Azzurri Group – ‘we have national roll-out plans for Coco di Mama’: Azzurri Group, which operates Zizzi and ASK Italian, has reported it has national roll-out plans for it 21-strong coffee and quick-service Italian brand Coco di Mama. In it annual report the company stated: “The next chapter will see the brand lay the business foundations to scale-up, with national roll-out plans on the horizon. The year ahead will see sales growth delivered via further site expansion in London, as well as continued focus on the sales delivery channels.” The company reported the six openings in the previous year “have experienced a strong maturity curve and delivered strong year-on-year growth”. In its early years, Coco Di Mama’s sales were primarily driven by coffee and fast pasta in the City. Over the past year, the business has explored new sales channels and broadened the brand proposition ready to scale-up beyond its heartland. A strong focus on the delivery sales channel is seeing structural growth, through both third-party platforms and its own direct model. Azzurri Group said new store openings in the West End and west London were the foundations for growing the brand’s presence outside of the City and proving the brand’s scalability. This year saw investment into its new “model store” design, which combines modern, Milan-inspired interiors with “vibrant” art walls painted by local artists and an “inviting” coffee shop-style seating environment. It invested in significant menu innovation across its grab-and-go range of salad and sandwiches to expand its brand appeal to a broader customer demographic – and to encourage higher frequency of visits, especially during the summer months. Four sites were opened during the year and the average transaction value was £5. Azzurri Group chairman Harvey Smyth reported the company has increased market share in the “crowded mid-market” with like-for-like revenue growth achieved “for the sixth successive year and across all our brands”. Adjusted Ebitda of £37m for the 290-strong group was in line with the previous year. He added: “When adjusted for the material impact of the extreme and unprecedented weather in February and March, our result demonstrates even stronger sales growth and healthy profit progression.” Eight new Zizzi sites and three new ASK Italian venues were opened in the year – spend per head at both of the brands is £19. Its two-strong Radio Alice brand, where spend per head is £16, is also set to expand. The company stated: “Radio Alice’s proposition has been cemented following a transformational year of growing awareness and footfall. The pizza and proposition is unlike any other. We’re excited by its potential and look forward to capitalising on this momentum by expanding the number of sites over the year ahead.”
Pizza East and Chicken Shop operator reports increased losses: Quentin Restaurants, which operates 17 restaurants, including three Pizza East sites, ten Chicken Shops venues and three Dirty Burger sites, has reported a pre-tax loss of £4,852,000 in the year to 31 December 2017 compared with £3,509,000 the year before. Turnover was £26,531,000 compared with £25,144,000 the previous year. Adjusted Ebitda was a loss of £500,000 compared with a positive figure of £700,000 the year before – the company cited rising labour and property costs alongside “investment to support future growth” for the loss. The company closed two Chicken Shop and one Dirty Burger site during the year. The company took an impairment of £1,043,000 against these sites and another impairment of £729,000 for onerous lease and closure costs.
McDonald’s adds more healthy options to Happy Meal: McDonald’s has added further healthy options to its Happy Meal. The company has removed artificial preservatives from its low-fat strawberry yogurt and added a bottle of Dasani water as an option at no extra cost. The move follows McDonald’s overhaul of the children’s meal earlier this year, which included making cheeseburgers a request-only item, reducing the size of French fries, cutting salt and removing artificial preservatives in chicken McNuggets, and reformulating sugar content in its chocolate milk. McDonald’s has also pledged every meal combination on its Happy Meal menu boards in the US will feature no more than 600 calories. McDonald’s has been making significant changes to the Happy Meal since 2012, when it began including apple slices. In 2014, the company added the squeezable yogurt as another side option, which only has 45 calories. McDonald’s has been on a journey to improve the quality of food throughout its menu by using fresh beef in its Quarter Pounder and removing artificial ingredients from seven classic burgers.
Wimpy to launch sauces as retail range: Wimpy is launching its own-brand special sauce and tomato ketchup into the retail market for the first time. The 500ml bottles will be available to buy in Wimpy restaurants from Monday (19 November). General manager Chris Woolfenden said: “Our special sauce and ketchup have added the proverbial ‘icing on the cake’ to our breakfasts, burgers and grills for decades. Customers are always asking why they can’t buy a bottle and we finally decided it was time to offer them as an early Christmas treat. We love the fact we’re extending the Wimpy brand into peoples’ homes and believe with such a great heritage behind us, we’ll soon be a kitchen staple.” Launched in 1989 with a secret recipe, more than 25,000 litres of Wimpy special sauce are used in the UK’s casual dining chain restaurants every year, while more than 35,000 litres of its own-brand tomato ketchup is used in the company’s 74 UK restaurants per year.
