Pret food director – Veggie Pret taught us to be more innovative with recipes as vegetarian offer had been ‘lazy’: Pret A Manger food and coffee director Clare Clough has said its Veggie Pret concept taught the company to be more innovative with its recipes as its vegetarian offer had been “lazy” until that point. Clough said the biggest trend the company had seen was the rise in plant-based food – but it had been a real challenge to respond to. The company opened its first Veggie Pret in Soho in June 2016 – initially as a pop-up before becoming permanent. Two further stores have opened in London, with its first site outside the capital – and fourth in total – set to launch in Manchester at the start of next month. Speaking at Lunch! at Excel in London, Clough said: “It was a challenge at the time to have a better offer for vegetarians. Up to that point we had been lazy – it was really a choice of cheese or egg. We had to be more innovative with our recipes and that has also led to an improvement in the range of vegetarian products in the main estate.” Clough said the company had seen huge customer engagement around vegan snacks. Pret is adding a dark chocolate and almond butter bite to its menu on Tuesday (25 September), which has had more than 20,000 “likes” on social media ahead of launch. Meanwhile, its dark chocolate and almond butter cookie is its second best-selling cookie. Despite the rise in vegan and vegetarian food, Clough said its best-selling products remain the chicken and bacon baguette, tuna baguette and bananas. She added there had been “little movement” in terms of its best-selling products in the past ten years. She added: “We are trend aware but we don’t just follow trends. If we can’t do it in a Pret way, we won’t do it. If it doesn’t work, we have learnt to walk away quickly.” Pret launches about five new products a year and on average they have a nine-month window of development. Clough said sessions were held in the development kitchen every Thursday to test products, regardless of where they were in terms of development, while there was also a “show and tell” session with chief executive Clive Schlee and other board members before launch. Clough said the biggest opportunity for Pret was becoming a global brand as the company was still very “UK-centric”. She added: “One of our biggest challenges, though, as we expand through partnerships rather than company-owned stores is making sure we maintain consistency. We have to support our partners without being complete control freaks. When we opened in France it was the first new market in 15 years. What we found interesting was people didn’t want a French version of Pret but the Pret they know in London. Our rule of thumb is 80/20 in terms of the ratio of core products to local ones. The US is one of the more challenging areas of the business and we are still building our supplier relationships there. We’ve found the food offer is right but not necessarily the execution and we’re working hard on that.” Clough said she didn’t envisage much changing as a result of Pret’s sale to JAB Holdings for £1.5bn, with the deal being a “continuation of the journey”. However, she added it would present an opportunity to tap into the expertise of the other food companies under JAB Holdings’ ownership and learn from them.
Shepherd Neame adds three pubs to London estate: Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has acquired three more pubs in the heart of London – the Samuel Pepys, the Savoy Tap and the Cheshire Cheese. Chief executive Jonathan Neame said: “We’re delighted to add these three historic, characterful London pubs to our portfolio. They represent our continuing investment in interesting and unique locations and our commitment to offering a great experience to our customers.” The Samuel Pepys in Stew Lane is Shepherd Neame’s first riverside pub in the city. It is housed in a converted tea warehouse and boasts a balcony with views across the Thames to Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate Modern and the Shard. The Savoy Tap is a “classic” London pub and occupies an historic spot in Savoy Street, just off the Strand, overlooking the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy, the last remaining part of a hospital built by Henry VII. There has been a pub on the site of the Cheshire Cheese in Little Essex Street, Temple, since the 16th century and the current incarnation was created in 1928, built in the arts and crafts style. The Samuel Pepys and the Savoy Tap have already undergone significant refurbishment and the Cheshire Cheese will shortly benefit from significant further investment. This brings the total number of Shepherd Neame’s London pubs to 36 and the estate as a whole to 322, spread across London and the south east. These include London sites such as the Old Doctor Butler’s Head and the Jamaica Winehouse.
