Charles Wells acquires second Oxford venue for Pizza, Pots & Pints as it plans 25-site portfolio: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells has acquired a second site in Oxford as part of a rapid expansion programme for its Pizza, Pots & Pints managed pub concept. Following the launch of The Oxford Blue last month, The Holly Bush in west Oxford will be number seven in the portfolio, which the company plans to increase to 25 during the next three years. The latest Oxford purchase is part of a strategic move by Charles Wells to develop a strong branded offering as part of its managed pub portfolio to complement its 186 leased and tenanted pubs across the UK. Pizza, Pots & Pints offers smaller, community-based pubs with informal dining. “The Pizza, Pots & Pints format is a key part of the Charles Wells growth strategy over the next three years,” said chief executive Justin Phillimore. “We are actively looking for individual sites as well as smaller, regionally based multiples to expand this portfolio.” The Pizza, Pots & Pints concept was first introduced by Charles Wells in 2015 with the opening of The Salisbury Arms in Cambridge. Since then it has been rolled out to The Queens Head in Peterborough, The Old White Horse in Baldock, The Radcliffe Arms in Hitchin, The Carpenters Arms in Cambridge and The Oxford Blue.
Bolton Inns reveals plans to build 15-strong estate as it takes on first Star Pubs & Bars site: West Midlands-based multiple operator Bolton Inns has revealed plans to build a 15-strong estate over the next few years as it takes on its first venue with Star Pubs & Bars. Bolton Inns, which operates seven sites, has added The Hare & Hounds in Halesowen to its portfolio. The Hagley Road pub is undergoing a £270,000 refurbishment that will see it offer all-day coffee, food and Wi-Fi for the first time. The revamp will include leather banquette seating, panelling, feature wallpaper and a feature fireplace. The redesign will create seating for 91 people inside and 88 outside. A new kitchen is being installed that will serve traditional pub food and Sunday roasts. The drinks range is being widened to include value and premium beer, cider and spirits. An extended range of wine, prosecco and champagne will also be available, while cask ale will become a key feature. Bolton Inns managing director Edward Bolton said: “We are only interested in sites where we can add value and working with brands such as Heineken and pub companies such as Star Pubs & Bars will provide meaningful support. We recognised the potential of The Hare & Hounds immediately. Our strategy is to grow our estate to 12 to 15 pubs in the next few years.” Star Pubs & Bars regional operations director Caren Geering added: “The introduction of food and coffee are increasingly important to a pub such as The Hare & Hounds as they give people more reasons to visit. Investments like this allow pubs to evolve and stay relevant to their communities, ensuring their ongoing sustainability.”
Chopstix Group begins Yangtze expansion: Chopstix Group has started its expansion of premium, quick-service, pan-Asian restaurant brand Yangtze with the opening of an outlet at Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent. The restaurant represents the first opening for the brand since Chopstix Group purchased Yangtze late last year. A new store design, interiors scheme, digital technology and updated branding have been unveiled at the Bluewater outlet. Offering a menu of freshly cooked, Asian-themed meals, Yangtze now operates ten restaurants across the UK and Ireland, all located within shopping centres. Chopstix Group managing director Jon Lake said: “With its popularity reflected in consistently high footfall, Bluewater provides the ideal platform from which to introduce Yangtze to a wider audience. Yangtze is undeniably a premium brand that offers an authentic pan Asian-inspired menu with broad consumer appeal and we firmly believe there is potential for further growth.” As well as Yangtze, Chopstix Group also owns and operates the 80-strong Chopstix Noodle Bar chain and has tripled its number of outlets in only two years.
