Charles Wells boss – Little Gem JV gives us scale and expertise needed to accelerate Apostrophe: Charles Wells chief executive Justin Phillimore has told Propel its joint venture with Little Gem Country Dining will give it the scale and expertise it needs as it steps up acceleration of its Apostrophe Pubs division. Phillimore said the deal, which has also seen Charles Wells take a stake in Little Gem, would also allow the team behind Pizza, Pots and Pints to concentrate solely on developing that part of the business. Phillimore also said he expected the three current Little Gem sites to continue to be run under that format. “We’ve been looking to develop a few more Apostrophe sites but what we had was relatively sub-scale,” said Phillimore. “We’ve been looking at ways we can get some scale and food-led expertise into the business. Steve Wilkins (who runs Little Gem with Rachel Slater) fitted that bill from that perspective and we’ve got two of our pubs with him. It made every sense to team up so that’s what we’ve done. While Apostrophe has been going well, we didn’t feel we had quite the right team for Apostrophe. With Steve now leading that side of the business, it allows the guys who have been developing Pizza, Pots and Pints to concentrate on that.” The next Apostrophe site – The Bull in Olney in Buckinghamshire – is due to open in February followed by one in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, the following month, which will take the brand to five in total. Phillimore said he hoped the company would be able to confirm a “couple more” openings for the brand in the next two to three months and “look to go at that pace going forward”. Charles Wells has just opened its fourth Pizza, Pots and Pints site, in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, and the company expects to confirm another two “in the next month or so”. He added: “The plan is very much to grow both brands. The market is such at the moment that we see lots of opportunities coming to the market in the next 12 to 18 months and we want to be able to take advantage. At the same time, if we can find the right pubs we will look to add to our leased and tenanted estate. We would be delighted to do a group acquisition but in the meantime we will keep adding on a site-by-site basis. Phillimore said the company also hoped to reveal the site for its new brewery in the new year. The company sold its main brewery and assets earlier in the year to Marston’s for £55m.

Welcome Break reports turnover and profit boost as it continues to develop restaurant offer: Motorway services operator Welcome Break has reported a turnover and profit boost as it continues to develop its restaurant offer. The company saw turnover increase 4.4% to £676,828,000 for the year ending 31 January 2017, compared with £648,322,000 the previous year. Non-fuel sales were also up 5.2%. Pre-tax profit jumped to £34,324,000 compared with £5,769,000 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Ebitdar was up to £93.1m, compared with £92.2m the previous year. Welcome Break also said traffic growth levels had been “resilient” despite the Brexit result, rising by 2.3% during the period. The company stated: “Capital investment was £15.8m and included further expenditure in many areas including forecourts (completion of Delis2go roll-out), Starbucks drive-thrus, Ramada Hotels, and the redevelopment of Sarn Park Services, which reopened in the summer. As well as continuing investment in the established brands within the Welcome Break portfolio, the business continues to trial further possible branded offerings including Pret A Manger and Chopstix. While Brexit did result in a range of opinions on the economic impact, the traffic on the motorways has remained positive and our view of the UK economy remains cautiously optimistic. As a result we are expecting steady, continuous growth during the financial year. Capital investment is expected to continue with further investment in the established, proven brands and further investment in potential new brand partners with the business.” In May, Welcome Break revealed it had secured a £440m funding package from Lloyds Bank to refinance its debt and allow further investment across its portfolio. At the time, the company said it intended to extend and rebrand a number of its Days Inn hotels to the Ramada hotels, introduce new restaurant and coffee brands, and create more drive-thru facilities at its service stations. Welcome Break operates 27 sites across the UK, attracting more than 85 million customers a year and employing more than 5,000 staff.

Zizzi’s vegan dish sales rise 246% in past year: Sales of vegan dishes at Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi have risen 246% in the past year, the company said. The data, released to coincide with World Vegan Day (1 November), shows sales of vegan pizzas alone have increased 104% since November 2016. The sales rise has led the Italian restaurant brand to add two new vegan pizzas to its autumn and winter menu, the zucca rustica and classic pepperonata. Zizzi’s sales of vegan desserts also increased tenfold in the past year, with the most popular vegan dessert the sticky chocolate and praline torte, while its most popular non-pizza vegan main dish was the lentil ragu. The company said it had sold more than 166,450 dairy and meat-free meals since the summer alone. Zizzi marketing director Jo Fawcett said: “We pride ourselves on creating great dining experiences by providing a menu that caters for everyone. We aim to take the stress out of dining to ensure good times for all.” Zizzi operates 155 restaurants in the UK and Ireland.