Hancock’s to open three Hampshire sites in fourth quarter to double estate:Hancock’s, the family-owned, Rochester-based restaurant group, is to open three outlets in Hampshire in the fourth quarter of 2018 to double its estate. The American kitchen and bar concept opened its first outlet in Chatham, Kent, in July 2017, showcasing an eclectic mix of classic and contemporary US dishes including gumbo, fajitas, dirty dogs and chicken and ribs smoked on-site. During the past three months, two further restaurants have been launched – in Camberley in Surrey and Maidstone in Kent – with all outlets trading well ahead of expectation, the company said. Now sites in Farnborough, Fareham and Eastleigh, each between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet and with seating for up to 150 diners, have been secured and are scheduled to open in the next three months. Hancock’s director David Chick said: “Initially our objective was to end the year with four sites across the south east. However, as the brand has grown so has the opportunity for expansion. The fact our Stateside-inspired, value-for-money concept has proved its ability to appeal to practically every demographic gives us the confidence to think bigger.” Chick said the company was also assessing the viability of a number of other potential sites across the country and expected to announce further openings early in the new year.
Freshly Chopped opens first university site as part of ten-store expansion including debut in England, 50th venue in total: Irish salad chain Freshly Chopped has opened its first university venue as part of a ten-site expansion that will include its debut store in England. The brand’s latest venue in Northern Ireland has launched at Ulster University’s Belfast campus in partnership with outsourcing company the Mount Charles Group, making it Freshly Chopped’s 50th outlet overall. The brand launched into Northern Ireland in June and now has three service station sites in the province. A total of six Freshly Chopped venues are set to open across Donegal and Northern Ireland, with a branch launching in Donegall Square, Belfast, in mid-October. The ten-store expansion will create 150 jobs with branches also opening in the Republic of Ireland, Cyprus and Manchester, its first in England. All venues are expected to be open by Christmas. The expansion comes on the back of the group’s successful franchise programme and strategic partnerships with BWG, Maxol, the Mount Charles Group, Aramark and Corrib Oil. Freshly Chopped co-founder and managing director Brian Lee said: “We are delighted to be accelerating our growth across four different markets. These ten new stores showcase the success of the growth programme we have used to continue the revolution in healthy fast food. There is a vast demand in the British market for healthy fast food and we have been inundated with requests to open in Britain over the last six years, both from Irish people living abroad and British people who have seen what we have been offering in Ireland.” Lee founded Freshly Chopped with Andy Chen in Dublin in 2012. The company has undergone rapid expansion in the past two years, more than doubling its number of employees and stores across international locations. As well as salads, the brand offers “training” and “build-your-own” menus alongside soup, smoothies, hot drinks and cold-pressed juice.
Whitbread set to open ‘bed bar’, in Bristol: Whitbread is set to open a “bed bar”, in Bristol. The company is planning to launch the concept in King Street in a building adjoining the Premier Inn and next to two pubs – The Llandoger Trow and The Old Duke. It has applied to the city council to vary the premises licence, including a change to the internal layout and an area relating to the provision of door staff, reports the Bristol Post. Bed bars have been opened in numerous countries and cities across the world, including Amsterdam and the US. The concept combines beds in a nightclub environment and is described as a “giant slumber party”.
KFC has become ‘bolder and more disruptive’ in its message about being a responsible brand: KFC UK innovation director Jack Hinchcliffe has said the company has become “bolder and more disruptive” in its message to consumers that it is being a responsible brand. Speaking at Lunch! at Excel in London, Hinchcliffe said the method was getting more people talking about KFC. He said the company had been “more Jason Donovan than Kylie Minogue” in recent years. He said: “When Kylie and Jason left Neighbours they were both successful. However, while Jason is touring the universities and playing the same old songs, Kylie has continued to reinvent herself and evolve and as a result remained popular. I’d say we have been more Jason than Kylie in the past few years. We are now trying to communicate in a bolder and more disruptive way that starts people talking. We put out a new advert last year about chickens that attracted plenty of complaints but at the same time it got people talking about us. We know it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.” Hinchcliffe said the change of tactic was helping get the message across to consumers that its chicken came in fresh daily from British farms. In turn, it had built relationships with organisations such as Compassion In World Farming over its welfare policy. He added: “There has been a huge shift at what it means to be a responsible brand. It used to be enough to be tasty, convenient and relatively inexpensive but that’s not the same any more.” As part of its push to become more healthy, KFC has committed to reducing the number of calories in an average serving by 20% by 2020. Hinchcliffe said: “We are still in the trenches trying to figure it all out but we are encouraged by what we have done so far.”
