Luke Johnson – operators confident to expand in wake of Brexit will have more opportunities available: Sector investor Luke Johnson has criticised negative thinking in the wake of the Brexit vote. Responding to comments by Leon founder John Vincent, who said he had a “very demoralised team who think they are not welcome in Britain any more” following the referendum, Johnson said: “Entrepreneurs and leaders of business need to remain optimistic and encouraging to motivate their teams. There is no point in remaining gloomy or dwelling on what might have happened. If investment in the sector drops, then those who are confident enough to expand have more opportunities available. We bought control of PizzaExpress during the deep recession of the early 1990s, and grew Patisserie Valerie right through the last recession, taking advantage of lower rents, more property availability, and keen builders. The better operators will continue to succeed – those with distinctive offerings will always take share. Banks are still willing to lend for sensible propositions and interest rates are at record lows. Restaurateurs and publicans are in low ticket, affordable treat territory – eating and drinking out are such an established part of consumers’ lifestyles that I believe the public will continue to spend even if the economy is uncertain for a period. I do not want migrant workers in the hotel, restaurant and bar sector to depart, but we must prepare for the possibility that some will go. The industry should train more of the indigenous population in the skills of the hospitality trade – it makes no sense for us to rely so heavily on an immigrant workforce when there are able-bodied, unemployed workers here already. I have co-founded two career colleges in Liverpool and south London specialising in the hospitality industry and offering vocational training, but we must all do more to make a difference. Britain should develop a culture where the hospitality field is seen as a highly attractive place to work. This is a dynamic, flexible sector that has thrived through many ups and downs. Britain still offers perhaps the best returns in the world to enterprising investors and operators in the food and drink business, which is why so many overseas players are opening here. Short-term weakness is merely the signal to redouble efforts while looking to seize the next challenge.”
Living Ventures to open first speakeasy basement bar at forthcoming Alchemist site in Birmingham: Living Ventures will bring its Alchemist cocktail bar brand to Birmingham in September, which will feature the company’s first late-night speakeasy bar in the UK. The company is opening the site at the historic Grand Hotel in Colmore Row on Monday, 26 September. It will also include a basement speakeasy bar described as a “wonderland with 18ft ceilings covered in a canopy of lights” with a bespoke copper-clad entrance. There will also be a 66-cover restaurant with food that includes a brunch menu as well as a varied main menu. The Alchemist managing director Simon Potts told the Birmingham Mail: “The design of the Birmingham basement bar will be most similar to our Alchemist bar in Greek Street, Leeds, but of course this will be different as it will be in keeping with the history of the Grand and showcasing this to the best effect, for example the magnificent pillars that give a reminder of the past grandeur of the place.” The Alchemist will be joined next door by sister Italian restaurant brand Gusto.
Son of Churchill’s Port founder to launch Portuguese restaurant and wine bar concept near London Bridge: The son of the founder of Churchill’s Port will open a Portuguese restaurant and wine bar concept in London in September. Max Graham, whose father Johnny started Churchill’s Port in 1981, is launching Bar Dour in Flat Iron Square, near London Bridge, reports the Drinks Business. It will form part of a food, drink and entertainment project under the arches in Flat Iron Square, taking in the grade II-listed Devonshire House. The venue is inspired by the ale houses and tapas bars dotted around Lisbon and Porto and will serve small plates based on Portuguese home cooking alongside a selection of Portuguese wine and port. Its decor will include Portugal’s famous “azulejos” – blue and white ceramic tiles. Graham tested the water with Churchill’s Port House, an eight-month pop-up wine bar in Soho in 2013 that aimed to educate consumers about the variety of port brands on offer. The Flat Iron Square project will also include live music venues, a pancake restaurant and a theatre space.
