Living Ventures bids to open The Alchemist at MediaCity in Salford Quays, third Manchester site: Living Ventures is set to open a site for its The Alchemist cocktail bar and restaurant brand at MediaCity in Salford Quays. The company has applied to Salford council for a premises licence at The Bund, Dock 9, close to The Lowry Arts Centre, to add to its Manchester city centre sites in Spinningfields and New York Street. A notice of application has gone up in the vicinity to permit the sale of alcohol between 8am and 2am daily and the provision of entertainment between 10am and 2am daily and late-night refreshment between 11pm and 2.30am. If the licence bid is approved, The Alchemist could open next month, Manchester Evening News reports. The stand-alone business under Living Ventures’ umbrella operates five UK sites, with two in Leeds and one in London. Its Liverpool site is set to open this month, with further openings planned for Birmingham and Newcastle. Work has also started on its first “suburban” site in the village of Alderley Edge, Cheshire, 15 miles south of Manchester.
Red Door opens third site, in Manchester: Red Door, the cocktail bar concept by the late Living Ventures founder Tim Bacon, Chester-based entrepreneur Dave Hinds and former Living Ventures bar expert Lee Lynch, has opened its third site in Manchester. The new £350,000 venue has opened in Deansgate, underneath Living Ventures brand The Botanist. Bacon and Hinds’ business relationship stretched back to the early 1990s when they set up JW Johnsons, followed by Via Vita and Life Café across the UK, at which time they were joined by business partner Jeremy Roberts. Together, the trio spearheaded a revival of the dining scene in Manchester city centre. Those venues were sold to Whitbread in 1999 after which Hinds decided to concentrate on his property interests, leaving Bacon and Roberts to establish Living Ventures. The new Red Door site occupies 2,800 square feet with a capacity of 250 and has created 20 jobs. Bacon’s influences can be seen throughout the site – from the eponymous red door he had painted with an eye motif to the portrait of him hung amid the cult film and band posters, psychedelic artwork and taxidermy decorating the walls, reports the Manchester Evening News. Music is a major focus, with a stage area hosting live acts three nights a week, providing a platform for both established and up-and-coming local acts, and DJ sets mixing up disco, funk, soul and rock and roll. Red Door’s other sites are in Chester and Liverpool.
JD Wetherspoon completes deal for Downham Market pub from Oak Taverns: JD Wetherspoon has completed the purchase of the White Hart in Downham Market (population: 9,994) in Norfolk from Oak Taverns. Oak Taverns director Simon Collinson confirmed the deal for the Bridge Street pub went through on Friday (3 June). JD Wetherspoon was granted a licence for the pub by West Norfolk Council in February and is investing £1.7m on transforming the property. The company has also been granted permission to add a single-storey extension at the back of the building despite objections from residents. JD Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon previously said: “Wetherspoon has enjoyed great success in the region and is keen to open in Downham Market.”
Steve Easterbrook – ‘The UK has excelled by being customer obsessed’: McDonald’s chief executive Steve Easterbrook has argued that the UK outperformance of the company, which has seen 40 consecutive quarters of like-for-like growth, is linked to success in being customer obsessed. He said: “You will hear a whole bunch of people like me sitting up here and talking about being customer obsessed or customer led and every retailer in consumer-facing business will say that, but very few truly live it. The UK market more comprehensively and consistently builds their plans against consumer needs, against the core consumer segment and then has a discipline of executions. So in a way [it’s] not so inspiring as some of the other markets we have around the world in terms of headline energy, but 40 consecutive quarters is a pretty good effort.” However, speaking at the Bernstein annual strategic decisions conference, Easterbrook admitted the company was “a little bit behind” when it comes to incorporating technology within the business. The brand has only recently introduced digital tills at 100 of its UK stores but, as part of its “Experience of the Future” programme, is hoping to introduce more innovations, including table service and wireless charging. However, brands such as Starbucks have proven to be ahead of the curve, having introduced free Wi-Fi in all its stores in 2011. More recently, it launched a “Mobile Order & Pay” feature and added wireless charging pads in ten London shops. Easterbrook recognises McDonald’s needs to do more and is particularly keen to use technology to make the customer experience smoother so consumers can, for example, store their favourite meals on their phone so they don’t have to keep repeating orders when they visit. “[We] can take some of the heavy lifting, the human element out and [offer] a smooth experience,” he said. Easterbrook also believes tech can be about engaging consumers. It is doing this through partnerships with film studios, sport franchises and local communities to reach a diverse range of people. “[It’s about] how can we put more fun into the experience, in a way that the customers themselves curate. There are certain people who care about certain elements but not about others,” he explained. “We see technologies being an enabler of growth to smooth experience, as well as a driver, because we believe we can build a stronger relationship with our customers through technology than we can two 15-second interactions on a drive-through window.”