Antic to launch Arkstar in arch near Arsenal on Thursday: Antic, the Downing-backed London pub operator led by Antony Thomas, is to open its latest pub on Thursday (27 September). Arkstar will launch in Holloway Road close to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. The pub will be housed in a railway arch, with a restaurant to follow in an adjacent arch in early 2019. Arkstar will take inspiration from the early years of the London Underground, with design features merging Victorian practicality (glass tiles) with sixties geometric prints and textures (wallpaper and seating). The pub will offer four real ales including Antic’s own Volden alongside a strong selection of keg products with local brewers taking prime position. Hammertown Brewery, Red Church and Moncada have been confirmed already, the company said. Arkstar takes its name from a combination of the words “arch” and Telstar – the hit sixties song written by record producer Joe Meek at a site across Holloway Road. Antic operates almost 50 pubs in London and its surrounds.
Koya to open third London site, in new Victoria food hall: Tokyo-style noodle cafe Koya is to open its third site, in Try Market Halls’ latest food hall, which will launch in Victoria in November. Koya closed its Soho restaurant in May 2015, leaving only the adjacent Koya Bar open. The brand launched Koya In The City at Bloomberg’s new headquarters in late 2017. Koya Victoria will be a smaller version of its City of London site but offering the brand’s usual mix of seasonal and rotating dishes such as sardine tempura; breaded, aged pork loin with cabbage and fruit miso sauce; and crispy fried prawn heads. A new concept, The Marksman, will also open at Victoria Market Halls, Harden’s reports. The restaurants are the first two brands to be announced from a total of 11 that will open at the food hall. Try Market Halls was launched by former property investor Andy Lewis-Pratt and Simon Anderson, the restaurateur behind London’s Pitt Cue Co. Victoria Market Halls will open in Victoria Street Arcade in front of the station. The derelict building is being restored with the resulting space divided over three floors with seating for 400 people. There will also be three bars and a coffee shop, while a roof terrace will open next year. Market Hall Fulham opened in May featuring nine operators, a bar and a 180-capacity communal dining space. Try Market Halls is looking to open a further London site, in Oxford Street, while eyeing possible venues in Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh and York.
Leon introduces ‘life-changing’ super bonus scheme for general managers:Natural fast food brand Leon has introduced a “super bonus” scheme for its general managers. Operations director Shereen Ritchie said as a result 20% of its general managers were set to receive a “life-changing” amount of money in 2018. Ritchie did not reveal any further details about the scheme but speaking at Lunch! at Excel in London, she said: “If we reward our staff and believe in them, the company will also be winners in the long run.” Ritchie said Leon would always challenge itself to be better for the guest and for that reason could never be a “ten out of ten”. She added: “It is about getting the basics right and leading by example. We are focusing to make sure we are the best. We are also trying to be a more sustainable business and we are prepared to take a cost hit in order to do that.” Ritchie also said the company remained in double-digit like-for-like growth following “not the best year” in 2017.