North west-based Flat Cap Hotels launches £250,000 crowdfunding campaign as it aims for five-strong estate by 2019: North west-based pub and hotel operator Flat Cap Hotels has launched a £250,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs as it aims to have a five-strong estate by 2019. The company, founded by brothers Dominic and Oliver Heywood, is offering an 8% equity stake in return for the investment. It operates The Vicarage Freehouse & Rooms in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, with its second site, The Courthouse in nearby Knutsford, due to open in October, and is looking to expand further. The pitch states: “The concept originated from the growing economic and industry development in the food and beverage market between the old-fashioned country pub and restaurant combined with the ever-growing boutique luxury hotel market with unique conference and banqueting facilities. Our two establishments (The Courthouse opening soon) serve locally sourced British seasonal menus in property with bespoke decor and furnishings created by us with a ‘home away from home’ atmosphere. The aim is to have five operational and functioning hotels by 2019 in the north west – Cheshire – within a 50-mile radius (leasehold and freehold). Flat Cap Hotels intends to establish a head office at The Courthouse, whereby top-line management and staff will be utilised across the group with the aim of providing extremely efficient operating costs and maximising Ebitda conversion. The strategy is to create a portfolio of successful venues within the north west, and expand to further locations around the UK that fit the brand ethos, style and demographics accordingly with an opportunistic acquisition strategy. The Courthouse, Knustford’s former crown court, will open in October boasting a 150-cover restaurant and bar, function room for up to 750 guests, several private dining, meeting and conference facilities, and ten luxury bedrooms within the existing wings. The funds will also allow us to pursue the planning application of a further 50 bedrooms through an extension to the rear of the property opening in quarter four 2017. The funds will also allow us to assist in the search and selection of additional sites that match our brand criteria.”
Hawthorn Leisure evolves former JD Wetherspoon pub to enhance community values: Hawthorn Leisure has evolved a JD Wetherspoon pub it bought in Scotland to enhance community values. Hawthorn acquired The Earl of Zetland in Grangemouth, Stirlingshire, in April, saving 26 jobs. It is displaying photographs and memories supplied by locals, particularly from the time when the pub was a church. Hawthorn Leisure said it was keen to maximise the pub’s renewed individuality and had been adapting to customer demand with redecoration, installation of a music system, additional Scottish dishes and employing more kitchen staff. Head of marketing Jennie Walton said: “It’s now about making the Earl central to local lives, of which the photographs are just the start.” Linlithgow and East Falkirk MP Martyn Day, who is a member of the All Parliamentary Beer Group, said: “Aside from the obvious pleasures pubs bring, they are a huge contributor to both the local economy and society, so it was a privilege for me to get involved in supporting this initiative.”
Leon to open second site at Schiphol airport: Natural fast food brand Leon has revealed it will open a second site at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam early next year. The company opened its first overseas site, which is operated by HMSHost International, at the airport last month and has been smashing its sales targets since. Now Leon is to add to the venue, which is in the centre of the plaza, landside near the train station, by opening a second store, airside at Schiphol. Speaking at an event in Schiphol to officially open the first store, Leon co-founder John Vincent said: “I spent many a happy childhood holiday in Holland and the sun was always shining so I’m very happy to return and bring Leon with me. Earlier this month HMS and Leon won the ‘Oscar’ for fast food at the international airport food awards, which shows that bringing people food which tastes good and does them good is especially welcome for travel-weary passengers. This is a magnificent site in Schiphol and we’re thrilled to have landed.” HMSHost already runs seven franchise sites for Leon in the UK – at King’s Cross, Euston and Eurotunnel train stations and Stansted, Heathrow (T2 and T3) and East Midlands airports. Leon, which was founded by Vincent and Henry Dimbleby in 2004, has 36 sites in the UK.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen to open 75th site next month in Staines, confirms Southport plans: Gourmet Burger Kitchen will open its 75th restaurant – on Monday, 8 August in Staines, Surrey. The company is launching the restaurant at the Two Rivers shopping centre, creating 50 jobs. To celebrate the opening, Gourmet Burger Kitchen will give away 100 cheeseburgers at the venue from midday. Spokeswoman Laura Pettingale told Get Surrey: “We can’t wait to open our doors and introduce the burger-lovers of Staines to our adventurous menu this summer.” Gourmet Burger Kitchen was founded in 2001, when it opened its first site in Battersea, south London. Meanwhile, a company spokesperson told The Visiter it would open a restaurant in Southport at “the beginning of next year”.
