Investors back call to spin off Costa from Whitbread: Major investors have thrown their weight behind calls to break up Whitbread and spin off Costa Coffee. A top 20 shareholder in the company told the Sunday Telegraph they were supportive of US hedge fund Sachem Head’s proposal to split Whitbread in two. The move would represent Costa and Whitbread’s hotels and restaurants arm going their separate ways and becoming independent businesses. Chief executive Alison Brittain said on Friday (19 January) it did not make sense to sell Costa as it was half way through a reinvigoration plan but confirmed the board regularly reviewed the company’s structure. However, one top investor said: “We think now is the time to consider a de-merger of the Costa business. For many years we’ve seen Whitbread as a good owner of these businesses and resisted calls to break it up. But clearly Costa has not had it as good since. No shareholder would stick with this status quo of keeping these two businesses together forever.” Another leading shareholder said the current share price “doesn’t represent the full value of the assets”. A meeting with new Whitbread chairman Adam Crozier is expected to take place in the next couple of weeks to press for change. Whitbread’s shares increased 3.4% to £39.83 last week, valuing it at £7.3bn, following reports Sachem Head had officially pushed for a break-up of the business.

Banana Tree reports Ebitda boost as turnover passes £10m: South east Asian-inspired restaurant Banana Tree, led by William and Anne Chow, has reported turnover for the year to 30 April 2017 increased 12.26% to £10,113,640 compared with £9,008,801 the year before. Ebitda was up 15.87% to £1,416,597 compared with £1,222,548 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. This included exceptional costs relating to previous year, including a credit card balance dating to 2010 and written off from the balance sheet as well as prior years’ service charges for its Islington site and rent free period adjustments for its Milton Keynes and Oxford restaurants, not accounted for in FY2016. Pre-tax profit rose to £893,738 compared with £480,615 the year before. The number of employees at the end of the period increased to 180 from 162 the previous year. Banana Tree currently operates nine sites having opened its latest in Chelmsford, Essex, in September.

Novus to open two new sites this week, for Tank & Paddle and Balls Brothers brands: London bar and restaurant operator Novus is to open two new sites this week. The company will launch its third Tank & Paddle site on Wednesday (24 January) in Heddon Street in the West End. The new restaurant and bar, which has more than 130 internal covers and 42 externally, has undergone a £600,000 refurbishment. The Heddon Street site is the third investment into the Tank & Paddle brand over the past 14 months, following two City of London openings in Mincing Lane and Bishopsgate. The concept focuses on hand-stretched pizzas and craft beers served straight from the tank. Novus said both Mincing Lane and Bishopsgate have seen “huge success” since opening, serving an average of 1,700 pizzas and 4,500 pints of Meantime Brewery beer each week. On Thursday (25 January), the company will open its first site in Canary Wharf, with the launch of its 11th Balls Brothers. The new bar and restaurant, which has undergone a £500,000 refurbishment, spans two floors and boasts 132 internal covers. There is also an additional 107 external seats on two terraces. Balls Brothers serves classic British dishes alongside wine and premium spirits. Novus chief executive Toby Smith said: “It’s a big week for Novus. We are delighted to be launching our first site in Canary Wharf following the acquisition of the Rocket group in 2017 and taking our love for craft beer and great pizza from the City to open in what is one of the very best sites in the UK.”

Remarkable Pubs to launch first paperless scoreless mystery shopper programme: Remarkable Pubs, the 14-strong privately owned London-based operator, in association with licensed trade research specialists Service Monitor, of Berkhamstead, has launched a mystery shopper programme that takes advice from mystery guests who visit and only report back on what they believe is important. Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna said: “So often a mystery shopper is asked to report back on things that he or she would simply not have an opinion on. My team and I are keen to know their ‘top-of-mind’ thoughts and get to the nub of the really important things.” Barry McKeich, of the Service Monitor Group, added: “We will carefully select a customer to visit a Remarkable pub to eat and drink and the following day we will record a telephone discussion where the customer will relay what he or she liked and what could have been better – by providing a purely audio narrative output. The focus will not be on a ‘score achieved’, but rather on what the customer is telling the team.”

