Wasabi to launch Soboro Bakery concept in Cambridge: London-based sushi and bento business Wasabi, which also operates Korean casual dining brand Kimchee, is to launch a third concept – Soboro Bakery – in Cambridge. The Japanese restaurant is to launch at a unit in Petty Cury on a date yet to be announced. Plans have been submitted to renovate the unit with a framed, tempered glass shopfront, double-leaf glass entrance, two illuminated signs inside, and alterations to the ground floor and basement layout, the Cambridge News reports. Soboro is a general word for a dish made using ground meat or fish that is fried until relatively dry. Soboro can be made using beef, fish, egg and shrimp, although chicken is the most traditional ingredient. Dishes are easy to make and last a long time, making them popular in Japanese workers’ and children’s lunch boxes. Wasabi operates 43 restaurants in London, eight outside the capital including two in Cambridge, and a further two in New York, with another site in the city “coming soon”. The company also operates two Kimchee sites in London.

UBS downgrades The Restaurant Group shares after Frankie & Benny’s price cuts still leave it more expensive than branded pubs: The Restaurant Group has had its shares downgraded by UBS from ‘Neutral’ to ‘Sell’ after analysts found Frankie & Benny’s new menu was still 22% more expensive than branded pub chains despite cutting prices. UBS cut the target price to 275p from 310p following a recent strong run in the shares, pointing to the turnaround plans for Frankie & Benny’s. UBS stated: “Given these (pub) brands also focus on the family value-orientated market, we see risk that the Frankie & Benny’s price cuts will not drive the required footfall increase from the core family value-orientated customer F&B is looking to attract to offset price reductions.” The bank cut its earnings per share estimates for 2017 and 2018 to 20.3p from 21.2p and to 19.1p from 23.0p respectively, given less confidence in the turnaround. While UBS believed the strategy is moving in the right direction, it sees greater risk. UBS also highlighted the complexity of the Frankie & Benny’s menu, which has 67 main courses, more than double the peer average of 33. UBS added: “We believe, given the importance of the new Frankie & Benny’s menu in turning around the brand, we are now more cautious on the near-term ability of the current strategy to turn around the group’s performance.”

Burning Night Group to open second FirePit Smokehouse & Sports Bar, in Beverley: Burning Night Group is to open the second site for its American-style FirePit Smokehouse & Sports Bar, in Beverley, East Yorkshire. The company will open the venue at the Flemingate Centre having launched the concept in Bingley, West Yorkshire, in March. Burning Night Group, which is also behind the Potting Shed Bar and Gardens in Beverley, will transform a ground-floor site in the centre. Like its Bingley counterpart the new site will feature Americana decor, combining industrial fittings with neon signs, classic car parts and bric-a-brac. Among its trademark features will be a private dining booth custom-built to resemble an Airstream-style caravan. Its menu will focus on US-style dishes from a smoker and wood-burning grill and an extensive selection of house cocktails, beer and spirits. There will also be a four-metre LED screen showing live sports, along with shuffleboard, pool tables, and pinball machines. The concept has been developed by Ormsborough, parent company of Potting Shed Trading, a business founded by the Burning Night management team and backed by funds managed by Downing LLP. Potting Shed Trading chief executive Allan Harper said he hoped to roll-out the brand further, adding: “It has been so well received already (in Bingley) sitting alongside our Potting Shed Bar and Gardens. That gave us confidence the two very different styles complement each other perfectly.” Downing LLP partner Steven Kenee added: “We are pleased to be able to open a second site for this new brand within months of its launch, illustrating our commitment to building long-term relationships with, and providing follow-on capital to, high-quality management teams.”

Living Ventures to upgrade two Alchemist sites as brand evolves: Living Ventures is to invest £420,000 to refurbish two of its key sites for The Alchemist to bring them in line with the brand’s recent openings. The revamp of the sites in Leeds and Manchester will be led by Macaulay Sinclair and focus on the brand’s “copper-cased wonderland” decor to create a “richer, more immersive, and shareable bar and restaurant experience for guests”. Trinity Leeds, the brand’s third site and first outside Manchester, will undergo a £240,000 refurbishment from Monday, 5 June and reopen later in the month. New York Street Manchester, which opened in 2012 as the brand’s second site, will close on Monday, 19 June and undergo a £180,000 transformation to reopen on 30 June. The Alchemist managing director Simon Potts said: “The design of our venues is paramount to the overall Alchemist experience, with drama, theatre and surprise at the heart. As the brand has evolved and grown so has the look and feel of the environments. The refurbishments will bring Trinity and New York Street in line with our recently opened venues. We’ll continue to do the same across other venues when the time is right as we maintain our expansion and growth plans.” The Alchemist has nine sites in UK city centres, with its latest opening in Newcastle and another announced for Chester.