Subway extends Aramark partnership for Oxford opening, eyes non-traditional store sites worldwide: Subway has extended its partnership with food, facilities and uniform services company Aramark, which will open its fifth Subway site in the UK this year. The companies are also working together on several new store projects worldwide. Aramark already operates four Subway stores in the UK – at Chichester College, Robert Gordon University, Aegon UK and Sparsholt College in Hampshire. It will open a fifth store – at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford – later this year. Greg Madigan, Subway area development manager for the UK and Ireland, said: “The success of our partnership with Aramark is due to the wide range of locations in which the company operates, and how easily the Subway brand can integrate into those locations, whether colleges, universities, hospitals or businesses. Non-traditional locations are a key area of growth for the Subway brand – the simple operations involved in running a store and the convenience offer make it a perfect fit for these locations.” Aramark managing director Frank Gleeson added: “We are always listening to what our customers are looking for and having Subway stores as part of the Aramark portfolio allows us to bring high-street brands and great quality food offers to our client locations directly.”
Peyton and Byrne opens fifth bakery: Artisan bakery Peyton and Byrne, owned by restaurateur Oliver Peyton, is set to open its fifth store – in Great Portland Street, London, later this month. The 1,000 square foot, 40-cover site has retained original features including its Victorian façade and herringbone parquet floor, which is paired with a crafted herringbone slip brick counter display featuring greens, whites and smoky greys. Peyton said: “We are delighted to have expanded our list of bakeries to five and to launch our new product range at the Great Portland Street bakery. This bakery will be the perfect place to stock up for an impromptu picnic in Regent’s Park, while also catering to local office workers looking for a quality weekday lunch”.
Former Viajante chefs to open permanent site for street food concept Ta Ta Eatery in east London: The ex-Viajante chefs behind street food concept Ta Ta Eatery – the “Chinese family-style rice fix with a Portuguese twist” – are to open their first permanent site. Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves, who are also formerly of Chiltern Firehouse, have teamed up with the Curio Cabal coffee shop to launch Curio + Ta Ta in Haggerston, east London. The restaurant will open on Thursday, 16 June within Curio Cabal’s coffee shop in Kingsland Road, reports Hot Dinners. It features a 34-cover restaurant and has an additional outdoor seating area for up to 60. Spurred on by their obsession with rice and drawing on their Druid Street Market success, Meng and Gonçalves have created a concise menu – a choice of snacks, hot plates and cold dishes, all designed to accompany a “perfect” bowl of rice. Eaten “Chinese family-style”, the menu is inspired by the chefs’ home cooking and is subtly reflective of their Chinese and Portuguese roots. Dishes include peanuts (served braised, with edemame and celery); congee (Asian rice porridge with rich chicken stock, herb sauce, crispy skin and dough sticks) and Shime Saba, charred and pickled mackerel.
Hampshire-based pub operator to run new American craft beer bar and restaurant concept in Petersfield: Hampshire-based pub operator Regina Cucina is to run a new American craft beer bar and restaurant concept in Petersfield. Cucina, which manages the Queen’s Head in the nearby village of Sheet, will open the Charles Street Tap in Charles Street on the site of the former Jacobs and Hunt Auction Rooms. It will offer craft beers and American wines, cocktails and freshly cooked meals and expected to open before the end of the month. David Heath, who owns the business with Jonathan Berry and Daniele Oliva, told the Petersfield Post: “It is the first new bar in new premises in Petersfield for a long time and will offer an authentic drinking and dining experience.”