Pod closes mini-bond campaign after raising almost £300,000: London-based healthy eating brand Pod has closed its mini-bond campaign after raising almost £300,000 to support its expansion plans. The company was raising funds on peer-to-peer lending platform Code Investing via a mini-bond that will pay 8.5% annual (gross) interest rolled up and paid as a single lump sum on the maturity date after two years. Having hit its initial £200,000 target, the company set a stretch aim of £1m. It has now closed the campaign with 44 investors pledging £296,100. Pod, which has 24 sites in central London, said it had created a solid base for expansion and issued the mini-bond to support organic growth, enhance the estate and open sites that adhered to a “demanding new site-opening model”. The pitch states: “Pod is planning 11 further openings over the next three years. The fourth quarter of 2017’s sales figures was the best fourth-quarter performance in Pod’s history. Pod has also achieved positive store Ebitda for every month in 2018 and corporate Ebitda of £86,700 for the first quarter of 2018.” Last week, Pod said it was confident its new management team would turn the company’s fortunes around in 2018 after reporting a corporate Ebitda loss in its latest financial year. The company saw turnover increase 1.2% to £17,244,033 for the year ending 4 January 2018, compared with £17,041,451 the previous year. It reported a corporate Ebitda loss of £500,000, compared with a profit of £600,000 the year before. Pod said the majority of the loss (£400,000) occurred in the first half of the year. Pre-tax losses increased to £1,748,884, compared with £383,964 the year before.
McDonald’s and Starbucks join forces to fast-track recyclable cup solution:McDonald’s and Starbucks are joining forces to fast-track new ideas that lead to a recyclable or compostable cup. McDonald’s has pledged to spend $5m to support ideas through the NextGen Cup Challenge, a think-tank for innovators looking to invent the next generation of fibre-based hot and cold cups. The challenge, overseen by Closed Loop Partners, will be open to supply chain leaders, innovators and anyone with promising solutions to create a recyclable cup on a large scale. Closed Loops estimates 600 billion paper and plastic cups are distributed worldwide. Of those, McDonald’s said its distribution represented about 3%, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. In March, Starbucks committed $10m to help Closed Loop Partners establish the NextGen Cup Challenge. So far, more than 1,000 companies and individuals have shown interest in participating. Starbucks, which is starting to roll out strawless lids and alternative paper straws, said it was proud to work with McDonald’s to solve the problem of cups going to landfill.
Just Eat to recruit 150 technology-focused roles: Online food delivery business Just Eat is recruiting 150 roles across its two UK technology centres. It is the company’s largest recruitment drive for three years. The roles include associate engineers, principal engineers and technology managers. The bolstered technology team will focus on enhancing user experience for customers and restaurant partners, and offer greater performance insight to support its 28,900 restaurant partners in the UK. Once the 150 Bristol and London-based roles have been filled, Just Eat’s UK technology team will consist of almost 650 staff across both sites. Chief product and technology officer Fernando Fanton said: “Technology and data is central to the service we provide. Adding 150 people to our technology team in the UK this year will turbo-charge the great work we have already done to personalise the app experience.” Just Eat has hired more than 200 engineers, developers and data scientists globally in the past 18 months.
Independent chicken restaurant rebrands following Nando’s copyright row:An independent chicken restaurant in Reading has rebranded after being threatened with legal action by Nando’s over a copyright infringement. The former Fernando’s shop in Oxford Road has changed its name to Fernandez. Owner Asam Aziz was served with a copyright infringement letter in March by lawyers representing Nando’s. At the time of the legal complaint, Aziz explored the idea of setting up a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for a legal battle but decided against the move. He told In Your Area: “We have put forward all the designs and Nando’s is happy with the new name.” Aziz previously said he was not trying to copy Nando’s and got the idea for the restaurant from television dating show Take Me Out, where couples take a trip to the island of Fernando’s in Tenerife.