Eddie Rocket’s signs franchise agreement to launch into Germany: Ireland-based US-style diner and burger bar Eddie Rocket’s is to expand into Europe after agreeing a franchise deal to launch in Germany. The company has signed a licensing agreement with Areas, a German subsidiary of contract caterer Elior Group. As part of the exclusive agreement Areas and Rocket have begun identifying suitable flagship locations at transport hubs as well as premises at shopping centres across Germany to launch the brand. Fortune said: “We are thrilled to have secured a reliable partner to launch the very successful Rocket’s concept into the German market. We are convinced Areas is the ideal partner to establish Rocket’s on a long-term and sustainable basis in Germany. Areas is experienced in building brand awareness and market share in a highly competitive but lucrative European market.” Elior Deutschland chief executive André Laroche added: “Rocket’s is an urban, premium-burger brand and suitable for locations at shopping centres, train stations and airports. We are certain the Rocket’s brand will take the highly-competitive German market by storm.” Eddie Rocket’s comprises 51 restaurants – 27 owned and operated by franchisees and 24 company-owned venues – across the Republic and Northern Ireland.

McDonald’s to buy more British chicken: McDonald’s is to ramp up purchases of British chicken. McDonald’s supply chain director Connor McVeigh said by 2020 the volume of poultry meat from British farms would be “ten to 11 times higher than it was in 2013”. He told Poultry World: “Clearly customers attitudes are changing, and that has prompted us to think differently about what’s on our menu.” McVeigh said customer expectations that McDonald’s products would contain breast meat only, coupled with the cut’s comparatively higher cost in the UK, had been a limiting factor for its procurement in the past. McDonald’s has traditionally sourced chicken from Europe, Thailand and Brazil, as well as the UK, but will now ramp up purchases of British meat, cutting food miles. McVeigh said: “I’m absolutely clear that by 2020 we will be in the position where the volume will be ten to 11 times what it was in 2013. In the coming weeks we will be working with our partners at Moy Park and Cargill on the exact details.”

Vita Mojo acquires City site for headquarters and fourth London store: Healthy quick-service concept Vita Mojo, which raised £3.2m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube in June to aid expansion, has secured a City of London site to house its headquarters and fourth store in the capital. Vita Mojo has signed a 20-year lease at £125,000 per annum on a 3,500 square foot store with offices and training facilities in Gresham Street. The store is due to open in January. Vita Mojo uses software to combine the know-how of a nutritionist and chef and allows customers to adjust quantities and ingredients of any given meal using a food calculator. Kit Alexander, associate director in agent Colliers International’s central London restaurant team, which advised Vita Mojo on the deal, said: “Healthy eating has been, and continues to be, the biggest trend we’ve witnessed in the food sector of late and we shall certainly be seeing Vita Mojo continue on its journey to expand across the capital and the UK.” The landlord was represented by agents Shelley Sandzer. Vita Mojo opened its debut store in March 2016, launching further sites in Spitalfields and Canary Wharf. Its campaign was the highest fund-raise on Crowdcube in the second quarter of 2017. The company, founded by Nick Popovici and Stefan Catiou, hit its £1.5m target to fund expansion within hours of launch and is backed by global caterer Elior Group.

JD Wetherspoon to close Crewe town centre pub: JD Wetherspoon is to close The Gaffers Row in Crewe town centre in January, with no plans as yet to open another pub in the Cheshire town (population 72,800). The company’s other pubs in the region, including those in Stoke-on-Trent, Hanley, Biddulph, Congleton and Newcastle-under-Lyme, are unaffected by the decision. JD Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told The Sentinel: “We can confirm we have served notice with the landlord. As a result, The Gaffers Row will close in early January, although there is no exact date as yet. It is expected all staff will remain with the company. We appreciate the pub’s loyal customers will be disappointed with the decision to close the pub but JD Wetherspoon, like other companies, has to make commercial decisions and, on this occasion, it was agreed the pub would close.”

Provenance Inns to relaunch North Yorkshire site following £1m upgrade: Provenance Inns is to relaunch The Cleveland Tontine in Staddlebridge, North Yorkshire, this autumn following a £1m upgrade. The company acquired the site last year and has been transforming the venue on the edge of the North York Moors National Park. With the second phase completed and new menus introduced to reflect the Cleveland Tontine’s tradition of French cuisine with a Yorkshire flavour, Provenance Inns chairman Chris Blundell is excited about its future. He told The Business Desk: “The Tontine has been hugely popular over the decades so when the opportunity arose to acquire it, we felt it fitted exceptionally well with our other locations. Our programme of development has been designed to complement the inn’s history and enhance its iconic nature.” The main entrance has been refurbished and the bistro bar has undergone extensive changes. The new bar features a bespoke wine storage area to accommodate wine from Blundell’s cellar to complement the Tontine’s new menu. Provenance Inns also operates The Punch Bowl Inn, Marton-cum-Grafton; The Carpenters Arms, Felixkirk; West Acre Lodge, Boltby; The Oak Tree Inn, Helperby; The Crown and Cushion, Welburn; The Black Bull, Moulton; and The West Park Hotel, Harrogate.