Patisserie Valerie opens sixth Debenhams concession, in Basildon: Patisserie Valerie, the company that has sector investor Luke Johnson as executive chairman, has opened its sixth Debenhams concession, this time in Basildon, Essex. The company has opened the cafe within the department store at Eastgate Shopping Centre. It offers the brand’s patisserie and cake range, which are hand-made on-site. Patisserie Valerie, launched in 1926 in Soho, London, by Belgian-born Madame Valerie, has about 130 sites throughout the UK. Last month, parent company Patisserie Holdings reported revenues of £35.0m, an increase of £6.1m or 21.1%, for the six months ended 31 March for the brand.
Peach opens its first boutique hotel: Peach Pub Company, co-founded by Lee Cash and Hamish Stoddart, has opened its first boutique hotel – next door to its gastro-pub The High Field in Edgbaston, Birmingham. The High Field Town House in Highfield Road echoes the “country feel” of its neighbour and occupies a carefully restored 1860s Victorian villa. Designed by Peach co-owner Jo Eames, each of the 12 en suite rooms is individually furnished with period walnut and mahogany pieces and hand-printed English wallpaper. English-woven curtains, carpets and English-made beds are in each room, while three have free-standing roll-top painted baths. Eames said: “When we opened The High Field in 2014, aiming to create a country pub in town, it was such an immediate hit we jumped at the chance to convert the lovely old house next door into boutique hotel rooms with the same vibe. The High Field Town House is just five minutes away from the centre of the city yet feels a world away amongst the greenery and elegant houses of Edgbaston, which is rapidly becoming a chic place to eat, drink and sleep.” The High Field Town House will be managed by Peach partner Sarah Robinson, and Adrian Corry.
Punch reopens pub saved by community after it faced being turned into a McDonald’s: Punch Taverns has reopened a Southampton pub which was saved by its regulars after it faced being turned into a McDonald’s. When plans were revealed for the Bittern pub in Thornhill Park Road, the local community launched a high-profile campaign. Following a public inquiry, McDonald’s plans were rejected. Residents applied to the city council and the pub was granted special status as an Asset of Community Value in September 2015. After initially putting the pub on the market in 2013, Punch Taverns decided to carry out a £460,000 refurbishment. Landlord Glen McInnes, who has been at the Bittern for the past three years, will continue to run the pub with wife Hayley. He told the Southern Daily Echo: “People are very excited to see the new place and there has been so much support for the pub. The locals know it is so special.”
Wales-based Smoke Haus begins expansion into England with Birmingham opening, Bristol planned for next site: Wales-based American-style burgers-and-ribs restaurant concept Smoke Haus has begun expansion into England by opening a site in Birmingham. The company has opened the 150-cover venue above Stonegate Pub Company’s Slug and Lettuce in Brindleyplace, creating 80 jobs. It is the third site for the brand, which has also revealed it will open its next restaurant in Bristol. The company’s ethos is to provide “quality food in a great atmosphere, huge portions, masses of meat and a challenge not for the faint of heart”. The restaurant provides a playlist of music and diners with an iPhone can help to choose the running order. Co-owner Jayne Myall told the Birmingham Mail: (Co owner and fiancé) Mark (Power) found this site and I think it’s an amazing place to be. We are delighted to be open and our next restaurant will be down in Bristol. Once we have had people in here we think they will love to come back again and again.” Smoke Haus, which opened its first site in Swansea in 2012, also has a restaurant in Cardiff.
Masseria Group starts expansion of Ostuni restaurant brand with second London site: Masseria Group, which operates cafes, gastro-pubs and retail spaces in north west London, has expanded its Italian restaurant brand Ostuni by opening a second site, this time in Highgate. The debut Ostuni launched in Queens Park in 2013 and the venue was the capital’s first restaurant “dedicated entirely to the cuisine and wines of Puglia”, Masseria Group founder Rob Claassen said. The new 95-cover Ostuni similarly reflects the style and design of a traditional trullo – or masseria – of Puglia and “evokes the rustic elegance of southern Italy’s largest region in an elegant yet functional space with distressed furniture and Apulian dry stone on the walls and limestone bar and floor”. Ostuni is open daily from midday to 10.30pm.