Papa John’s founder questions board as he brands resignation a ‘mistake’:Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has branded his resignation as chairman a “mistake” as he questioned the board’s handling of the issue over his use of a racial slur. The Wall Street Journal reports Schnatter sent the letter after his resignation and apology, in the wake of an initial Forbes report, for using the N-word during media training with a marketing agency. He wrote: “The board asked me to step down as chairman without apparently doing any investigation. I agreed, though today I believe it was a mistake to do so. I will not allow either my good name or the good name of the company I founded and love to be unfairly tainted.” Schnatter still owns about 30% of shares in the company he founded in 1984 and retains a seat on the board. The board sent written notice to Schnatter on Sunday (15 July) that it was terminating its 2007 Founder Agreement, which called for him to attend corporate events, participate in management and investor meetings, and act as brand spokesman. The company also removed Schnatter from its advertising. Last week, new chief executive Steve Ritchie said the company would “retain an independent and outside expert to audit all our existing processes, policies and systems related to diversity and inclusion, supplier engagement and Papa John’s culture”.
Hackney-based Morty & Bob’s signs for second site, in King’s Cross: Hackney-based Morty & Bob’s has signed to open a second site, at Coal Drops Yard. More than 50 stores, cafes and restaurants will be part of the new development in King’s Cross, which will open near Granary Square and Regent’s Canal at the end of October. Coal Drops Yard was built in 1850 to handle the eight million tonnes of coal delivered to London each year. Restaurants will be located in canal-side arches, within original “coal drops”, and across raised iron viaducts. Larger stores will sit at each street corner. Morty and Bob’s new site will offer the brand’s grilled cheese, salads and weekend brunches alongside coffee, all-day hot sandwiches and a “London suppliers” bar. Other operators at the development will include a fourth site for Harts Group’s Barrafina brand after the Hart brothers raised almost £2.5m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The Harts will also open a third site for their Mexican taqueria concept El Pastor at the development alongside new-concept wine bar and restaurant The Drop. Morty & Bob’s also has a residency in White City.
Board game restaurant concept to launch in Shoreditch next month: A board game restaurant concept is to launch in Shoreditch, east London, next month. Proceed Clockwise has secured the former Maida restaurant in Bethnal Green Road in a deal brokered by agents Restaurant Property. The concept will offer more than 600 board games accompanied by an authentic Neapolitan menu. The restaurant will open at the end of August and accommodate 100 covers across 2,000 square feet. The menu will include sourdough pizza made from scratch, while coffee will be supplied by Square Mile Coffee Roasters. The bar will offer craft beer and natural wine in the evenings. Director Rob Parker said: “We have been obsessed with board games, good coffee and authentic Naples pizza for a long time. This venture will give us an outlet for those passions and hopefully win a few converts along the way.” Restaurant Property surveyor Danielle Agami added: “There has been a paradigm shift in the leisure market as customers are drawn to the combination of quality food with a unique experience.”
Apartment Group opens Jesmond bar: North east operator Apartment Group has opened a bar in Jesmond. The company has launched The Holy Hobo in Archbold Terrace at a site formerly occupied by neighbourhood bar Mr Lynch. The Holy Hobo offers food and drink as well as a stage for live entertainment. Apartment Group owner Duncan Fisher told Insider Media: “I wanted to create a fun and unique place where everyone can feel at home and we have certainly done that with this venue. Not only have we made a unique space for entertainment but we have spent a lot of time designing the food and drink menus to make sure there is something for everyone.” Apartment Group’s other sites include Le Petit Chateau, Newton Hall, As You Like It and The Joiners Arms.
Deltic Group bringing Atik brand to Aberdeen: The Deltic Group, the UK’s largest operator of premium late-night bars and clubs, is to bring its Atik nightclub brand to Aberdeen. Atik will replace nightclub Institute, which closed last month. The venue in Bridge Street will undergo an £800,000 conversion and reopen on Friday, 31 August. Atik will have three rooms and a capacity of 1,540, while the opening will create 30 jobs. The city centre venue opened in 1898 as the Palace Theatre. It was turned into a cinema in 1931 before becoming the Palace Ballroom in 1959 and Fusion Nightclub in 1976. Prior to Liquid opening at the venue in 2003, the club was known as Ritzy’s and the Palace, with Institute opening in 2012. Atik general manager Ruth Jones told The Press and Journal: “The venue was a big part of the town’s nightlife for a number of years as Institute and Liquid before that. Many people have happy memories of fun times there but it’s time to bring something new to Aberdeen and the very best we can offer in terms of a clubbing experience.” Earlier this month, Deltic Group reported like-for-like sales increased 4.9% for the year ending 24 February 2018 as it returned to turnover and Ebitda growth. The company had a record 7.5 million admissions during the year.