Michelin-starred chef Steve Drake delays Dorking restaurant launch: Michelin starred-chef Steve Drake has delayed the launch of his latest restaurant, Sorrel, which was due to open in Dorking, Surrey, this month. Sorrel will be based in South Street inside grade II-listed, 300-year-old Little Dudley House, which owners Latchmere Properties agreed to let to Drake in January. However, Drake said preparations had taken “longer than expected”. He told the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser: “It will still be this summer, although more likely the end of summer now. There is some incredible work going on at the moment and we are planning some incredible work for the future. We just want everything to be 100% perfect before we open and there are a lot of people working really hard behind the scenes.” Drake gained his first Michelin star in 2001 at Drake’s On The Pond in Abinger Hammer, Surrey, before moving across the county to open Drake’s in Ripley, where he held the star for a further 14 years. He left Drake’s in August last year after divorcing from his wife, who he owned the restaurant with. He still owns The Anchor pub in Ripley, which he purchased in 2013.

Beannchor Group buys Riverdance HQ to turn it into Bullitt Hotel: Northern Ireland hospitality company Beannchor Group has acquired the headquarters of stage show Riverdance in Capel Street, Dublin, to turn it into a 100-bedroom Bullitt Hotel. A spokeswoman for the former owner of the Merchant Hotel told the Belfast Telegraph Beannchor had bought the property for about €5m (£4.3m). Beannchor, which is led by Bill Wolsey and sons Conall and Luke, opened the first Bullitt – inspired by the Steve McQueen movie of the same name – in Belfast last year. Beannchor Group also operates a large number of bars it leases to tenants as well as operating its own pubs. Last week, the group announced it would open two Little Wing Pizzeria restaurants in Northern Ireland, with the aim to add additional venues in the next 12 months. Options for expansion are also under consideration in the Republic of Ireland. Riverdance founders John McColgan and Moya Doherty are believed to be moving to another Dublin building owned by their company Abhann Productions.

Taco Bell to open 17th UK site next month, in Chichester: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is continuing its expansion across the south of England by opening a site in Chichester, West Sussex. The company will open the venue on Wednesday, 7 June at Chichester Gate Leisure Park on the site of the former Mucho Burrito restaurant. It will be Taco Bell’s 17th site in the UK. Ellen Gault, UK and Europe marketing manager, told the Chichester Observer: “The UK is experiencing a taco revolution and we are thrilled to be opening the third Taco Bell in the south of England after noticing a real craving for quick, Mexican-inspired food in the southern regions.”

Celtic Manor Resort submits plans for budget hotel and Starbucks drive-thru: Five-star Celtic Manor Resort has submitted plans for a 154-bedroom budget hotel and a Starbucks drive-thru to provide a more “suitable mix” of price points and to avoid “losing major events”. A spokesman said the hotel would “fill a shortfall of bedroom accommodation” in the area near the International Convention Centre Wales, which is being built at the resort. Celtic Manor said the hotel would also plug a gap in its golfing market as the resort turned away £500,000 a year in golfing visitor revenue alone due to a lack of bedroom space in the area. The proposal is for a three and four-storey building housing the hotel and a 50-cover, single-storey drive-thru. The report stated: “The Celtic Manor Resort requires a suitable mix of three, four and five-star accommodation to suit all price points. Existing stock at Celtic Manor Resort and Coldra Court Hotel has an average occupancy of more than 90% during the calendar year. With no suitable three-star accommodation of the size required and a sensitive price point, major events will be lost to competition in other major UK cities.” If granted, the hotel and drive-thru would be built on fields adjoining the Coldra Court Hotel, the Free Press reports.

Former McDonald’s CEO acquires majority stake in US chain PizzaRev: Former McDonald’s chief executive Don Thompson has acquired a majority stake in fast-growing, US fast-fire pizza chain PizzaRev. It is the biggest acquisition for Thompson, who left McDonald’s in 2015 to launch venture capital firm Cleveland Avenue. PizzaRev, a franchisor founded in Los Angeles in 2012 by music industry executives Irv Zuckerman and Nicholas Eckerman, operates 40 restaurants in the US and Mexico with plans to develop 200 more in Mexico and in 14 US states. Its growth was spurred in 2013 when Buffalo Wild Wings took a stake in the company. PizzaRev offers assembly-line thin-crust pizzas that cook in less than five minutes at 900 degrees. Thompson told Crain’s: “This is more than an investment, this is a partnership. We’re attracted to PizzaRev because of its potential for scale and growth.” Earlier this year, Cleveland Avenue launched Drink, a non-alcoholic bar in New York’s Times Square, while it also has an investment in fast-casual restaurant HalfSmoke and a stake in Farmer’s Fridge, a Chicago-based salad-maker that does most of its sales via branded vending machines.

