Azzurri Group appoints new managing directors for ASK and Zizzi: Azzurri Group, the Bridgepoint-backed restaurant company, has reshuffled its management team, with Harry Heeley moving across from ASK Italian to become managing director of Zizzi and Chris Holmes, formerly of KFC, set to replace him, Propel has learned. Heeley joined Steve Holmes-led Azzurri as managing director of ASK at the start of 2016 after spending more than seven years at the National Trust, including four and a half years as hospitality director. Holmes will join the company as managing director of ASK later this summer after five-and-a-half years at KFC, latterly as chief development officer. Before that he had stints at Boots, EMI and PwC. Azzurri currently operates 112 ASK restaurants; 158 Zizzi sites in the UK plus three in Ireland and one in China; 22 Coco di Mamas and will open its third Radio Alice on Monday (24 June). At the same time Phil Boyd, who has been operations director at Zizzi for the past three years, has seen his role expanded to include overseeing the brand’s fledgling overseas operation. He will report into Heeley. Azzurri is also set to start a search for a marketing director, with Jo Fawcett set to step down as Zizzi marketing director this year after six years with the business. Earlier this year, Propel revealed Azzurri had appointed new finance directors for ASK and Zizzi. Karen Sweetman joined Zizzi as finance director from Navitas, having previously worked at Homebase as head of trading finance and business accounting services. Her appointment followed the promotion of Chris Webb to finance director of ASK Italian. On Friday (21 June), Azzurri Group bought Pod, the 22-strong, London-based healthy eating operator, in a pre-pack administration to accelerate the roll out of Coco di Mama. A total of 13 of the Pod sites will continue to trade while nine will be closed.
Flight Club team to launch Electric Shuffle in Canary Wharf, forecasts turnover to double to £20m in 2019: The team behind social darts concept Flight Club will launch its shuffleboard concept, Electric Shuffle, in Canary Wharf by the end of the year, Propel has learned. Electric Shuffle will open in Cabot Square in a site formerly occupied by Thai restaurant Sri Nams. Vapiano had been expected to take the site but a new lease has been agreed for Electric Shuffle with the Canary Wharf Estate. It is also understood a site in London Bridge is being looked at for the concept. Electric Shuffle modernises the traditional game of shuffleboard, using technology to turn it into a multi-player game. There will be three games for players to choose from. Propel also understands Flight Club expects turnover to double in 2019, exceeding £20m. It comes as Flight Club reported turnover rose 34.2% to £9.96m for the year ending 30 December 2018, compared with £7.42m the previous year. Operating losses increased to £1.08m, compared with £14,186 the year before as the company continued to expand. Pre-tax losses were up to £1.26m compared with £161,032 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross margin was down to 51.6%, compared with 54.0% the year before. Sites were opened in Manchester in October and London’s Victoria in November, which have “both traded strongly since day one and continued to solidify their position into 2019”. The fifth UK site for Flight Club will open in Birmingham this summer, while “additional venues” are in the pipeline. During the reported financial year, Flight Club also opened its first international site, in Chicago, which is operated under licence by Social Entertainment Ventures. Earlier this month, Propel revealed a second US venue would open this autumn, in Boston. As previously reported, Flight Club secured £15m of new funding in September 2018. This included a £5m debt finance facility with Santander, from which £2.25m was drawn down by the end of the financial year, according to the report accompanying the accounts. In the report, the directors stated: “2018 was a transformational year for Flight Club. The team behind Flight Club is also finalising plans for launching its second concept, Electric Shuffle, in London before the end of 2019. Bookings at all venues remained extremely healthy.”
Byron makes management team changes: De Polo steps down as MD: Simon Wilkinson, the new chief executive of better burger brand Byron, has moved quickly to strengthen his management team, with the appointment of a new finance director and a director of operational excellence, Propel has learned. Michael Toon, who used to work with Wilkinson at Casual Dining Group, will join Byron later this summer from leading Asian quick-service restaurant chain Chopstix, where he has been finance director for the past year and a half. He replaces Russell Hoare as finance director. At the same time, David Pepper, who was Wilkinson’s people director at La Tasca, joins Byron as its new director of operational excellence. Last month, the company appointed chef and food writer Sophie Michell as its food and drink director. The new changes to the management team follow the departure of Steve de Polo as managing director of the Three Hills Capital Partners-backed business. De Polo joined Byron initially as commercial and brand director last April from Ei Group. Propel understands Byron is looking to appoint a new marketing director and targeting the launch of a refreshed design for later this year. Wilkinson told Propel: “We’d like to thank Steve for his service over the past 12 months where he has helped to stabilise the business. He leaves with our thanks and best wishes. At the same time, we are delighted to add both Michael and David to the senior leadership team – their experience and expertise means they will both make an enormous contribution towards the future success of the business. It has been a very busy first eight weeks but I am thrilled to have such a new, high calibre leadership team to steer Byron during these exciting times.”