Wolf and Frizzenti to open sites in new-look Manchester Arndale food quarter: Italian street food restaurant Wolf and wine and cocktail on tap brand Frizzenti are to open sites in the new-look food quarter at the Arndale Centre in Manchester. Wolf founder Tim Entwistle will open his fifth venue, inside Halle Place, the £11m transformation of the centre’s atrium off Market Street. Wolf states on its website it has a “ferocious passion for all things Italian”, with its menu featuring piada, a dish Entwistle likens to an “Italian burrito”, alongside freshly made pasta and salad. Wolf serves its own-blend Italian coffee and a selection of Italian beer and wine. Wolf has two sites in Reading and one each in Chiswick and Leeds, and will launch a site at Boxpark Wembley next month. The company has also submitted plans for an outlet in Nottingham. Meanwhile, Frizzenti will open its second Fizz! Bar. The 1,500 square foot venue will feature the Frizzenti cocktail-on-tap range as well as still and sparkling wine complemented by all-day cicchetti – Italian tapas – and a pastry bar. Co-founder and managing director George Workman said: “We look forward to sharing our food and drinks offer with the people of Manchester.” The launch follows the company’s debut Fizz! Bar at the Grand Central shopping centre in Birmingham.
Acai Berry to open fourth UK site, in Chelsea: Brazilian superfood brand Acai Berry is to open its fourth UK site on Saturday (24 November) as it expands its presence in London. Founders Marcus Carmo and Renato Damiano are opening the venue in King’s Road, Chelsea. Customers can enjoy acai, which is vegan, gluten-free and non-genetically modified, for breakfast, lunch or dinner, in a bowl or as a snack or smoothie. There are also acai-packed protein balls, brownies and organic coffee. The new bar in King’s Road is set to be the brand’s biggest venture yet with new menu additions including pancakes and muffins. Carmo said: “There are many varieties of acai in stores, in powdered form, in capsules and so on, but our acai is the finest, purest and most nutrient-dense product you will find anywhere in the UK, which I guess is the reason our acai is popular with David Beckham and other top athletes. We are glad our customers have embraced our brand and have also recognised the real taste of acai compared with everything we have seen out there. Renato and I have enjoyed this incredibly delicious superfood all our lives in Brazil and we wanted to share it with the UK people. It is a lifestyle thing.” Acai Berry’s other superfood bars in the capital are in Argyll Street, Kingly Court and Carnaby Street. It also has a pop-up bar in Ibiza.
Mangobean opens debut Scottish site, second to follow early next year:Coffee brand Mangobean has opened its debut site in Scotland, with a second to follow early next year. The company has launched its first store north of the border, in Dundee, after converting a former Vodafone shop in Murraygate. Mangobean launched more than ten years ago and has gone from selling coffee beans and equipment to operating 14 stores on a franchise basis. Mangobean has ambitious plans to grow its number of sites to 28 by the spring and 200 in the next five years, in addition to establishing outlets in the education and healthcare markets. An Edinburgh store is due to open in early 2019. Founder Shane Saunders told The Scotsman: “Our coffee shops offer a fun environment where everyone can enjoy awesome, freshly roasted coffee. It’s an exciting time for us and we’re delighted to open our first Mangobean store in Scotland. We can’t wait to see how successful the store is going to be.”
Tortilla eyes Oxford: Mexican restaurant group Tortilla is eyeing a site in Oxford. The company has applied to the city council to convert a property in Cornmarket Street into a restaurant, creating 25 jobs. If approved, the eatery would have 54 covers on the ground floor and a further 42 on the first floor. It is proposed the venue would trade from 8am to 11pm daily, reports Insider Media. A design and access statement accompanying the application said the restaurant would “contribute to the local economy” and “encourage greater levels of footfall into the evening”. Tortilla was founded in 2007 and currently operates 41 sites across the UK.
Bristol-based climbing centre operator acquires trampoline park company out of administration: A Bristol-based climbing centre operator has acquired two trampoline parks in south west England out of administration, saving 81 jobs. Freedog, which operates the parks in Bristol and Swindon, was acquired by Tom Gape, who runs Redpoint Bristol Climbing Centre. Neil Vinnicombe and Simon Haskew, of the Bath office of Begbies Traynor, were appointed to handle the administration of Freedog last month. Freedog’s directors had attempted to sell the business prior to Begbies’ appointment but the buyer withdrew at the eleventh hour. After an extensive marketing campaign, the administrators completed the sale of the business and assets of Freedog’s trampoline and activity parks. Vinnicombe told Insider Media: “This approach to rescuing the firm means not only have we been able to protect the workforce but we have also been able to provide continuity for the company’s loyal customers and avoided two large vacant warehouses in central city locations. Additionally, the sale should help maximise any potential return to the company’s creditors.” Gape added: “I am delighted to welcome Freedog’s customers and staff to the Redpoint family. We have been operating in Bristol for more than five years and have been looking to expand our operations for some time. We’ll maintain the great facilities Freedog offers and there will be exciting expansion news soon.” Freedog, which was founded in 2014, underwent significant private investment to transform the large empty warehouses in Bristol and Swindon.