Thwaites set to swallow Cirencester Starbucks as part of hotel extension: North west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites plans to close a Starbucks site in Cirencester, Wiltshire, as part of its extension of The Fleece hotel. Thwaites owns the premises housing both the hotel and coffee shop, which it runs as a franchisee. It plans to replace it with a lounge and dining area for meetings or private dining. If plans are approved by Cotswold District Council, the coffee shop in Market Place will close on Wednesday, 31 May with The Fleece closed from late June to reopen on Monday, 10 July. A spokeswoman for the brewer said all five staff at the Starbucks store had been offered positions at The Fleece. Philip Mehrtens, general manager of The Fleece, told the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: “The Fleece is a beautiful old building. We are making sure our new design retains that character but the eclectic style will create a ‘wow factor’ when people come inside.” Daniel Thwaites first moved into hotels in the early 1980s and has steadily grown its portfolio to 17 sites split into three divisions – Hotels & Spas, Inns of Character, and Lodges. Hotels & Spas won AA hotel group of the year 2016-17.

Caprice Holdings lines up Ivy site in Cheltenham: Caprice Holdings, owned by Richard Caring, is looking to continue the regional expansion of its Ivy brand with a site in Cheltenham. The company has applied to Cheltenham Borough Council for a licence to open a restaurant in the historic Rotunda building in Montpellier. The site is currently home to a branch of Lloyds TSB, which is closing in July, reports Gloucestershire Live. The Ivy is continuing to expand outside the capital with openings in the pipeline in Cobham, Guildford and Marlow, while it has lodged plans for a site in Exeter.

Adam Simmonds opens year-long pop-up in Soho ahead of first permanent site: Chef Adam Simmonds, who has previously worked under Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White, has launched a year-long pop-up in Soho ahead of the opening of his first permanent site. Simmonds has opened The Test Kitchen in Frith Street at a site formerly occupied by tapas bar Barrafina. The pop-up is giving Simmonds the opportunity to explore and trial new flavours, practice cooking techniques, as well as evaluate service and presentation. The restaurant has only 23 covers, all overlooking the open plan kitchen. Diners are invited to appraise their experience so at the end of the residency, a test-proof menu will be created to be implemented at Simmonds’ permanent site that is set to open in early 2018. The interiors reflect the developing nature of the restaurant, with animated mirrors lining the walls featuring ingredients and dish development ideas. There are floor-to-ceiling front windows, black leather stools and a marble counter. The Test Kitchen is a celebration of Simmonds’ culinary journey to date, including working in award-winning kitchens such as Le Gavroche, The Halkin under Gualteiro Marchesi, and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. The menu includes quail with English asparagus, sunflower seeds and lardo, and red mullet with green strawberries and green tomatoes. There is also a 31-strong changing wine list.

West Country-based operator acquires second site after taking on Admiral Taverns pub in Sherborne: Somerset-based operator Steven Graham has acquired his second site, in Sherborne, Dorset. Graham, who runs The Carpenters Arms in the village of Chilthorne Domer in Somerset, has taken on the lease of The Mermaid, which is owned by Admiral Taverns. The pub off Bristol Road is undergoing a “complete refurbishment” to reopen next month as The Carpenters Arms. Graham told Somerset Live: “We’re making a lot of changes internally. When you enter, you can go through to the restaurant on the left or the lounge bar on the right, where there will be darts and snooker and pool tables. We’ll keep our skittle alley. We’re changing the name because we’ll be serving essentially the same kind of food and the same range of beers.” Graham leases The Carpenters Arms in Chilthorne Domer from Butcombe Brewery.

Yakinori to expand outside Birmingham with Bristol opening, third site in total: Birmingham-based Japanese restaurant group Yakinori is to open its first site outside the city, in Bristol. The independent, family-owned company operates two sites in Birmingham specialising in noodles, bento and sushi. Dishes include ramen, katsu curry, grilled teryaki, and sushi platters. It is now looking to open a venue in Park Street, Bristol, with work under way at the site. A Yakinori spokesman told the Bristol Post: “Just a short distance from the city centre and positioned on one of the greatest high streets in the UK, Yakinori will open a bright and vibrant restaurant with an open kitchen and takeaway counter, meaning you can enjoy fresh and tasty Japanese food at every opportunity.” Yakinori’s Birmingham sites are at Grand Central and Selly Oak, while it also operates noodle brand Woktastic in the city. The Bristol opening is likely to be in “late June”.