Lina Stores heads to King’s Cross: Soho delicatessen Lina Stores, which launched its debut restaurant last year, is to expand further with an opening in King’s Cross this autumn. The White Rabbit Fund-backed concept will open a 100-cover site within one of King’s Cross’ last remaining heritage buildings in Stable Street. Housed within a Victorian transit shed behind Granary Square, the new location will build on the Soho site with a deli and restaurant now under one roof for the first time. Last year, the company opened a 51-seat restaurant in Greek Street. The deli at Lina Stores King’s Cross will feature the brand’s green and white stripes and will be stocked with the “very best Italian pantry essentials”. Diners and shoppers will be able to watch as fresh pasta is made by hand while enjoying an espresso, freshly made-to-order sandwich, or an after-work aperitivo. “Lina Stores has always welcomed Italians seeking a taste of home, people travelling to visit from across the UK and Londoners who return again and again to stock up on quality Italian ingredients,” said Marina Dentamaro, who has managed the deli at 18 Brewer Street for a decade. “We can’t wait to have a restaurant and deli all under one roof in King’s Cross. It is an honour to be part of the history and tradition of Lina Stores.”
Administrators confirm locations of nine Pod sites closing following pre-pack administration deal with Azzurri Group: Administrators of Pod, the 22-strong, London-based healthy eating operator, have confirmed the locations of the nine sites that will shut after the company was bought in a pre-pack administration by Azzurri Group. Damian Webb and Allan Kelly, of RSM Restructuring Advisory, were appointed administrators of Pod Food on Friday (21 June). The business was sold for an undisclosed sum to Azzurri Group, which will continue to trade 13 of the restaurants under the Pod brand before converting a number to Coco di Mama over the next 12 months. However, nine outlets will shut, resulting in 90 redundancies. The stores that will close are at the Broadway Shopping Centre in Hammersmith, Leather Lane, London Wall, Monument Street, Old Bailey, Printer Street, St Giles High Street, Tottenham Street and Upper St Martin’s Lane.
Simmons Bars secures latest Soho site: London operator Simmons Bars has secured its latest site, in Soho. The company has signed for a 3,000 square foot site at 4 Golden Square to add to the brand’s recent acquisition in Poland Street. Simmons will offer its signature five-hour “happy hour” at the Golden Square location. Simmons Bars owner director Nick Campbell said: “Situated between Piccadilly Circus and Carnaby Street, the former Graphic site gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase our famous happy hour, quality cocktails and signature party atmosphere to a great new area of central London. The new venue will be given the trademark Simmons treatment, with school desks, neon lamps and all sorts of other oddments as well as plans for a basement excavation and a function room.” CDG Leisure director Sammy Weinbaum, who brokered the deal, said: “Simmons has crafted a niche in the market and is extremely popular wherever it goes. The group’s expansion is proving how active the bar sector is in a turbulent period for the food and beverage market.” In January, Campbell said the company was pursuing a “number of new opportunities”, with a long-term goal to reach “25 to 30 sites in the next three to five years”. Simmons Bars currently operates 13 London sites, with its next venue due to open in Oxford Street on Friday, 12 July.
Sussex-based Bedlam bids to raise up to £800,000 in second crowdfunding campaign to support growth: Sussex-based craft brewer Bedlam has returned to crowdfunding platform Crowdcube in a bid to raise up to £800,000 to support growth. The company, founded in 2011, is looking to raise £600,000 and is offering 14.67% equity, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £3.2m. Its stretch target of £800,000 would lead to the equity on offer rising to 20%. Bedlam has put together a four-year plan, which would see further investment in its brewery and expansion of the business. If it achieves the stretch target, it will open a brewery tap in Brighton. In 2016, Bedlam raised £500,000 on Crowdcube, which enabled the company to relocate and build a brewery at the foot of the South Downs, ten miles north of Brighton. The site is solar-powered, while the spent grain and hops feed local farm animals. Since its previous raise, turnover has risen considerably and Bedlam has increased its distribution across the on-trade. For the year ending 31 March 2019, average on-trade distribution was up more than 90% year-on-year and turnover increased 57.5% to £526,000. Chief executive Bob Emms, who joined the business in January, said: “Over the past eight years Bedlam has built a family of impassioned, loyal beer lovers. We are looking to invest in key areas of the business – capacity within the brewery and people and brand investment in sales and marketing. With the continued commitment of our dedicated, expanded team, we will commit to making exceptional beer and developing the business within Sussex and beyond!”