The Restaurant Group set to cut dividend as analysts predict 30% drop in profits: The Restaurant Group is set to cut shareholder payouts as it braces itself for another steep fall in profits. Analysts expect the company will cut its dividend to 15.2p a share for 2017, down from 17.4p the prior year, as they predict a 30% drop in profits to £54m. The Restaurant Group has suffered two years of falling like-for-like sales and has continued to discount its food heavily in a bid to attract customers. “With the pressures on the sector one might ask should they be paying a dividend,” one analyst said. “You have got to think it should be trimmed as a minimum.” Russ Mould, from investment company AJ Bell, told the Sunday Telegraph the amount of money the company had to cover its dividend was “lower than you would like”. “If it holds the dividend flat that would be a positive surprise,” he said. Mould noted the pressures in the sector from rising wages and food price inflation but said one positive aspect about The Restaurant Group was its low levels of debt.

Zing Zing passes £1m mark in crowdfunding campaign as it raises double original target: Zing Zing, the north London-based Chinese takeout concept, has passed the £1m mark on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube – double its original target. The company, founded by Josh Magidson who sold his startup business to Just Eat in 2010, is raising the funds for further expansion in return for an 8.68% equity stake. The campaign hit its £500,000 target within hours of launch and so far 886 investors have pledged £1,030,090 with three days remaining. The largest single investment has been £140,000. The company’s advisors include Maurice Abboudi, sector investor and executive director of K10, while Zing Zing’s executive chef is television chef and School of Wok creator Jeremy Pang. The pitch states: “Zing Zing is revolutionising the £1.4bn Chinese takeout industry by offering Chinese cuisine with a modern and healthy twist, cooked fresh to order and delivered fast. We have four units in London. Our revenue in 2016 was £1.23m with Ebitda of minus £300,000 (including a £93,000 spend from our last Crowdcube raise in 2016). We have seen sales grow by 75% to October and are profitable at store level since October.” Earlier this month, Magidson reported record trading on New Year’s Day, with 880 orders taking circa £18,000.

Crosstown Doughnuts launches cash-free Fitzrovia site for sixth London venue: Crosstown Doughnuts, founded by Adam Wills and Peter Gordon, has launched its sixth site in London, this time in Fitzrovia. The doughnut and coffee bar has opened as part of the Rathbone Square development in Newman Street and is its second cash-free site. As with its other openings, the venue is running free doughnut and coffee for £1 offers during the first two weeks, Hot Dinners reports. Crosstown Doughnuts offers glazed sourdough doughnuts such as yuzu and matcha, and strawberry and elderflower, alongside cold-brew coffee. The company launched its first site in Piccadilly in 2015 and has opened further venues in Camden, Shoreditch, Soho and Victoria, as well as operating at markets around London.

Jamie Oliver opens first Jamie’s Italian in Qatar: Chef Jamie Oliver has opened his first Jamie’s Italian in Qatar. The 130-cover restaurant, which has been opened with franchise partner Apparel, is located at the Festival City Mall in Doha. Last month Oliver added to his overseas restaurants by opening a Jamie’s Italian in Vienna, a Jamie Oliver Diner in Rotterdam and the first European Jamie’s Pizzeria outside the UK, located in Budapest’s Gozsdu district. Oliver now has more than 50 sites internationally across 24 countries.

Chucs appoints new group head chef as it prepares to launch third London site, in Harrods: Italian restaurant and cafe Chucs Bar & Grill has appointed Carlos Martinez as group head chef as it prepares to open its third London site, inside Harrods department store next month. Martinez joins from his previous role as head chef at Maze by Gordon Ramsay and will be heavily involved in the upcoming opening alongside group executive head chef Alessandro Verdenelli. Martinez has also been executive head chef at five-star hotel Cliveden House in Taplow, Buckinghamshire, and held the same position at The Stafford London. Chucs group food and beverage operations manager Stephan Guicheteau said: “We are thrilled to welcome Carlos to our growing team. With Chucs expanding this year and entering a new phase of development, we know Carlos’ expertise will make a wonderful addition during this exciting time.” Chucs Restaurant & Cafe is the sister concept to the 1950s swimwear and men’s fashion label. Its other sites are in Dover Street and Westbourne Grove. Chucs Bar & Grill Harrods will seat 55 guests and feature interiors reminiscent of a luxury yacht.