Ben Spalding to launch new music and dining concept at St Bart’s Brewery: Chef Ben Spalding will launch his new concept – Small Plate Sessions – during two residencies at Hush Heath Hospitality-owned St Bart’s Brewery pub and restaurant in Farringdon. The special Sunday events on 14 and 28 August will feature ten dishes for less than £10 each, accompanied by live music from “underground electronic music” acts and DJs. Spalding has worked at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants and launched dining concepts such as Stripped Back (fine dining without pretensions) and No Rules (dinners cooked in front of guests). Small Plate Sessions explores another of his major passions – electronic music. Dishes at the venue in West Smithfield are expected to include sticky piggy ribs seasoned with bonfire salt, mango and crème fraiche, and praline with crispy pastry, crunchie dust and iced marjoram. Spalding said: “It’s the most rewarding feeling to see a room full of strangers bond over inviting and interesting food with good conversation, and now with the introduction of the finest underground electronic music. Together, this all defines exactly what I wanted to achieve with Small Plate Sessions. St Bart’s Brewery, with its passion for quality live music, great food and first-class wine and beer, is the perfect collaborating partner.”
Whitbread opens biggest Costa in North Wales to date: Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee has opened its biggest site in North Wales to date. The company has launched the 103-cover venue in Caernarfon, on the site of the former Perkins furniture showroom in Canolfan Pen-Llyn. The 227 square metre store, which has double the number of covers than the nearby Bangor site, has created ten jobs and is expected to serve more than 1,500 coffees a day. A Costa spokeswoman told the Daily Post: “We are looking forward to being part of the local community, getting involved with events, providing the store as a meeting place, and helping with fundraising.”
Starbucks introduces new staff dress code to encourage ‘personal expression’: Starbucks has introduced a new staff dress code that will allow its baristas to “shine as individuals while continuing to present a clean, neat and professional appearance”. The company has moved away from its strict allowance of solid black or white shirts only, with a number of other colours and patterns now allowed, as are shorts, skirts, dresses and dark-wash jeans. Starbucks staff are also allowed to “make a statement with hair colour so long as colouring is permanent or semi-permanent in keeping with food-safety standards”. Beanies, fedoras and other suitable hats are also allowed. The move has been rolled out across all Starbucks stores in North America following a successful trial. Starbucks Canada president Rossann Williams said: “Our success is rooted in our continual innovation and customisation in every aspect of our business and this also applies to offering the best partner experience we can. We are responding to what our partners have told us and are confident this will uplift the Starbucks brand, partner and customer experience.”
NYC Bar and Grill to open fourth site, in Hull: Yorkshire-based American restaurant brand NYC Bar and Grill will open its fourth site this autumn, this time in Hull. The company, founded in 2013 by Lee Edwards, is opening the new venue at the St Stephen’s shopping centre. It will join the Rock Up climbing centre, bowling and games centre Funstation, Gravity trampoline park and the Reel cinema in the new upper-terrace development. St Stephen’s manager Jim Harris told the Hull Daily Mail: “It is great to bring a new restaurant to the city in NYC, which will create even more choice for local people and add to the evening economy of both St Stephen’s and the city centre in general. We now have just one more unit to fill. It will be easier now we have the other units filled. I think it will probably be another restaurant as we already have Gravity, Rock Up, Fun Station and the Reel cinema. We will be looking at one of the major names that is not already in the city.” NYC Bar and Grill’s other sites are in Bawtry, Doncaster and Sheffield.
Portland owners open Fitzrovia restaurant, second London site: The owners of London-based restaurant Portland have opened their second site, this time in Fitzrovia. Will Lander, co-owner of The Quality Chop House, and Daniel Morganthau, previously of 10 Greek Street, have launched Clipstone. The restaurant in Clipstone Street has capacity for 52 diners, with some al fresco seating also planned, reports Hot Dinners. It is open for lunch and dinner and also serves brunch on Saturdays. Clipstone’s menu offers a cold cuts and crudos section, as well as seasonal plates and sourdough flatbreads. Large plates include wood pigeon with corn, girolles and buckwheat; ravioli of hay-baked carrot and ricotta with brown butter and hazelnuts; and Cornish plaice with rainbow chard, miso and dulse butter. The restaurant also offers wines on tap and by the bottle as well as cocktails. Lander and Morganthau opened Portland in great Portland Street in January last year.