JD Wetherspoon sees Welwyn Garden City pub proposal rejected for third time: JD Wetherspoon has been refused permission to develop a hotel and bar in Welwyn Garden City (population 43,252) for a third time, in a long-running saga that dates to the company’s acquisition of a site in the Hertfordshire town in April 2015. Wetherspoon has seen its latest proposal for the site in Parkway thrown out by Welwyn Hatfield Council. The plan includes a bar and 13-bedroom hotel, which would require an extension to the vacant office building as well as a beer garden and terrace. All 12 of the council’s planning committee members voted against the scheme, reports the Welwyn Hatfield Times. The committee believed the proposal would represent a “significant overdevelopment” that “failed to reflect [the building’s] surroundings”. More than 200 people sent representations to the council objecting. Cllr Steven Markewicz said: “They say the definition of madness is trying the same thing again and again and expecting different results.” Cllr Mike Larkins added: “This is a conservation area – it will stay that way. This is the wrong place. We welcome Wetherspoon in the town centre, but not this place.” The council has turned down two previous applications by Wetherspoon to develop the site, which has been vacant since 2014.
Company of Cooks to launch new Royal Academy of Arts restaurant:Contract caterer Company of Cooks is to open a new restaurant next month at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. The company is launching Senate Room, which will have an Italian-inspired small plates menu. It will offer lunch and afternoon tea during the day and transform into a bar with wine, cocktails and aperitivo at night. The 60-cover restaurant will be located in the eponymous restored Senate Room at the academy’s home of Burlington House in Piccadilly. Chef Stephen Beadle, whose background includes four years at the Michelin-starred River Cafe, will lead the kitchen with his menu including delicia squash and ricotta pansotti pasta with parmesan and crispy sage. A selection of champagnes, Italian wine and sparkling wine by the glass and by the bottle will also be available. By night, Senate Room will transform into a bar with early evening cocktails and complimentary aperitivo. Company of Cooks founder Mike Lucy said: “We are thrilled to be launching Senate Room in a place as revered as the Royal Academy of Arts, which has such an extensive and enthusiastic audience from all over the world.”
Debenhams names former Costa executive as property director:Debenhams has named Clive Bentley as its new property director, replacing Rob Hadfield who leaves the department store retailer next month. Bentley joins with 25 years of retail and leisure experience, having previously worked as global property and commercial director for Costa Coffee, as well as positions at fresh food-to-go retailer EAT and Prezzo. He will report directly to chief finance officer Rachel Osborne, who was previously with Domino’s Pizza. “Bentley will bring a wealth of experience as we transform our property portfolio and work with landlords to redefine a new future for our store estate,” Debenhams chief executive Sergio Bucher said. “(He) will play a key role in this process.”
Subway opens first drive-thru site in Ireland: Subway has opened its first drive-thru site in Ireland. Franchisee Damian Havlin has launched the outlet in Boucher Road, Belfast, following a £250,000 investment, creating 20 jobs. The store features the brand’s Fresh Forward format, which includes digital menu boards, free charging ports, and a revamped fresh vegetable display. Havlin told the Irish News: “We wanted to offer something different to the already loyal Subway customers and we’re delighted to open the first drive-thru store in Ireland.” Stacey Brown, development manager for Subway Northern Ireland, said: “The Boucher Road area is a thriving destination for time restricted commuters, health-conscious families and forward-thinking millennials making it the ideal location for this drive-thru. Bringing both convenience and quality, the store represents our continued commitment to Northern Ireland and our continued innovation in food and service.” In the past 20 years, Subway has opened more than 100 stores in Northern Ireland, creating 1,500 jobs.
Asian-inspired Yen Burger launches in London: Yen Burger has launched in London. Owner Yen Nguyen’s Japanese urban-inspired restaurant offers premium Asian-influenced burgers that combine ingredients such as Japanese chilli and kimchi mayonnaise and Asian herbs such as shiso, a Japanese leaf known for its health benefits. Burgers are prepared in-house, with buns made daily at Bread Ahead. Side options include Asian coleslaw, edamame beans and homemade sweet potato chips. The Asian-influenced cocktail menu includes spice-infused aperitifs. Seating is spread across two floors for 70 guests, not including the bar. Nguyen, who has experience at leading restaurants in the UK and Germany, said: “Although I grew up in Europe surrounded by lots of great western food chains, I could never go a day without my mother’s Asian cuisine. I wanted to create something that combined western food with light East Asian ingredients – an Asian burger. The opening of Yen Burger sees this dream come to fruition.”