Paul UK more than doubles re-usable cup discount: French artisan bakery and patisserie Paul has more than doubled its discount – from 10p to 25p – for customers who use a re-usable cup when ordering a hot drink. The company launched the 10p discount in April 2017 as part of its “Paul Cares” policy and also offers own-branded reusable cups in-store. Paul UK chief executive Jean-Michel Orieux said: “Paul Cares is our way of demonstrating our commitment to a passion we share with our customers that goes beyond the cup – lightening the environmental footprint of all we welcome through our doors. We hope by increasing the discount it will make a significant difference.” Last month, Paul UK opened its 37th site and second in Oxford at the new £440m Westgate development, the group’s third venue outside London.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen to close Pop Brixton site, founder eyes new project: Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, the African cuisine concept founded by food writer and chef Zoe Adjonyoh, is to close its Pop Brixton site. Adjonyoh will host a farewell party on Sunday, 28 January but said she would announce a new project “later this year”. Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen offers dishes such as suya lamb kofte and mini goat shoko pies alongside West African beer. Adjonyoh said: “Pop Brixton was our first permanent home and it’s been an honour to be surrounded by a bunch of like-minded, food-obsessed local entrepreneurs. We’ve achieved so much in the tiniest of spaces but now feels like the right time to move on to our next adventure.” Adjonyoh opened the Pop Brixton site following a number of London residencies. In 2015, she forecast an “explosion in growth” of African food in the capital.

Weymouth-based operators take on Marston’s pub for third site: Weymouth-based operators Emma and Richard Lamb have taken on a Marston’s pub in the Dorset town for their third site. The Lambs, who also operate the Nothe Tavern and Kings Arms on the harbourside, are now running The Boot Inn. Emma Lamb told the Dorset Echo: “It’s a great privilege to have been given the keys to The Boot Inn, arguably Weymouth’s oldest pub. We are working hard to ensure The Boot Inn maintains its charm and all the elements the regulars and visitors to the pub expect. It’s a classic English pub and long may it stay that way.” The Lambs said all the old favourites have returned to the pub, including Ringwood ales and Cheddar cider. Pork pies have also been reinstated.

Asian street food concept Dai Pai starts expansion with second site in Scotland: Asian street food concept Dai Pai has started expansion by opening a second site in Scotland, this time in Dundee. The concept takes inspiration from “dai pai dongs” – open-air food stalls that are popular in Hong Kong. The restaurant and takeaway offers traditional Asian dishes such as rice and noodles, gyoza dumplings and steamed buns alongside new creations such as the “sushiritto” – traditional sushi dishes reimagined as a Mexican burrito. Tommy Pang, supervisor at the Dundee outlet, said the owners had taken a “calculated” decision to launch in Reform Street after opening their first restaurant in Edinburgh. He told the Evening Telegraph: “Dundee had a reputation in the past but in the next couple of years that’s going to change – we are happy to take that gamble. Reform Street is a good location. I believe the owners got a good deal but those deals will not be around forever because Dundee is an up-and-coming city.” Dai Pai is the latest in a number of eateries to open in Reform Street recently, including German Doner Kebab and Project Pizza.

York-based operators unveil mixed-use development plans for second venture: York-based operators Sarah and Michael Lakin have unveiled plans for their second venture – a mixed-use development featuring a cafe bar, performance space, micro-brewery and distillery. The brother and sister team, who launched the Fossgate Social in October 2013, plan to open the site in Micklegate. They are in the process of taking over the lease of 148-150 Micklegate, which is home to Your Bike Shed, which comprises a bike repair shop and cycling-themed licensed cafe. The cafe bar would be on the ground floor of number 150, with the basement used for performance space. The micro-brewery, distillery and an off-licence would be next door, reports York Mix. Brew kit and spirit stills would be displayed in the large glass windows of the property, which dates to the late 17th century. The Lakins have already launched a micro-brewery at Fossgate Social, brewing small batches of craft beer.

Greene King named in Top 100 Apprenticeship Employer list: Brewer and retailer Greene King has been recognised in the 2017 Top 100 Apprenticeship Employer list, compiled annually by the National Apprenticeship Service. The list features organisations that display the highest standards of excellence in employing apprentices. Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand said: “We take our responsibility to develop our team members’ careers very seriously and have been investing in our apprenticeship programme for many years. It is great to be recognised for this by the National Apprenticeship Service and we’re very pleased to once again be named a Top 100 apprenticeship employer. Our apprenticeship programme goes from strength to strength as we continue to offer development opportunities for young people in hospitality.” In 2016, Greene King pledged to support 10,000 apprentices in the following three years. The company currently has more than 2,500 learners working towards Level 2 to 4 apprenticeships. Meanwhile, seven of the company’s business development managers have completed post-graduate diplomas in partnership with Birmingham City University. The one-year programme helps staff develop skills to improve results across the business and benefit tenanted and leased pubs.