Casual Dining Group opens Las Iguanas site at Brighton Marina: Casual Dining Group has opened a branch of its Latin American brand Las Iguanas at Brighton Marina. The new restaurant on Marina Boardwalk is part of Brunswick Developments’ new mixed-use West Quay development at the marina, which is the largest in Europe and one of the biggest leisure schemes in south east England at 127 acres (51 hectares). Other recent lettings at West Quay include Casual Dining Group’s Bella Italia, as well as TGI Friday’s, Casa Brasil, better burger brand Five Guys and MOD Pizza. The marina is also home to an eight screen Cineworld, Rendezvous Casino and numerous multiple restaurant brands, including Casual Dining Group brand Café Rouge, Restaurant Group-owned Coast to Coast and Frankie & Benny’s, Nando’s, Prezzo, JD Wetherspoon, PizzaExpress and Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi.
Splendid Hospitality Group acquires fourth York hotel: Splendid Hospitality Group has increased its presence in York with the acquisition of the Ibis York Centre hotel. Located at the gates of the city walls, the hotel comprises 91 en-suite bedrooms with free Wi-Fi and satellite television. The hotel also features a cafe, bar and meeting room. Splendid Hospitality Group plans to invest £1.5m to upgrade the hotel, which will continue trading as an Ibis. Splendid Hospitality Group chief executive Stuart Bailey told BDaily: “This is a strategic acquisition for Splendid Hospitality and an ideal fit for our expanding regional portfolio. The Ibis York Centre hotel boasts one of the most central locations in York, making it equally suitable for business and leisure travellers. Ibis belongs to the Accor brand portfolio and we are pleased to further enhance our partnership with Accor.” The group’s rapidly expanding portfolio now features 20 hotels, with its other properties in the city being The Grand Hotel & Spa, Hotel Indigo York and Holiday Inn Express York. The group owns other city centre hotels in London, Oxford, Edinburgh and Leeds.
New gin bar concept opens in Hove that blocks mobile phone use: A new gin bar concept has opened in Hove, East Sussex, where visitors are unable to use their mobile phones. Steve Tyler and Scot Callister have launched The Gin Tub in Church Road on the site of the former Seventy6 bar. The bar, which offers more than 50 varieties of gin, features a Faraday Cage – a copper screen that blocks mobile phone signals. However, phone use is allowed on-site in the shape of retro telephones that customers can use to order drinks. People can also call other tables – on the condition they buy a drink for their neighbours. As well as gin there is a selection of beer and wine – although nothing on tap. Tyler told The Argus: “Mobile phones have killed pubs. I hate seeing a whole group of people sitting there on their phones. Rather than telling people they can’t use their phone, we’ve basically disabled them. We’re a gin bar that sells drinks – not like all the pubs that sell gin.”
M&B to convert Harvester site in Poulton into second Miller & Carter in Lancashire: Mitchells & Butlers is to open its second Miller & Carter steakhouse in Lancashire by converting its Harvester site in Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool. The company will refurbish The High Cross Harvester in Longhouse Lane next month before reopening under its Miller & Carter brand in the autumn. As well as an exterior revamp, the restaurant will also include booth seating and modern artwork. Mitchells and Butlers said the change was part of the group’s commitment to continually review its estate. Tim Ellis, regional business manager at Miller and Carter, told the Blackpool Gazette: “Bringing a second Miller & Carter to Lancashire is a fantastic opportunity for the brand and we look forward to providing even more customers with the best steaks and service that Miller and Carter is renowned for across the UK.” Miller & Carter has more than 40 sites in the UK, including its other Lancashire site in Aughton, near Liverpool.
Cote opens Chelmsford site in new £3m dining quarter: French brasserie Cote has opened its latest site – at the new £3m High Chelmer dining quarter in Chelmsford, Essex. Carluccio’s, which is due to open this week, Caribbean restaurant and bar Turtle Bay, and steak and lobster restaurant Bourgee will complete the line-up at the centre. The site is Cote’s 79th restaurant following an opening in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, last month. Cote’s closest restaurant to Chelmsford is in Bishop’s Stortford. Recently, Propel reported restaurant brands have been flocking to Chelmsford, with 20 due to open within a year, including Wagamama, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Loungers brand Cosy Club at a city centre site and better burger brand Byron, Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian, Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas, The Restaurant Group-owned Coast to Coast and Bill’s Restaurant joining John Lewis as part of a £150m complex in Bond Street.
