Bella Italia reports 22 openings in 2016: Casual Dining Group’s Bella Italia brand has reported it opened 22 restaurants in 2016, taking it to 111 venues in total. The latest opening is a 160-cover site in East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, following on from a 150-cover Newcastle site in Eldon Square. The two new restaurants represent a £1.6m-plus investment by Casual Dining Group, creating almost 90 jobs across the two sites. The total of 22 new openings in 2016 has been driven by almost £20m of investment, creating close to 1,000 jobs. Managing director Nick White said: “Having recently celebrated our 25th birthday I am delighted with, and very proud of, our achievements this year, with a total of 22 new site openings delivered. In so many ways, 2016 has been a transformational year, whether it’s the pace of our food development and menu innovations, our openings programme, or the revenue generated and the number of people who now work as part of the Bella Italia team.” This year’s new restaurant openings coincide with the introduction of a new menu across the Bella Italia estate. It builds further on Bella’s focus in creating an authentic and traditional Italian feel to dishes, including hand-stretched pizzas and fresh lasagne hand-made daily, and fine-tuned classics, such as carbonara. Other new site openings this year include Brighton, Colliers Wood, Darlington, Gateshead Metro Centre, Glasgow, Orpington, Watford, the Wirral, and Bella’s biggest site to date with 300 covers – marking its 100th site opening – Bluewater.

Norwich restaurants saved out of administration: Two restaurants in Norwich city centre have been saved from closure following the appointment of administrators. Kelly Burton and Lisa Hogg, of insolvency firm Wilson Field, were appointed as joint administrators to Beluga Lease and Farmer Brown’s Lease on 11 November. They were a part of a small group of associated companies that operated Brazilian rodizio restaurant House of Tiago in Tombland and food and wine bar Mr Postles’ Apothecary in Upper King Street. The administrators were called in after the businesses “ran into financial difficulty”, reports Insider Media. Both venues have since been sold to a third party for an undisclosed sum and continue to trade.

Plans for boutique hotel on Newcastle’s Quayside get go-ahead: Plans for a boutique hotel on Newcastle’s Quayside have been approved. Built in 1833, the grade II-listed Eldon Chambers started life as a merchant traders’ office. The building underwent a refurbishment in the 1920s, when the interior was sub-divided to create separate offices and a staircase was added that the proposal, which has been approved by the city council, intends to retain. The venue became vacant when BHP Law moved out of the building during a major restructure. Works planned for Eldon Chambers include the removal of five internal walls to create a more open-plan space for the restaurant and bar, while original walls will be retained where possible and the original doorways at the front and rear of the building will remain the same. Chartered surveyor Bradley Hall is marketing the venue for lease. Managing director Neil Hart told Insider Media: “Eldon Chambers is a fabulous opportunity for a leisure operator. This is a beautiful building with bags of character that will make a perfect boutique hotel in a great city location.”

Marston’s to invest another £10m in Scottish market: Marston’s is to create 300 jobs in Scotland in 2017, with a £10m investment in expanding its sites north of the border. Having invested £40m in Scotland, opening 13 bar restaurants and five lodges – 30 to 40-bedroom inns – Marston’s now employees 500 people north of the border. “We will open 20 new pub restaurants and three premium bars, and between five and ten lodges (in 2017),” chief executive Ralph Findlay said. “Of those 20 pub restaurants, three or four will be in Scotland… and of the five to ten lodges, three of those will be in Scotland in Stirling, Livingston and Ravenscraig.” In addition to recently opening Foundry 39 in Edinburgh, Marston’s is working on sites in Rutherglen, Kirkcaldy and Lenzie. “By the end of 2017, we will have invested £50m in the Scottish market. We’ll probably have about 800 employees by that time,” added Findlay. “We’re positive about the Scottish market and the family dining restaurants we have and the fact we think there is an opportunity for that kind of offer, which isn’t particularly well represented at the moment.”