Coffee and pinball concept Tilt gets go-ahead to open cocktail bar in Birmingham arcade: The team behind coffee and pinball concept Tilt has been given the go-ahead to open a cocktail bar in the same historic Birmingham arcade. Tilt is a multi-functional space in City Arcade that offers craft beer in cans and bottles, speciality coffee and pinball alongside loose-leaf tea, wine and spirits. Kirk Sadler and Robert Wood launched Tilt in November 2016 and have now been granted permission by the city council to launch cocktail bar Above Tilt in the unit above and to connect the space, reports Insider Media. The application stated: “Tilt is now firmly established and the original concept of craft beer, coffee and pinball has been a success and sees growth in sales and popularity. The plan now is to develop that concept further and make City Arcade a destination for social interaction. We plan on opening a concept cocktail bar and additional space for Tilt. The additional space will be used for meetings and private hire as this is something we’ve needed but have been unable to provide.”

Serviced apartment company SACO lodges plans for third Locke site, in Manchester: Serviced apartment company SACO, which is backed by Oaktree Capital, has lodged plans for a third site for its Locke brand, in Manchester. The company has applied to the city council to convert the former Atrium Serviced Apartments complex on the corner of Princess Street and Whitworth Street into a 160-bedroom aparthotel. The site encompasses four separate but linked buildings including grade II-listed former shipping warehouse Central House, reports Insider Media. The scheme involves extending the total number of rooms from 116 to 160, increasing the amount of restaurant and cafe space from 6,941 to 10,165 square feet, and removing 5,193 square feet of nightclub space. There would be bars on the basement and ground-floor levels, both open to the public. Locke, which “combines the best aspects of boutique hotels and serviced apartments”, launched in 2016 in Aldgate, central London, and also has a site in Edinburgh.

M&B teams up with Thornbridge Brewery to launch craft beer residency across Castle estate: Mitchells & Butlers has teamed up with Thornbridge Brewery to launch a “craft beer residency” across its 100-strong estate of Castle Pubs. The initiative will run from Thursday (25 January) to Saturday, 17 March offering a selection of more than 20 keg, cask and bottled craft beers from Derbyshire-based Thornbridge. The residency will include new-to-keg beers such as Ena, a nitro milk stout brewed for the Six Nations rugby tournament, and ‘Mimosa’ Vermont IPA, developed by Castle’s Brew Crew, a group of managers from the pub chain. Mitchells & Butlers drinks procurement manager Ben Lockwood said: “The selection of beers being brought to our pubs across all formats is unrivalled at this scale and we know our guests are going to enjoy visiting over the six weeks to hunt down new and old favourites, especially the beers brewed exclusively for us.” The Craft Beer Residency will also see pubs host food and beer-pairing events and nine meet the brewer sessions.

Manchester real ale bar Cask to start expansion with second city site: Real ale bar Cask, which launched in Castlefield, Manchester, in 2003, is to start expansion by opening a second site in the city. The company has signed to open a bar on the canal side of the Cotton Field Wharf development in Ancoats in the spring. Cask offers local brews, German wheat beers, strong Belgian imports, special American imports and bottles from around the globe, alongside a range of spirits. A Cask spokesman told Insider Media: “We are really excited by the opportunity to expand our little piece of Manchester into another great part of the city centre. We look forward to bringing Manchester’s most comprehensive choice of real ale and international beers to Ancoats.” The development is operated by Manchester Life Development Company, a joint venture between the owners of Manchester City Football Club and the council, that will also see Pollen Bakery open a venue this year, moving from its current home at Piccadilly train station. Marty Edelman, executive chairman of Manchester Life Development Company, said: “Cask and Pollen Bakery represent the best of Manchester’s thriving food and drink scene and are amazing additions to Ancoats.”

Developer bids to make micro-brewery focus of new Hull city centre leisure complex: Developer KWH, which has received approval to turn an empty office block in Hull city centre into a development featuring shops and restaurants, has submitted plans to open a micro-brewery at the heart of the project. KWH will start work shortly to transform King William House in Market Place into several restaurants and leisure facilities, along with 30 high-end apartments. It has submitted a further application to turn part of a former Argos store into a brewery, which would include a visitor centre and taproom. KWH director Shaun Larvin told the Hull Daily Mail: “We are not in advanced talks with any brewer yet but there is a lot of interest. This kind of use works really well with the footprint we have in that location. We believe this would be a unique attraction to bring to Hull city centre.” Regarding the rest of the development, Larvin said: “There may be one or two shops, depending on who comes forward, but we are looking at bistros and restaurants to move in – and these will be national brands.” Built in 1975, King William House also includes a 600-space multi-storey car park.