BT Sport launches free digital training events for licensees: BT Sport has launched free digital training sessions for licensees. The events, launched in partnership with Google Digital Garage, aim to help publicans increase their business’ presence online and make more of an impact on social media. Training sessions will be available at venues across the UK including Anfield, BT Murrayfield and Old Trafford and include workshops and face-to-face coaching. Publicans will also have an opportunity to speak to specialists on topics such as website optimisation, online advertising and analytics. BT Sport launched the events after a survey revealed more than half (55%) of consumers plan ahead when going out to watch live sport, while 45% of live sport watchers “follow” a pub or bar on social media. Meanwhile, more than half (58%) of pubs that show BT Sport have said they would promote sports events on social media more if they knew how to make the most of it. Bruce Cuthbert, director of commercial customers at BT Sport, said: “Having a presence on social media has become key for publicans to encourage customers into their venues. Many of them are not entirely confident in how to do this to get the best results. Teaming up with Google Digital Garage means we will be able to give our licensees the chance to get practical training from experts they can put into practice straight away to raise their profile.” For a list of events and to book a session, visit
Alcoholic tea brand Noveltea hits £150,000 crowdfunding target: Alcoholic tea brand Noveltea has passed the £150,000 target in its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to grow the business. The company is offering 4.05% equity in return for the investment. Already, 156 investors have pledged £163,150 with 33 days remaining and the campaign is now “overfunding”. The 11% ABV brand is stocked in John Lewis, Harrods and Fenwick in the UK and exports to China, Hong Kong and Germany. The company, founded by Vincent Efferoth and Lukas Passiain in April 2017, has a team of advisors that include The Head of Steam founder Tony Brookes and former Diageo director Alan Rutherford. The pitch states: “Noveltea disrupts the alcoholic beverage industry by introducing a distinctive product portfolio around the concept of tea – in two flavours. The Tale of Tangier is an infusion of Moroccan green mint tea with Caribbean rum, while The Tale of Earl Grey infuses Earl Grey tea with British gin and botanicals. Both are cold-brewed, vegan, free from artificial colours and manufactured in the UK. They can be served ice cold but also warm in the winter.”
Plans to transform former Coventry newspaper office into boutique hotel get go-ahead: Plans to transform a former newspaper office in Coventry into a 1950s-style boutique hotel have been given the go-ahead. Complex Development Projects has been granted permission by the city council to convert the former Coventry Telegraph building in Corporation Street. The hotel, which will create about 130 jobs, will have 100 bedrooms, a ground-floor restaurant and bar, meeting rooms, penthouse suites and a rooftop bar. The plans will see original features of the building retained including a panelled boardroom. Complex Development Projects plans to start work later this year, reports Insider Media.
Zonal supports Scotland’s next generation of digital stars in new partnership: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has partnered with Digital Xtra Fund to help fund technology initiatives for young people across Scotland. The funding will guarantee more young people have access to digitally creative activities and give them a better understanding of the career opportunities digital skills provide. Zonal head of human resources Catriona Dick said: “We have been impressed by the work of Digital Xtra Fund and are delighted to play our part in supporting more young people as they discover the fantastic range of job opportunities open to them in the blossoming world of digital technology.” The support from Zonal will form part of Digital Xtra Fund’s annual grant awards for high-quality digital skills initiatives in Scotland and will include visits to Zonal’s headquarters with mentoring support for students. Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund partnerships and development manager, said: “Zonal is a great innovator and shares our commitment to bridge the digital skills gap through partnership and collaboration.”