Carlsberg UK in £15m Carlsberg Export relaunch to connect with millennials: Carlsberg UK will relaunch Carlsberg Export from January, with a £15m marketing campaign designed to connect with millennial drinkers. The brand will feature a new design reflecting its Danish heritage and reinforcing its premium credentials, with new bar founts, glassware and a premium 330ml-sized bottle. The new design has been influenced by the cross of the Danish flag, while the signature of founder, JC Jacobsen, and the word København – Danish for Copenhagen – underline the brand’s roots. The premiumisation of the Carlsberg brand will continue into early summer 2017, when limited edition packaging will be launched for the Carlsberg 3.8% ABV beer and the bottle increased to a 330ml size. The rebrand follows a year-long project comprising consumer research, category analysis and trends monitoring in a bid to engage with millennials (18 to 34-year-olds). Carling said research by Kantar Alcovision revealed the number of consumers drinking standard lager had fallen 1.1 million during the past five years, with the number drinking premium lager down 430,000 during the same period. Carlsberg UK vice-president of marketing Liam Newton said: “The fundamental reason for the decline in the beer category is the fact the biggest segments – standard and premium lager – are losing relevance with millennial consumers. In our eyes, the dramatic change in the UK beer market requires bold action, and an even bolder approach, and this lies at the heart of our revitalisation of Carlsberg. By reminding people where Carlsberg comes from, we believe we will have a powerful platform from which to connect with millennials in a meaningful way.”

HSBC begins Restaurant Group coverage with a recommendation to reduce holdings: Leisure analysts at HSBC initiated coverage of Restaurant Group at ‘reduce’ with a 290p price target, saying there is a gap between the current share price and the likely pace of recovery at the company. Analysts pointed out that Restaurant Group was one of the UK’s most successful restaurant operators for almost a decade, but recent issues caused by pushing hard on prices, inconsistent service levels, and a confused proposition have resulted in a series of profit warnings. The banks’ analysts stated: “Now with a new management team in place a recovery plan is taking shape, although the path is likely to be bumpy given that the restaurant operator has experienced a breadth of issues, along with near-term cost and competitive headwinds also working against them. Given management’s recovery plan, we expect the decline in like-for-like sales to ease over the next two years, although turning around the leisure estate will not be easy to do.” The bank – whose forecasts are 20% lower than consensus – expects full-year 2017 pre-tax profit to struggle to match 2016 because of food price inflation, the national living wage, a weaker pound, and rising competition. HSBC expects like-for-like sales to remain negative until 2018, recovering thereafter. “Several industry experts and consultants are even more cautious on the timeline to recovery as the competition command greater brand presence, which could eat into Restaurant Group’s lunch,” it said.

PizzaExpress eyes China expansion and rebrand: PizzaExpress, the British restaurant chain acquired by Legend Holdings’ private equity unit Hony Capital, plans to boost its number of stores in China ten times to more than 200 within five years. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, PizzaExpress global chairman Wang Jinlong vowed to target the premium end of the casual dining market – where Western dining among Chinese millennials has become prevalent – with an ongoing nationwide branding revamp. The vision was laid out two years into Hony’s £900m buyout of the London-based operator of 589 PizzaExpress restaurants worldwide, more than 80% of which are currently in Britain and Ireland. “We have set a small goal. I hope our business in China can grow by tenfold in the next five years with all the efforts we are making,” said the former chief executive of Starbucks’ greater China arm. “Money is not an issue.” That ambition is poised to make PizzaExpress one of the biggest upscale Western brands in China, where it currently has 29 sites. “A first step we are taking to bolster our high-end appeal is to rebrand PizzaExpress as PizzaMarzano and replace the characters in our Chinese name with those delivering a classier meaning,” said Wang, who is also chief executive of PizzaExpress’ China unit. “To ensure Italian authenticity, we are sourcing more than 50% of the ingredients from overseas,” Wang said. “We also added some local touches by rolling out Peking duck pizzas.” Wang revealed the new outlets would be in the central business districts of the country’s prosperous first and second-tier cities, including those in the east and north. “Two hundred outlets for Shanghai alone is by no means a ‘mission impossible’,” Wang said, without giving a time-frame.