Marston’s opens new-build pub in Boston, Lincolnshire: Marston’s has opened its new-build pub restaurant in Chain Bridge Road in Boston, Lincolnshire. The new venue – The Chain Bridge – offers a two-for-one menu selection that includes specials, while the pub features an interactive pizza station allowing customers to watch their pizza being made and cooked in the ovens. Marston’s area manager Clinton Cooper said: “We’re extremely excited about The Chain Bridge and hope it will build a great reputation locally, offering top quality, value for money pub food and an unrivalled selection of drinks, including cask ales from across the country.” Marston’s is looking to build circa 20 new-build pubs a year, with current plans to build venues in Chatham, Derby and Nantwich, among others. In March, the company opened its first new-build franchised pub site – in the shadow of new housing estates at Teal Farm in Washington, Tyne and Wear.
Molson Coors signs deal with Italian winery Gabbiano to distribute portfolio in UK: Molson Coors has signed a deal with Italian winery Gabbiano to distribute its wine portfolio in the UK. The agreement means Gabbiano wines will be available for on-trade outlets to purchase through the wholesale distribution arm of Molson Coors’ business – Molson Coors Service. Choice. Trust. – in a move to develop the breadth of its Italian wine portfolio in the UK. The Castello di Gabbiano winery, which is part of the Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) portfolio, is situated in the heart of Chianti, Tuscany, and was founded in the 12th century. Molson Coors will take a range of premium wines from the Gabbiano portfolio – Pinot Grigio, Rosé, Chianti, Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Bellezza – to sell across its free trade business. Gary Keller, senior buying manager – wine at Molson Coors, said: “We’ve worked hard to develop our wine offering over recent years, and the premium Gabbiano range is the perfect extension to this, offering high-quality wines with a rich heritage.” TWE channel director Shaun Heyes added: “We know Gabbiano will be a great partner for Molson Coors and its customers. The wines are of outstanding quality and have a great history and heritage. It is a very exciting deal all round.” The new wines will complement Molson Coors’ existing wine portfolio, which includes 700 wines – 400 of which are on-trade exclusives with 150 exclusive to Molson Coors.
Welcome Break adds Chopstix Noodle Bar to offer: Welcome Break is adding the oriental fast-food restaurant Chopstix Noodle Bar to its Birchanger Green service area on the M11. Chopstix Noodle Bar blends oriental-inspired fresh and nutritious fast food with a casual, convenient dining experience. In addition, Chopstix chefs cook the food on site to ensure each dish is served as fresh as possible. The restaurant at Welcome Break’s Birchanger Services will open on Wednesday, 3 August. Welcome Break chief executive Rod McKie said: “We are proud to be partnering with Chopstix Group. Its restaurants focus on serving fresh, nutritious and healthy oriental cuisine using the finest ingredients. As well as great food and affordable prices, customers will be able to enjoy the theatre of the chefs preparing and cooking the food in front of them.” Chopstix group chief operating officer Max Hilton Jenvey added: “We are delighted to welcome the Welcome Break Team into the Chopstix family. Welcome Break and Chopstix Noodle Bar share a passion for foodservice excellence and are dedicated to satisfying hungry customers on the move.” Chopstix will be open daily from 10am to 10pm, 365 days a year.
Square Pie launches street food-inspired salad range: Gourmet pie company Square Pie has launched street food-inspired Square Salads in collaboration with its new chef partner, ex-Hix and Scott’s Ronnie Murray. Inspired by Square Pie’s beginnings as a market stall in Old Spitalfields Market, it has taken inspiration from the east London street food scene and come up with a range of personalised fresh salads, with hot toppings, including hot grilled chicken and grilled halloumi, on a variety of salad bases. Founder Martin Dewey said: “We are now much more than just pies – it’s all about creating great modern British food. Our hot kitchens allow us to deliver salads differently and these great tasting salads with hot protein toppings won’t leave you hungry in two hours.” Square Pie has just returned from a record Glastonbury Festival and recently launched its frozen pie range in more than 400 Sainsbury’s stores nationwide and its chilled range on to Amazon Fresh.