London-based premium food delivery service Supper secures Old Spitalfields Market contract: London-based premium food delivery service Supper, which has launched a £500,000 crowdfunding campaign, has secured the contract for delivery at Old Spitalfields Market. The market is currently undergoing a refurbishment and has boosted its food and beverage offering with the launch of “The Kitchens” concept. Along with ten new residency kitchens, up to 30 more food and beverage offerings will be added during the coming months. Supper founder Peter Georgiou said: “This opens up a much larger and exciting corporate market for Supper and a great deal of the investment we are looking for will go some way to service this new contract.” Supper is offering a 10.64% equity stake as it looks to raise £500,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to fuel its growth. So far, 31 investors have pledged £102,940 with 25 days remaining. Supper uses custom-built motorised buggies with temperature-controlled compartments to ensure “perfect deliveries” from restaurants, ranging from Michelin-starred to quality casual. It has completed more than 12,000 orders to date. The company has turnover to date of more than £700,000, with a loss of £66,364. More than 7,000 customers have signed up, with the average order received being £57 and repeat ordering currently at 60%.

Three Cheers Pub Co opens ninth London site, second with Ei Group: Three Cheers Pub Co, led by Tom Peake, Mark Reynolds and Nick Fox, has opened its ninth pub – The Princess Victoria in Shepherd’s Bush. The venue is the second acquisition for Six Cheers, its managed expert partnership with Ei Managed Investments, and the company’s first venue in west London. The early 19th century pub, which was once owned by Richard Branson, has been transformed inside and out, with a new front terrace added to the courtyard garden. The site in Uxbridge Road accommodates 150 covers downstairs with 96 outside and a first-floor function room seating 70. The menu concentrates on British produce with a focus on Scotch eggs, British charcuterie, puff-pastry pies, artisan pizza and flatbread. The drinks menu reflects the pub’s history as a gin palace by stocking more than 100 gins and 40 beers. Three Cheers Pub Co was formerly known as Renaissance Pubs.

Maitre Choux starts expansion with Soho site: Maitre Choux, the patisserie specialising in choux pastry, has started expansion by opening a second site in London. The venue in Dean Street, Soho, is larger than Maitre Choux’s debut site in South Kensington. It features a spacious seating area that allows diners to enjoy their pastries with tea, coffee or thick hot chocolate made from a Basque recipe devised by founder Joakim Prat’s grandmother. Prat launched the concept two years ago, which offers freshly made eclairs, choux and chouquettes (empty choux pastry balls topped with pearl sugar). Eclairs include lemon meringue and bergamot, Spanish raspberry, and hazelnut and milk chocolate treasure, alongside regularly changing specials. Prat has worked at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants including Mayfair’s The Greenhouse, where he was head pastry chef, and as executive pastry chef at Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier in Covent Garden.

Freeths reports pre-tax profit tops £30m with plans to expand: Sector law firm Freeths has reported pre-tax profits passed the £30m mark with the company now planning to expand. The company saw turnover increase 14% to £74,721,000 for the year ending 31 March 2017, compared with £65,283,000 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was up 22% to £30,914,000 compared with £25,289,000 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The company stated: “We have been victims of our own success, with the significant growth of our Leeds and London offices, and therefore need to contemplate acquiring further office space in those locations earlier than anticipated. We look forward to the challenges ahead and the board is committed to a programme of continuous improvement to consolidate our position as a leading UK law firm.” Freeths employed almost 350 staff at its year-end. As well as its Nottingham base, it also has offices in Manchester, Leicester, Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Milton Keynes, Leeds, London, Oxford, Sheffield and Derby.

Leicester-based bar operator plans crowdfunding campaign to open £700,000 restaurant: Leicester-based bar operator Cassie Soulsby is planning a crowdfunding campaign to help open a restaurant in the city. Soulsby is seeking investment so she can open Queen Victoria Arts Club in Shahista House in the Cultural Quarter. The building, formerly home to a snooker centre, is being renovated as flats and an eatery. Soulsby, who owns the nearby Exchange bar, said the overall cost of opening the restaurant is £700,000 and she hopes to raise some of the money through shareholders investing shares of £50 and above. The crowdfunding campaign, which will launch in the next few weeks, will sell up to 60% of the holding Company QVAC. Soulsby said the restaurant, which she hopes to open in May, would emulate the atmosphere of a Victorian Arts Club with “opulent decor, maitre’d and table service”. She added there would be private dining rooms and opportunities for the public to become “members”, with priority booking, discounts and additional privileges. Soulsby told the Leicester Mercury: “This is a really exciting project in one of Leicester’s most beautiful buildings and in the heart of the Cultural Quarter, which is seeing a rapid period of growth. I am putting all my 20-plus years of expertise in restaurant, bars and hospitality to create an experience unique to Leicester.”