Pop-up turned permanent pizza restaurant to double up in Cardiff: Pop-up turned permanent pizza restaurant Dusty Knuckle has secured its second site in Cardiff. Owners Phill Lewis and Deb Noyes opened their first bricks and mortar site in canton in 2016 having started out touring markets and festivals in Wales. Now they are to transform the former warden’s bungalow on the edge of Sophia Gardens into a 100-cover eatery, complete with open kitchen, fire pits, and in-house bakery. The restaurant is expected to open in March following a £250,000 refurbishment. Lewis told Wales Online: “We can’t wait to bring our vision for this amazing building to life, and to become part of the growing independent restaurant scene in the city centre.”
Marston’s brings Lost & Found to Sheffield for sixth site: Marston’s Revere Pub Company has opened a sixth site for its concept The Lost & Found. The 178-cover venue has launched in Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, featuring the brand’s signature Victorian hideaway theme. Set over two floors, the venue includes a secret bar, an all-day menu of seasonal dishes, an extensive gin collection and cocktails featuring botanical ingredients. The venue takes its inspiration from Sheffield Botanical Gardens and the city’s industrial past. Revere managing director Colin Sadler said: “We are thrilled to add another site to The Lost & Found brand and build on our success. Sheffield is a metropolitan city full of culture and unique places to experience and we are sure The Lost & Found will be a welcome addition to the dining and drinking scene.” The concept’s other sites are in Bristol, Birmingham, Knutsford and two in Leeds.
Leasehold of Cotswolds inn and model village sold to experienced operators: The leasehold of a Cotswolds inn home to one of England’s oldest model villages has been sold to experienced operators Andrew and Julie Lund-Yates. The Old New Inn & Model Village, situated in the village of Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, was acquired off an asking price of £595,000 through agents Christie & Co. The Old New Inn is a detached, three-storey grade II-listed property, dating to 1712, earning its name as it was built on and doubled in size through extensions in the 1930s. The building comprises of three bars, a main restaurant for up to 40 covers, a function room with capacity for up to 60 guests, a breakfast room for up to 20 covers and a beer terrace and garden. The site’s main attraction has been the model village, located behind the inn, which is a one-ninth scale exact replica of the heart of Bourton-on-the-Water, crafted by local builders from Cotswold stone. Built in 1936, it is one of the oldest model villages in England and the only one to be given grade-II listed status, attracting more than 100,000 visitors a year. The Lund-Yates’ both have extensive experience in the sector, with Andrew having held various hotel and venue management roles, as well as previously owning a catering business, and Julie running her own corporate events company. They plan to reopen the Old New Inn full time as well as utilising the letting rooms.
Anthracite martini lounge launches in King’s Cross: Martini lounge Anthracite has launched in King’s Cross, London. The 90-cover, three-roomed lounge has opened on the first floor of the Great Northern Hotel. Drawing on the hotel’s railway heritage – anthracite was a principal fuel for steam trains – the lounge’s charcoal colour palette has been brought to life with submetallic details and electric blue trims. The walls feature portraits by Gareth Reid, a former Sky Arts portrait artist of the year, while cocktails and gin and tonic accompany the wide range of martini-based drinks. Owner-operator Jeremy Robson said: “Standing at the gateway to the newly regenerated King’s Cross, I wanted to bring something to the area that builds on the Great Northern Hotel’s timeless elegance while offering a darker edge of glamour and subversion.”
Dalata reveals details of Dublin mixed-use hotel development: Irish hotel operator Dalata has revealed details of its mixed-use development at the Tara Towers site in Dublin. The company stated: “In July 2017, Dalata announced plans for the redevelopment of the site to include a four-star Maldron hotel. The 1.46-acre site was acquired by the company in January 2016 for €13.155m, and the Tara Towers hotel was operated by Dalata until 30 September 2018. The development will comprise a four-star Maldron hotel, 69 residential units and a basement car park. The hotel will have 140 bedrooms, four meeting rooms, a bar and restaurant. McAleer & Rushe have been appointed contractors and the overall estimated development cost is €51m. McAleer & Rushe are currently constructing Clayton Hotel Charlemont Dublin and Maldron Hotel Newcastle. Irish Residential Properties (IRP) has contracted to purchase the entire residential development on completion from Dalata, comprising 69 residential units and 69 parking spaces. IRP has contracted to pay up to €42.4m (exclusive of VAT) for the development.” Dermot Crowley, Dalata deputy chief executive – business development and finance, said: “This is an exciting transaction for us as it will deliver a new custom built 140-bedroom Maldron Hotel, in a location we are very familiar with, having operated the Tara Towers Hotel since early 2016. We are delighted to have secured a high-quality reputable residential partner and we look forward to McAleer & Rushe completing the hotel and residential scheme over a two-year build period. This project underlines our commitment to and confidence in the Dublin hotel market.”