Tombo launches poké and matcha bar in Soho, second London site: Japanese food and tea specialist Tombo has launched its second venue – Tombo, Poké & Matcha Bar – in Soho. The venue in D’Arblay Street seats 26 diners over two floors and specialises in poké (Japanese-inspired Hawaiian food) and matcha (finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea). The cafe offers a range of poké dishes, with ingredients including salmon, tuna, prawn, kimchee, avocado and edamame served with sushi rice, courgette noodles or black and white rice. Customers can choose from six signature poké bowls such as classic tuna poké, salmon avo lux and matcha miso tofu, with an option to build your own bowl. The cafe also offers side salads such as hijiki black seaweed and root vegetables, as well as miso soup. Operating a no-service charge policy, the venue also offers a range of Tombo green teas – sourced from the foothills of Mount Fuji – alongside Tombo matcha lattes and matcha brownies, gateau and sundaes. The company’s other venue – Tombo Japanese Cafe & Matcha Bar – is in South Kensington, while it also supplies teas to some of London’s best-known restaurants, including Jason Atherton’s Sosharu.
Whisky distillery in Swansea lines up £3.9m grant aid: Plans for a whisky distillery on the site of a former copperworks in Swansea have been boosted by the award of lottery funding. Swansea Council has been given a first-round pass by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant of £3.75m. It has also received a £189,600 development grant to progress the plans, which could see Penderyn Distillery expand its business into the city with a new distillery and visitor centre at the former Hafod Morfa Copperworks site. The distillery plans to install Penderyn stills at the site as part of an additional operational facility. A new visitor centre could also attract more than 50,000 tourists per year. The original Morfa Works gate could also be restored and reinstated as the primary gateway and visitors’ entrance to the site. Rob Stewart, Swansea Council leader, said: “The Hafod Morfa Copperworks site and the River Tawe have both played a key role in Swansea’s history, but they’ve been dormant and underused for some time. This plan, with the iconic Penderyn international brand at its heart, will regenerate the site and reinvigorate the riverfront, looking to the future while celebrating our rich heritage. Building on the conservation work already done on site, this scheme will also attract many thousands of visitors, open up jobs and further improve a local tourism industry that is now worth more than £400m a year to Swansea’s economy.”
Team behind two Aberdeen nightclubs to open live music venue in city: The team behind two nightclubs in Aberdeen is to open a live music venue in the city. Unit 51 is due to launch in September in Carnegie’s Brae on the site of the former Foundation Nightclub. A building warrant has been approved for the venue, which will host live music featuring local bands, as well as having regular club nights. It is also hoped events such as beer festivals and art exhibitions can be held at the site. The team behind the venture, for which about £250,000 has been pledged, runs Bridge Street Social Club and The Underground Klub, which are both in Bridge Street. A spokesman told the Evening Express: “We want to focus on it being a concert and events venue. Live music is something we are really trying to focus on.”
New Italian restaurant and wine bar concept C’Alice opens in Fulham: A new Italian restaurant and wine bar concept has opened in Fulham, south west London. Husband and wife Giovanni Di Stefano and Alice Ravelli have launched C’Alice – pronounced kah-lee-che – in Munster Road. The 40-cover restaurant serves dishes inspired by both the north and south of Italy, including capesante al pompelo (pan-fried scallops in grapefruit juice), risotto de giorno (risotto of the day) and salmone special dello chef in crosta di papavero (chef’s special poppy seed roasted salmon served in a sweet beetroot puree with sauteed asparagus). There is also a selection of desserts such as home-made tiramisu and a variety of Italian ice creams. Wines are served by both the glass and the bottle and a series of wine-tasting evenings are also planned. Ravelli, who has a background in fashion design, has worked alongside architect Maurizio Balistreri on the look of the venue.