Derbyshire-based cafe opens at former McDonald’s in Belper for second site:Derbyshire-based cafe The Book Café has opened its second site. Founders Lisa and Cameron Cook have opened the venue in Belper at a former McDonald’s restaurant at the Orangery, off Chapel Street. The 19th century building has stood empty for more than 12 months, having been home to McDonald’s for 21 years. Formerly a book and gift shop, The Book Café opened its first eatery near Derby’s Eagle Market in 2003 before moving to a larger venue in the Corn Market in 2009, reports Derbyshire Live.
Hélène Darroze to close two Michelin-starred restaurant for major refurbishment:Two Michelin-starred restaurant Hélène Darroze At The Connaught is to undergo a major refurbishment this summer. The restaurant, which is at Mayfair hotel The Connaught, will close on Sunday, 14 July and reopen in mid-September. Celebrating its ten-year anniversary this year, the main dining room will be reimagined while the venue will incorporate a chef’s table and a dedicated Armagnac Room for pre and post-dinner drinks and private events. There are also plans for a new menu from French-born Darroze. It is expected she will continue to cook dishes in her classic French culinary style but with a larger focus on British producers and suppliers. Hélène Darroze At The Connaught is one of three restaurants the chef runs alongside Paris venues Restaurant Hélène Darroze, which also has two Michelin stars, and Jòia, which opened earlier this year. Hélène Darroze At The Connaught opened in 2009 and was awarded its first Michelin star only six months later. It has held its second star since 2011. Before Darroze’s arrival in 2008, the Connaught’s restaurant was run by Angela Hartnett operating on behalf of Gordon Ramsay Holdings.
Owners of Nottingham-based French restaurant to open second site: The owners of Nottingham-based French restaurant Petit Paris are to open a second site in the city. The new bar and restaurant, Paris, will launch in former pub The Lacemakers Arms in High Pavement. Paris will draw inspiration from the French capital’s tree-lined boulevards and include a two-metre Eiffel Tower water feature. The 50-cover restaurant will be towards the rear of the building, with its own private bar for diners. The front, which was an 18th century townhouse, will operate as a bar for those not eating. Paris is on schedule to open in late August or early September. Antony Crossman became one of the new owners of Petit Paris about 18 months ago, with his daughter Paige, business partner Dave Fuher and nephew James Crossman, who trained as a chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Claridges restaurant in London. Antony Crossman told Nottinghamshire Live: “Petit Paris is traditional and at Paris everything from the menu to the decor is going to be contemporary in a classy way.” Petit Paris has been operating in King’s Walk for almost 25 years.
Coffee#1 opens in Alresford as it continues easterly expansion: Coffee#1, which is majority-owned by Caffe Nero, has opened a site in Alresford, Hampshire, as it continues to expand eastwards. The company has opened the outlet in East Street. Caffe Nero became the majority owner of Coffee#1 in January, when it acquired close to 70% ownership from Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain. The brand, which opened its debut store in Cardiff in 2001, currently has 94 sites.
Innis & Gunn rebrands Glasgow Beer Kitchen: Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has converted its Beer Kitchen in Glasgow into a second site for its Brewery Taproom concept. The venue in Ashton Lane now offers 22 taps of Innis & Gunn beer, including tank lager and a number of small-batch brews. The taproom also features a new “Scottish soul food” menu that includes barrel-smoked Ayrshire port ribs, while the Brew Room hosts Innis & Gunn’s brew schools and beer tastings and is available to hire for private dining and meetings. Innis & Gunn director of retail operations Steve Drew said: “Ashton Lane is a great spot but we wanted to make the experience better. We’re confident the rebrand has done just that.” In March, Innis & Gunn unveiled its first Brewery Taproom, in Lothian Road, Edinburgh, after converting a Beer Kitchen site. The company still operates a Beer Kitchen in Dundee, which is due to be rebranded, and plans to open a brewery in Edinburgh featuring a visitors’ centre and taproom in the “next two years”. Meanwhile, Innis & Gunn has opened its first international site, at Barcelona airport.