Eclectic Bars sells Lola Lo site in Lincoln to Fever Bars: Eclectic Bars, which is owned by Brighton Pier Group, has sold its Lola Lo nightclub in Lincoln to Fever Bars. The site in High Street, which will be run under the name Lo Lincoln, will undergo a £250,000 refurbishment in the new year. An Eclectic Bars spokesman told Lincolnshire Live: “It was one of the smaller ones on our estate and we’re rationalising the estate, concentrating our energy on the larger businesses. We thought this was a good opportunity because it’s a successful bar and will continue to run as a nightclub and a bar.” Lola Lo opened in April 2012, replacing Japanese-themed club Sakura, which was previously Po Na Na – all brands owned by Eclectic Bars. Mark Shorting, managing director of Fever Bars, which has 27 sites across the country, said: “There’s a lot of love for Lola Lo and nothing has changed. We had to adapt the name simply because it’s a brand trademark of the previous owner and, as part of the arrangement, we had to change the name.”

Sussex Pub Company owner makes seventh acquisition: Sussex Pub Company owner Nick Sutherland has acquired his seventh site, this time through agent Fleurets. He has bought the former Amelie & Friends site in Chichester, which is now called Purchases and celebrates the property’s past as a notable Georgian wine merchants. The wine merchant business was established in 1780 by Arthur Purchase and remained in the family for more than 200 years. Sutherland said: “We wanted to elevate the space and reflect the grandeur of this former Georgian wine merchants house and celebrate the rich trading history of this city.” Sussex Pub Company’s portfolio includes pubs with luxury accommodation, restaurants, and high-quality letting cottages across West Sussex.

Saudi government investment fund buys 50% stake in Middle East foodservice giant: A Saudi government investment fund is buying a big stake in a company that controls Mideast food giant Americana, which operates nearly 1,700 outlets for regional franchises of Pizza Hut, KFC, Krispy Kreme and other Western brands. The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund said it is acquiring a 50% stake in Adeptio AD Holdings from Emirati businessman Mohamed Alabbar. It didn’t provide financial terms for the transaction. Alabbar is chairman of Dubai-based Emaar Properties, developer of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. His company Adeptio bought a controlling stake in Americana, formally known as Kuwait Food Company, in June.

TGI Friday’s celebrates its Legends: TGI Friday’s has celebrated its American heritage and thanked its 5,000-plus team members up and down the country by treating each of them to a Thanksgiving meal. On the same day, TGI Friday’s recognised its latest group of “Legends” – team members recognised by their peers for going above and beyond to support the company. This year, more than 2,600 nominations were received – demonstrating how engaged Friday’s team members were with the initiative, the company said. This led to 120 winners being chosen, who will join the company at a special event in Liverpool in the new year, where they will be given their award by chief executive Karen Forrester in front of a crowd of their colleagues before an “all-expenses-paid night to remember”. Forrester said: “The team members who make up our Friday’s family are the beating heart of the business. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today and for that we want to thank them all for their passion, hard work and enthusiasm.” In addition, every restaurant in the UK also took part in the regional rounds of Food Fight, with seven teams making it to the final after wowing the Friday’s judges with their great food scores and quality operational kitchens. This year the Food Fight trophy was awarded to the TGI Friday’s team in Newport Road, Cardiff, who will be treated to a week’s wages as a thank you.

Worcester-based bar concept Bottles to start expansion by opening second site, in Birmingham: Worcester-based bar concept Bottles is to start expansion by opening its second site, this time in Birmingham. Founder Richard Everton is launching the site on Thursday (1 December) at The Mailbox on the former Bar Epernay site. Bottles Birmingham will offer more than 300 wines, ports and champagnes and will also have state-of-the-art wine dispensing machines. It will also serve bottled craft beer, cocktails, spirits, hot drinks and soft drinks, alongside an all-day food menu. Featuring a selection of contemporary dishes that focus on casual, social dining, such as tapas, pintxos and sharing boards, the bar will serve brunch, afternoon tea and late-night nibbles. Bottles Birmingham will be four times larger than its sister venue in Worcester and also feature a specially designed club room for private events and parties, with large group tables as well as smaller, intimate layouts available. Everton told the Birmingham Mail: “Following on from the incredible success of our first Bottles bar in Worcester, we are absolutely delighted to be bringing this really exciting new wine and food concept to somewhere as prestigious as The Mailbox in Birmingham.”