AB InBev appoints new marketing director for UK and Ireland: Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) has appointed Tatiana Stadukhina, Stella Artois brand director for Europe, as the new marketing director for AB InBev UK & Ireland. Stadukhina, who has been with AB InBev for three years and held roles in New York and Europe including director of global innovations, will be responsible for the strategic and creative direction of AB InBev’s brands across the UK and Ireland, including Stella Artois, Budweiser, Corona, Boddingtons and Bass. Prior to joining AB InBev, Stadukhina worked at Unilever and completed an MBA at Harvard Business School. Jason Warner, president of AB InBev North Europe, said: “Since arriving in the UK earlier this year, Tatiana has had a real impact on Stella Artois. I’m pleased she will be leading our portfolio of premium brands to surprise and delight consumers with some truly ground-breaking initiatives.”

Mayfair restaurant The Square to reopen following major refurbishment: Mayfair restaurant The Square will reopen on Monday, 20 November following a major refurbishment. A major redesign of the Bruton Street venue coupled with the appointment of Clément Leroy to the role of executive chef marks a new chapter in The Square’s story, following the departure of Philip Howard in 2016. Prior to his move to London, Leroy held the position of executive chef at Auberge du Jeu de Paume in Chantilly. He was also previously part of the team that helped Guy Savoy’s eponymous Paris restaurant win its third Michelin star in 2002. Leroy’s debut menu at The Square will showcase some of the chef’s favourite autumnal ingredients while the wine list will feature a selection of classics and lesser-known examples from all over Europe and the Old World – particularly South Africa. The 80-cover restaurant, which includes a private dining room and bar seating, has been redesigned to draw influence from Mayfair’s art galleries. The main dining area will have dark parquet flooring, while square glass blocks will be used in the external windows and internal walls. Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation, which has nine sites in London, bought The Square last year.

Marston’s submits plans to extend national distribution centre in Mansfield: Marston’s has submitted plans to extend its national distribution centre in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. The company is looking to add 19,762 square feet to the Lower Oakham Way building, which already offers 65,982 square feet of internal space, Insider Media reports. Marston’s has been operating from the site at Oakham Business Park since 1995. A document submitted to Mansfield District Council on behalf of the applicant states: “The proposals will have no impact on the pattern of the established grain of the site surroundings and its siting remains as existing. The proposed design in terms of the layout respects the form of the surrounding area. The layout of the development of the site will not change the basic overall planned form of the area.”

Health retreat operator Yeotown opens first standalone cafe: Devon-based health retreat operator Yeotown has opened its first standalone cafe, in London. Owners Mercedes and Simon Sieff have launched Yeotown Kitchen in Chiltern Street, Marylebone. Yeotown Kitchen, which the couple claim is London’s first mindfulness cafe, combines healthy eating with the chance to enjoy a tranquil break in a meditation pod. There is also an organic juice bar serving smoothies and organic, freshly pressed juice blends. The decor features oak wood panels, cork leather banquettes, window-side bench seating and bright yellow alfresco tables. The menu includes the Yeotown burger with beluga lentils, caramelised onions, local quinoa and probiotic aioli ketchup; Indo noodle salads; and avocado on toast with organic radish and Yeotown’s homemade hot sauce. The Meditation Station downstairs has a collection of meditation pods and customers can take part in a recorded guided meditation.

Chicken sandwich concept Butchies to open first bricks and mortar site, in Shoreditch: Chicken sandwich concept Butchies, operated by husband-and-wife team Garrett and Emer Fitzgerald, is to open its first bricks and mortar site, in Shoreditch, east London. The Fitzgeralds launched the concept as a street food operation at Broadway Market, going on to open a “hatch” at Camden Market, which has since closed. Butchies will now open a permanent spot in Rivington Street at the end of November. The two-storey restaurant will have room for 45 diners while also operating a takeaway service. The menu will feature six kinds of fried chicken sandwich including Jenny From The Block, which comes with guacamole, chipotle mayo and smoked streaky bacon. There will also be a buffalo halloumi vegetarian option. The venue will also feature a craft beer vending machine, offering more than 20 beers from brewers such as Cloudwater and Beavertown. Garrett FitzGerald told Hot Dinners: “Having lived and worked in east London for the past ten years, it is amazing to be giving our award-winning fried chicken a permanent home in our own backyard.”