Team behind Docklands restaurant Noodle Street to open Vietnamese concept in Greenwich: The London-based team behind Chinese restaurant concept Noodle Street in Docklands is to start expanding by opening a Vietnamese concept in Greenwich. The new concept, called Pho Street, will launch on Sunday (12 June) in King William Walk, reports Hot Dinners. It will serve bao buns, taro fries, banh mi, bubble teas and its signature dish Lobster Pho. The team launched Noodle Street where “traditional Chinese cooking meets modern London dining” in 2010.
Owners of French-style brasserie The Pot to open second Cardiff venue: The owners of French-style brasserie The Pot in Cardiff will open a second venue in the city. Husband and wife Rhys and Laura Keogh took over The Pot in Crwys Road two years ago and extended its offering from a daytime cafe to an evening dinner service. The Crwys Road premises will now be renamed Arty’s Kitchen and turn back into a cafe with a Welsh influence, offering rarebit, Welsh cakes and homemade bread. The couple’s new venture in Whitchurch Road will be called The Pot Bistro and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The larger space will allow the number of seats to increase from 25 to 40, Wales Online reports. Breakfast will be a full Welsh or vegetarian option as well as brunch-style dishes such as eggs benedict. There will be a fixed-price lunch menu and full dinner service when the venue opens at the end of July.
Middle Eastern street food concept Papa Ganoush to open permanent site in Whitley Bay: Middle Eastern street food concept Papa Ganoush is set to launch a permanent site in Whitley Bay. Father and son team Tim and Tom Monkhouse started their pop-up five years ago but will open their first restaurant in September. The venue in Park View will cater for up to 50 diners, with room for another 15 on the second floor, where cookery events will also be held. Tom will be in charge of the kitchen, while his father Tim will be front of house. Papa Ganoush is renowned for its Lebanese chicken, marinated overnight in spices, honey, garlic, lemon and ginger, and served in fresh flatbread. It also offers homemade falafel, salads, yogurts and sauces. Tim Monkhouse told Chronicle Live: “We wanted a community restaurant. A lot of our customers come back to us not just for the street food but because they know us and feel a part of us. That’s the essence of street food, that connection with the customer, and we don’t want to lose that.”
Stoke-based entrepreneur opens second Indian buffet restaurant concept in the city: Stoke-based entrepreneur Saghir Ahmed has opened his second Indian buffet restaurant concept in the city. Ahmed, who owns Saghir Express in Longton, has launched Tandoori Knights in an empty building in Church Street, creating ten jobs. The site has undergone a £200,000 refurbishment, with the 75-seat restaurant having a varied buffet offering with guests bringing their own alcohol. Ahmed said Tandoori Knights, which has an open-plan kitchen, had a special connection because his father ran a restaurant there about 15 years ago. Ahmed told the Stoke Sentinel: “I think we have got the best ingredients to make this work. We have a good chef and a lot of experience. There are more than 50 years’ experience in the family. We have done it once before so we can definitely do it again. I am hoping this is going to be the ‘go-to’ Indian buffet venue in Stoke.”
Casual Dining Group completes new Zonal EPOS roll-out across estate: Casual Dining Group (CDG) has completed the roll-out of a new EPOS programme across its 300-strong estate. CDG said it recognised an opportunity to review and upgrade its EPOS provision and implement a new, cutting-edge system that could deliver real-time insights to its operators. The company partnered with hospitality management solutions provider Zonal Retail Data Systems and, following a pilot programme launched in October 2015, roll-out of the new system began in March and is now estate-wide. The solution includes Aztec EPOS software, which provides operators with complete control and visibility over their business. CDG chief financial officer Tim Doubleday said: “In the past two years, the business has been transformed. We’ve expanded significantly, investing in our existing restaurants, opening new sites and acquiring two businesses. As a result of this ambitious expansion, we chose Zonal Retail Data Systems to effect a step change, providing us with a best-in-class solution and real-time management information on performance across our restaurants. With a commitment to creating fantastic and memorable customer experiences, and recognising the growing importance of technology, we are keen to be at the forefront of technological innovation. We needed a solution that would future-proof our business, give us new tools to engage with our customers, whilst providing robust management information.”