complete package.”



SSP partners Snog to add frozen yogurt to Millie’s: Transport hub foodservice specialist SSP has partnered Snog to offer a selection of frozen yogurt alongside its Millie’s Cookies store at West Quay Shopping Centre in Southampton. The new shop offers customers four yogurt flavours – original and chocolate plus two seasonal favourites. A Snog is made with fat-free yogurt, sweetened with agave nectar to give it its refreshing taste. Simon Smith, chief executive of SSP UK and Ireland, said frozen yogurt is very much in vogue at the moment, and the addition of a frozen yogurt range would enable SSP to meet the demands of a culinary trend, as well as offering customers wider choice. He added: “One of the reasons we chose to partner with Snog rather than its competitors is because we believe it really is the best yogurt and it stands out in the market. With its cheeky persona and an outstanding product range, Snog is the ideal complement to our Millie’s Cookies brand.” Snog currently operates in ten locations in the UK, including Soho, Covent Garden, South Kensington and Westfield (White City).



Wildwood signs for Ilkley site: Tasty brand Wildwood has signed to open a site in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. The company has exchanged contracts on a 15-year lease at a cost of £100,000 per annum in the newly refurbished space in the town’s Station Plaza units. The 4,500 square foot unit in Brook Street was previously split into two, housing the Dorothy Perkins and Burton clothing store and the Co-operative Travel shop. The buildings have been combined and redeveloped by owner Addington Capital for Wildwood. Alex Wagstaff, partner at Addington Capital, told the Ilkley Gazette: “Ilkley is a thriving Yorkshire town, which is increasingly attracting investment. This parade is located around the town’s train station and benefits from a strong tenant line up, including PizzaExpress, Caffe Nero, Laura Ashley and M&S Simply Food, among others. We are excited about this and other opportunities to reposition and relet the high street properties in the portfolio.” Barker Proudlove will act for the landlords going forward.



MasterChef winner launches first restaurant – Mauritian street kitchen concept in Southampton: MasterChef winner Shelina Permalloo is launching her first restaurant in Southampton. Permalloo, who won the TV competition in 2012, will open Mauritian street kitchen concept Lakaz Maman in Bedford Place later this month, the Daily Echo reports. In a post on Instagram, she wrote: “We are ready to open soon so watch this space – it’s definitely this month and I’ll be opening with some offers as well. Cannot wait to share this amazing adventure with you. I’ve had a nightmare trying to get this restaurant sorted but the paint is on, furniture in and finally got the menu sorted.



Spanish tapas restaurant in Battersea to be replaced by new Caucasian restaurant concept: The leasehold of Spanish tapas restaurant Lola Rojo in London has been sold. Husband and wife owners Antonio Belles and Cristina Garcia have closed the venue in Northcote Road, Battersea, after nine years and it will be replaced by Jan, a new Caucasian restaurant concept specialising in small plates of salads, dips and spreads served with chargrilled meat and fish. Agent MKR Property acted on behalf of Lola Rojo on the 950 square foot unit, agreeing an assignment of the existing at a rent of £42,000 per annum together with a substantial premium. Jan was unrepresented. Belles and Garcia still operate Rosita & The Sherry Bar, which is also in Northcote Road and will now be open for lunch and dinner seven days per week. Lola, as it was affectionately know by the locals, featured in Gordon Ramsey’s The F Word in his search for the country’s best local restaurant in 2010.



Zizzi extends vegan options with new spring menu, introduces dairy-free mozzarella alternative: Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi has extended options on its new spring menu, including the introduction of a vegan and dairy-free mozzarella alternative – Mozzarisella – alongside a range of non-gluten dishes and a vegan dessert. Zizzi claimed it is the first restaurant chain in the UK to provide vegan pizza options that include a mozzarella alternative. Mozzarisella is 100% vegan, 100% organic and made entirely from germinated, Italian whole rice, without milk and lactose, the company said. It is also free from soya, gluten, lactose, food colouring and preservatives. The new menu also features non-gluten dishes such as summer beef short rib, slow-cooked and served with smoky sweet potatoes and Italian slaw. Zizzi has also introduced a vegan-friendly coconut and mango swirl gelato as well as a range of dishes that are 600 calories or fewer. Jo Fawcett, Zizzi marketing director, said: “We know dining out can be tricky if someone in your group can’t eat certain foods, so we’ve worked hard to ensure the new menu really does cater for everyone, no matter what their requirements may be.”



Chucs opens second London restaurant and menswear store: Chucs, a joint Italian restaurant and menswear store in Mayfair, has opened a second London venue, in Notting Hill. The restaurant has taken over the ground floor of a building in Westbourne Grove, with the company’s menswear collection housed upstairs, reports Hot Dinners. The Notting Hill menu features “classic Italian cuisine alongside a number of light and healthy options”, with breakfast specialities including matcha pancakes with banana, berries and mango sauce, and “cocoyogurt” (fresh coconut blended with banana and served with quinoa, honey and berries). The brunch and all-day menus both feature venison fillet with grilled polenta and wild mushrooms, while desserts include zabaglione with strawberries. Chucs has also included offerings from its Mayfair menu such as beef carpaccio. The venue also houses the express Italian Effe coffee bar, which features an outside garden terrace and offers light snacks and drinks to eat in or take away.