Seafood specialists The Oystermen to open permanent site in Covent Garden: The Oystermen Seafood Bar and Kitchen, which recently finished an extended ten-month residency in South Kensington’s The Sampler, is to open a permanent home in Covent Garden in the summer. The restaurant will open in Henrietta Street highlighting British seafood alongside wine and champagne. Oysters can be buffalo-barbecued, Cajun-battered or freshly shucked. The venue will also offer mussels, south coast crab, shellfish platters, daily fresh fish specials and home-cured, smoked and pickled fish. The wine list has been created to complement the seafood alongside The Oystermen’s oyster stout, brewed in collaboration with Canopy Beer Co, and craft ale. The venue will also operate a “bubbles and oysters” happy hour. The Oystermen concept was launched in 2014 by Matt Lovell and Rob Hampton. Lovell said: “The Seafood Bar & Kitchen is the next natural step in delivering our fun, friendly and fresh concept to the wider London audience.” Hampton added: “The feedback and footfall at our events has given us the extra confidence to translate our vision into reality. As a team, we are more than excited to take the brand and business to the next level and relish the opportunity to continue growing and developing in such a strong market.”

Kent-based Follies Pizzeria to open fourth site, in Hythe: Kent-based Follies Pizzeria is opening its fourth site on Thursday (25 May), this time in Hythe. The company, launched by sisters Abigail and Amy Lauder in 2014, is opening the restaurant in High Street, reports Kent Live. Its pizzas feature ingredients sourced from Italy, while the dough is homemade. Follies Pizzeria also sells a range of wine and prosecco on tap as well as coffee. Follies Pizzeria has two sites in Folkestone and one in Dover.

Bolton-based chef acquires former Special Ale Service pub for second site: Award-winning Bolton-based chef Michael Hales has acquired the Top Lock pub on the Leeds and Liverpool canal in Wheelton, near Chorley, which he used to visit on family trips from Bolton as a youngster. The pub formerly belonged to north west-based pub company Special Ale Service, led by Phil Entwistle. Hales, who also runs a pub in Pleasington, near Blackburn, told This Is Lancashire: “The Top Lock is a beautiful pub in a stunning location with lots of potential. I can remember many happy days here as a little boy with my family but I never dreamed one day I would be its licensee.”

Japanese/Chinese restaurant Mei Ume to open at Four Seasons Hotel London: Japanese/Chinese restaurant Mei Ume will open at the Four Seasons Hotel London in Ten Trinity Square on Friday, 9 June. The restaurant will blend Chinese and Japanese cuisine with the kitchen led by head chef Tony Truong, previously of Royal China, alongside former Sake No Hana sushi chef Mun Seok Choi, and dim sum chef Liang Kian Cheng, who joins from Yauatcha. Dishes will include crispy baby squid with salted eggs, stir-fried Dover sole with cloud ear mushroom, and celery-braised pork belly with crab, Hot Dinners reports. Kagoshima-sourced Wagyu beef will be served with Japanese spicy barbecue or sake butter sauce. The cocktail menu will have a similar fusion feel, with sake, shochu, and whiskies from Taiwan and Japan. The venue will also feature a private dining room for 14 guests and a sushi station. Mei Ume joins La Dame de Pic, a French restaurant that opened in the hotel in January marking the UK debut of three Michelin-starred chef Anne-Sophie Pic.

Stonegate reopens former JD Wetherspoon pub in Leamington Spa: Stonegate Pub Company has reopened a former JD Wetherspoon site in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, following a £400,000 refurbishment. Stonegate completed the purchase of the Jug & Jester last month and has revamped the Bath Street venue with a focus on sport and live music. It is now called The Old Library – a nod to the building’s history. The building originally housed Leamington Spa’s first library before turning into a theatre and most recently the Jug & Jester. Stonegate agreed to buy the site from JD Wetherspoon in February along with the Robert Ransom in Ipswich. The Old Library’s new manager, Ange Sinclair, told the Kenilworth Weekly News: “We’ve referenced heritage in the name to emphasise the message that we are restoring traditional pub values. We’re about community, diversity and value.”

York-based Italian restaurant Il Paradiso Del Cibo starts expansion: York-based Italian restaurant Il Paradiso Del Cibo has started expansion by opening its second site. Paolo Silesu has launched Il Paradiso On The Forest in the nearby village of Sutton-on-the Forest. The ristorante, pizzeria, bar and grill in York Road is larger than its sister site in the city centre and has a “more luxurious look”, reports York Mix. Silesu launched Il Paradiso Del Cibo in Walmgate, York, in 2012.

Bill’s opens Canterbury site: Bill’s Restaurants, owned by Richard Caring, has opened its latest restaurant, in Canterbury, Kent. The venue has opened in Rose Lane at a site that formerly housed jewellers Mappin and Webb. Bill’s occupies the ground and first floors of the city centre unit and offers 124 covers inside and 24 outside. Bill Collison, who founded Bill’s as a small cafe in Lewes, East Sussex, told Kent Live: “I am so pleased we are opening a Bill’s restaurant in Canterbury. It’s a beautiful city and we’re excited to welcome visitors and locals alike to soak up our friendly atmosphere and tuck into our seasonal fare.” Bill’s has more than 80 sites in the UK including four in Kent – in Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and the Bluewater shopping centre.