Family-owned holiday and leisure park operator reports slight dip in turnover and pre-tax profit: Hampshire-based, family-owned holiday and leisure park operator Shorefield Holidays has reported a slight dip in turnover and pre-tax profit. Turnover was down 1.2% to £26,379,655 for the year ending 31 October 2018, compared with £26,696,635 the previous year. Pre-tax profit fell 5.8% to £4,605,454 compared with £4,842,673 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Shorefield said holiday sales performed “exceptionally well”, with more than 4,300 extra nights booked than in 2017 and its share of online bookings increasing by more than 6%. It added that while holiday home sales were down by £1.7m, they were “ahead of budget”, which was “conservative due to exceptional growth in 2017”. During the financial year the company invested £2.9m to replace much of its caravan hire fleet and refurbish lodges. The company is continuing this investment in 2019. Shorefield, which was established in 1958, operates seven self-catering holiday parks in Hampshire and Dorset. It provides holiday accommodation in chalets, caravans, holiday lodges, and touring and camping pitches.
Island Poké launches UK’s first plant-based tuna poké bowl: Island Poké, the White Rabbit Fund-backed concept, has launched the UK’s first plant-based tuna poké bowl. The Vegan Ahi bowl has been developed in-house and is made by marinating watermelon in similar ingredients to its signature dish The Classic Ahi poké bowl. The watermelon is then gently cooked to create a product with the same look, taste and texture as tuna. Founder James Porter said: “We have always wanted to create a vegan option that truly delivers on taste and texture and, following a lot of recipe testing, we’ve developed a dish that captures our passion for incredible food and friendly vibes. We can’t wait for everyone to try it.” Last month, Island Poké opened its seventh London site, in Victoria. Founded in 2015, its other sites are in Bank, Broadgate Circle, Kingly Street, Canary Wharf, Great Titchfield Street and Shoreditch. The company also plans to launch its biggest site to date, in Waterloo, in July.
Holyhead-based operator opens Peaky Blinders-inspired bar and pan-Asian restaurant for second site: Holyhead-based operator Mark Roberts has opened a Peaky Blinders-inspired bar and pan-Asian restaurant in the North Wales town for his second site. Roberts has launched The Urban Tiger at former Market Street pub The Seventy Nine. The venue has been split into three areas – a 1920s-themed bar, a “hippy” Asian garden, and a restaurant. The gin and cocktail bar has been inspired by the hit television show, with Peaky Blinders-style decor, prints and quotes on the walls. The Asian garden is filled with plants, trees and a water feature. The 30-cover restaurant overlooks the garden and offers a range of Asian dishes, including Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Russian and Indonesian, reports North Wales Live. Roberts also runs Simply Street Bar & Grill in the town.
Nando’s opens third Croydon restaurant: Nando’s has opened its third restaurant in Croydon, south London. The company has opened the venue in a former Lloyds Bank branch at Amp House, on the corner of George Street and Dingwall Road, next to East Croydon station. The restaurant accommodates 99 customers with outdoor seating for another 30, reports My London. Nando’s other Croydon restaurants are in High Street and Valley Retail & Leisure Park, off Purley Way.
Hampshire-based distillery closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £490,000: Hampshire-based Winchester Distillery has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising more than £490,000 to expand production and move into the rum and whisky markets. The company, founded by Paul Bowler in 2014, aimed to raise £375,000 and was offering 8.11% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £4,250,000. It has now closed the campaign with 776 investors pledging £490,700. The pitch stated: “With an average sales growth of 82% year-on-year to £714,085 in November 2018 (profit: £68,055), the business has grown organically in five years – with no external finance – from just one gin brand to a portfolio of more than ten premium gins and a Hampshire wasabi vodka. Production is up to 1,000 bottles per week and brands are sold throughout the south of England, online and nationally. UK trade customers include Fuller’s and Matthew Clark, plus a vast portfolio of independent retailers. Winchester Distillery’s distilling equipment is now at capacity and investment will allow us to increase production, install a brewhouse, develop whisky and rum, increase UK marketing, explore export opportunities and open an on-site gift shop.”
Plymouth-based restaurateur to open Turkish concept for second site: Plymouth-based operator Dilbrin Ismaeel is to open a Turkish restaurant for his second site in the Devon city. Ismaeel is launching Dunya, which means “world” in Turkish, in the former Halifax premises at Anglia House in Derry’s Cross. The 100-seat restaurant is set to open later this year. Ismaeel has run Stoke Grill in Devonport Road for about nine years but decided to open his new venture after seeing the 146 square metre ground-floor unit was available. He told Plymouth Live: “It is a really good location for a restaurant. We will do Turkish cuisine – there’s nothing like that in Plymouth city centre.”