Fife-based restaurateur starts expanding seafood concept by opening second site, in Dundee: Fife-based restaurateur Darren Spink has started expanding his Tailend seafood concept by opening a second site, in Dundee. Spink, who launched the venture in St Andrews seven years ago, has opened the new venue in Nethergate on the site of the former iconic Deep Sea Restaurant, which he acquired in 2014. Deep Sea, which is said to have served The Beatles and two James Bonds, was a Dundee institution for 77 years before it closed. With room for 60 covers, the downstairs restaurant section is set to open in mid-to-late January, once the £200,000 refurbishment is fully complete. It will feature a finer selection of seafood dishes – much like its St Andrews counterpart – with premium craft Scottish beer on tap such as Paolozzi. Manager Katie Voigt told The Courier: “Being in the same place as the Deep Sea is huge. It’s a legacy to fulfil, but we’re going to be doing it in our own way.”

Costa Express extends Shell partnership: Costa Express has announced the renewal of its UK contract with Shell for a further five years. The contract marks five years since the partnership began in 2011, shortly after Whitbread acquired Coffee Nation for £59.5m. Following a rebrand of the 900 Coffee Nation machines, Costa Express has grown at significant pace, installing on average more than 70 coffee stations every month. In the UK, Costa Express has 740 coffee stations in 536 of Shell’s 1,000-plus branded service stations, selling more than 70 cups per day each. Internationally, Costa Express and Shell operate in partnership across four markets – the UK, Canada, Poland and Czech Republic, as well as operating a number of trials in other international markets. Murray McGowan, managing director of Costa Express, said: “We’re delighted to be extending our partnership with Shell, which was one of Costa Express’ first partners. The Costa Express brand perfectly complements the Shell forecourt model, supporting the brand in providing its customers with a high-quality and consistent offering and the best coffee on the go. We’re looking forward to growing our relationship with Shell in the UK and in our international markets over the coming years.” Mike Hominick, Shell UK retail marketing manager, added: “The relationship between Costa and Shell has already grown our sales to over 18 million cups a year and we are excited about our joint plans for further growth. Serving Costa coffee is one of the ways we are expanding the role our service stations play in the lives of customers, offering great-quality fresh food and coffee to customers who live their lives on the move.”

Experienced London restaurateur opens fish restaurant concept, in Frinton: Experienced restaurateur Peter Goring has opened a fish restaurant concept, in Frinton, Essex. Goring has launched Pier One – Simply Fish in Connaught Avenue on the site of the former Jade Chinese restaurant. He has been in the restaurant trade for several decades, previously owning six restaurants in London plus a nightclub, which have all been sold. The interior of the new restaurant has a nautical theme to match the seaside setting, with Goring promising the best “food, ambience and value for money”. He told the Clacton Gazette he saw the former Chinese restaurant as a “quaint, bijou place with potential”.

African restaurant concept Monroe’s opens in Cheltenham: New African restaurant concept Monroe’s has opened in Cheltenham. The venue in Albion Street is at a site formerly occupied by Masala Bites Indian restaurant. Directors David McConkey and Dominic Madzimure have decorated the venue with African art and items from their own collections. McConkey, who was born in Zimbabwe and has worked for many years in hotel and restaurant management, told The Herald: “It’s a very healthy cuisine. One of the big meats is ostrich, which is farmed in Gloucestershire so we can source that locally. It’s like beef but is much lower in cholesterol. There will also be venison, kudu and springbok, which all make extremely good meat.”

Peach Pub Company confirms 18th pub: Peach Pub Company has confirmed it has taken on its 18th pub, The Duke of Wellington in East Horsley in Surrey, by the assignment of an existing lease from The Star Pub Company. Peach acquired the pub for a premium. Peach property director Simon Bishop said: “We are excited about the new acquisition and about bringing another great pub into the Peach fold. We managed to complete the purchase in just five weeks, from identification to completion, and we’re looking for further opportunities to acquire others with our recent funding from NatWest. We’ll be completely refurbishing The Duke of Wellington in February and getting it back to a great gastro-pub. Following substantial investment, it will reopen before the end of that month as a great spot to enjoy good food and drink on the outskirts of the village.” The Duke of Wellington will be the second pub for Peach partner Jordan Marr, who also oversees The Chequers in Eversley Cross a short distance away