Sethi family to launch Iranian concept Berenjak in Soho next month: Karam, Jyo and Sunaina Sethi, the family behind JKS Restaurants and London venues such as Bubbledogs, Gymkhana and Brigadiers, are to launch Iranian concept Berenjak in Soho next month. The venture will open in Romilly Street on Tuesday, 23 October reinterpreting the hole-in-the-wall kebab houses that line the streets of Tehran. Berenjak, which takes its name from brightly coloured, toasted rice eaten at funfairs, is the brainchild of chef Kian Samyani, who has worked at Gymkhana and Brigadiers. Samyani will draw on his heritage to create signature dishes using seasonal British produce, while interiors will feature stained-glass windows, Persian carpets and reclaimed marble tables. The menu will include small plates, traditional kebabs, freshly baked bread and khoresht, a Persian-style stew. The bar will offer Persian drink sharbat, with a living wall allowing drinkers to choose fresh herbs to pair with their drink, while sparkling, yogurt-based drinks, popular in Iran, can also have alcohol added. Samyani said: “It wouldn’t be an Iranian dinner without sitting elbow-to-elbow with friends and family, sharing each dish until every scrap has gone. I’m looking forward to recreating that at Berenjak.”
Giggling Squid opens restaurants in Kingston and Harpenden to hit 29 sites: Thai restaurant group Giggling Squid, which is backed by the BGF, has opened sites in Kingston-upon-Thames and Harpenden to reach 29 sites. The 120-cover venue in Kingston-upon-Thames has opened in High Street and offers takeaway and delivery options. Although the brand has been growing rapidly, the venue in Zone 6 is only Giggling Squid’s second London site, having opened in Wimbledon last year. The Harpenden restaurant has opened in Amenbury Lane and offers semi-private dining. In July the company opened a restaurant in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, while its website lists a site in Bishop’s Stortford as “coming soon”. The company, which secured a £6.4m investment from the BGF in 2015 to support expansion plans, opened its first site in Brighton in 2009.
Rusk & Rusk to launch California-style concept in Glasgow city centre for fourth site: Independent restaurant group Rusk & Rusk is set to launch California-style concept So L.A. in Glasgow city centre later this year. The venue will open in Mitchell Street as the group’s fourth venue in the city offering a restaurant, bar and events space with a nod to the lifestyle and culture of California. Co-owner James Rusk said: “While the Rusk & Rusk restaurant collection already boasts some of Glasgow’s most impeccably designed establishments, each having its own distinctive characteristics and identity, So L.A. is a new concept that pushes the boundaries of our current offering. Our new venue is set to be a one-of-a-kind drinking and dining experience. Being authentic and bringing depth to the dining experience are our core values and these are reflected in everything we do. This is an extremely exciting time for us.” Headquartered in Glasgow, the company’s three restaurants in the city are The Butchershop Bar & Grill, Hutchesons City Grill and The Spanish Butcher.
Pomona’s appoints TV presenter Mark Lloyd as executive chef for London debut: Chef and television presenter Mark Lloyd has been appointed executive chef of Pomona’s restaurant and bar in Notting Hill, where he will make his debut in a London kitchen. Lloyd, an experienced forager and wild food expert, became head chef of the first River Cottage Canteen in 2007. He also spent two years in St Mellion International Resort in Cornwall, worked at The Cleave Inn in Devon and was development executive chef for Miele. Lloyd has designed an ethically sourced, all-day modern European menu featuring “rustic yet refined” dishes. Sustainability is a major focus, with plastic packaging, clingfilm and straws banned from the restaurant. Signature dishes on the new evening menu include spiced guinea fowl with smoked aubergine, dates and fregola; and ox cheek, celeriac, smoked apple and truffle with beer sauce. Lloyd said: “I am hugely excited to start this new chapter in my career. Pomona’s is a wonderful neighbourhood restaurant with an incredibly loyal following. The new menu takes inspiration from some of the best dishes I have encountered on my travels, with exciting combinations and bold flavours.” Pomona’s opened in Hereford Road in December 2016.
Ross Shonhan launches flagship Flesh & Buns site, in Fitzrovia: Ross Shonhan, founder of Japanese ramen bar concept Bone Daddies, has opened a second site for his bao bun concept Flesh & Buns – in Berners Street, Fitzrovia. The 170-cover restaurant is divided into three sections, while there is an open kitchen with counter dining for 22 customers and a semi-private dining room seating 18. The venue differs from the debut Flesh & Buns in Covent Garden by exploring Nikkei Peruvian cuisine and drinks inspired by Shonhan and his team’s research trips to Peru. The venue features a wood-smoker for smoked meat dishes, while Shonhan has sourced fish that are normally shipped to other countries instead of being consumed in the UK. Guests can also push a button at their table to summon the Peruvian Pisco Sour trolley. Shonhan said: “We were the first dedicated bao restaurant to open in London. It was met with a mixture of surprise, intrigue and interest and I vowed I would never open another one! Half a decade later, we have a fantastically loyal following and my wounds have healed. We refurbished Flesh & Buns Covent Garden last year to begin to separate the Flesh & Buns brand from the ramen bars. Fitzrovia will be its flagship.” Shonhan also operates six Bone Daddies as well as Asian fusion restaurant Shackfuyu in Soho.
Chef who trained under Roux, Blanc and Pierre-White launches comfort food concept in Camberwell: Classically trained chef Phil Cooper, who learned his trade under Michel Roux at the Waterside Inn and has also worked with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons and with Marco Pierre-White as executive chef at the Mirabelle, has launched his debut venture, in Camberwell, south London. Cooper has opened Fat Phil’s in Camberwell Church Street offering simple, well-cooked food that “massages the soul”. That translates as a menu with American influences that includes small plates such as breakfast radishes with whipped cod roe, and steak tartar with Kentucky rye. Fat Phil’s also offers cheeseburgers, fried buttermilk chicken burgers, flat-iron steak, couscous-stuffed aubergine and grilled Bagot goat chop, Hot Dinners reports.
Derby Brewing Co invests in equipment: Derby-based brewer and retailer Derby Brewing Co has invested in new equipment to improve the efficiency and output of its brewery. The family-owned company raised more than £640,000 through a crowdfunding campaign in 2017, some of which has been used to purchase the equipment. The new kit includes a glycol cooling system, a large fermentation vessel, and canning and kegging machinery. Head brewer Andy Marshall said: “This new equipment will enable us to keep up with demand in terms of volume and packaging. The new fermentation vessel is capable of producing 15-barrel brews.” Director Paul Harris added: “The crowdfunding campaign has enabled us to invest in this fantastic new equipment, which will be a big boost to our beer production.” Harris said the company was also looking at taking on new sites in the “next few months”. The company currently operates The Tap beer and spirit house in Derby, The Queen’s Head gastro-pub in Little Eaton, smoked food and craft house concept The Greyhound in Derby, and The Kedleston Country House – a bar, restaurant, boutique hotel and wedding venue in Quarndon.
Bury-based retro games cafe submits plans to turn Leeds pub into second site: Retro games cafe Arcade Club has submitted plans to start expansion by launching a second site, in Leeds. The company wants to turn former pub the Star & Garter in Bridge Road, Kirkstall, into a cafe offering games such as Pacman and Super Mario. The debut Arcade Club in Haslingden, Bury, offers more than 250 classic arcade and pinball machines set across three floors. The Leeds version would be spread across two floors and employ up to 15 members of staff. The grade II-listed building housing the Star & Garter has operated under many guises in recent decades, including a nightclub, a children’s entertainment complex and a cabaret bar, Leeds Live reports.
Freemans to launch burger concept at Twickenham: Freemans Event Partners is to launch a burger concept at Twickenham rugby stadium next month. Union15 Bar & Grill will open on Saturday, 6 October in time for the Northampton Saints versus Leicester Tigers match. The venture is the first semi-permanent food outlet within Twickenham Stadium. Options will range from the Korean Kimchi burger (eight ounce, 100% beef burger with Korean-style pickled slaw and Greek-style yogurt) and the Grand Slam Burger (southern-fried chicken with hash browns and barbecue sauce within a sweet-frosted doughnut). The venture will be cashless to cut queues and feature a bank of menu screens and a dedicated seating area. Freemans Event Partners managing director Stephen Freeman said: “We are delighted with the Union15 Bar & Grill and excited to see how customers respond to the menu.” Freemans Event Partners has been operating at events in the UK and Europe for more than 40 years, focusing on grab-and-go food and drink.