Company News:

WatchHouse appoints Ross Winterflood as marketing director: Edition Capital-backed coffee concept WatchHouse has appointed Ross Winterflood as its new marketing director, Propel has learned. Winterflood joins the fast-growing, Roland Horne-led business after previously being at Yondr Group and Amazon Logistics. The seven-strong company recently opened its largest site to date in St Mary’s Axe, London, as part of plans to open six new sites by the end of this year, including its first regional launch in Bath. Propel revealed earlier this year, the London-based company was in talks with an operator in Scandinavia in regards to become the brand’s master franchisee for the Nordic regions. Founder Horne told Propel the group has ambitions to reach “triple figures” in the UK in terms of sites, by “creating genuine, authentic local hubs”, and had a long-term ambition to launch in the US. WatchHouse also plans to open sites in Bishopsgate, Seven Dials, Marylebone and Covent Garden within the next six months. WatchHouse will open its first site outside of London, in Bath, in the autumn after securing the former Radley shop in the city’s Old Bond Street.
Wendy’s makes UK return: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, has made its return to the UK with an opening in Reading on Wednesday (2 June). The company hopes the site in Reading’s Friar Street will be the first of up to 400 it could eventually open here after retrenching from the UK at the turn of the century. The Reading Chronicle reported large queues formed at the brand’s new UK site, with one family travelling from Bournemouth. Tony Barr, senior director, International Marketing UK and APMEA at Wendy’s, told the newspaper: “When we knew we were coming back to the UK we felt it was really important to choose somewhere where there are real people, and Reading is so like that. The people live here, they work here and they commute here and that is what we wanted. We knew they would love what we have for offer.” Propel revealed last month the company had appointed Paul Hilder, who has been with Wendy’s for 25 years, to oversee its return to the UK. The group has confirmed it will open sites in Oxford and Stratford, east London, in the second half of this year. Propel previously revealed Wendy’s had lined up its first out-of-town site for its UK return, in Essex. The company, which plans to open five sites in the UK this year, with a target of eventually operating about 20 company-owned branches in Britain, is understood to be in advanced talks on taking a site at Thurrock Shopping Park. It is thought it could be the location of its first UK drive-thru. The company plans to enter the UK with company-owned and operated restaurants in 2021 and, in its second phase, will launch in priority areas with multi-unit franchisee operators. It recently applied to open a site in Croydon, and Propel understands Wendy’s is in talks on sites in Camden and Brighton. In March, the company said it plans to open ten sites in the UK in 2022, and that it had secured multiple locations and was engaged with several potential franchisees.
Bao to open noodle shop for sixth site: London-based operator Bao, which was founded by Shing Tat Chung, Erchen Chang and Wai Ting Chung, is to launch its first noodle shop for its sixth site. Bao Noodle Shop will launch in Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, on Wednesday, 23 June. The concept will take its cues from the beef noodle shops of Taiwan. Fresh noodles will be prepared daily, with specialty flour imported from Taiwan. Two versions will be the focus of the menu – a Taipei-style broth that closely matches the style of the beef noodle soup found across Taiwan. There will also be Bao’s take on a Tainan-style broth based on recipes from the south west of the island – a much lighter broth. Both broths will be made with aged beef bones, fermented chilli bean paste and assorted spices, and guests will have the option of adding cured egg; crispy egg; or spiced beef butter to their bowls. Cocktails will be influenced by the ice drinks of Taipei alongside the Asian yoghurt soda, as well as Bao classic cocktails and soft drinks. Diners will be able to perch at the open kitchen to watch the chefs at work, while the entertainment rooms downstairs will feature KTV – karaoke TV – and can be booked for groups. Chang said: “Beef noodle is a national obsession in Taiwan with annual competitions taken very seriously over there, so we wanted to bring these comforting bowls to London and make them with the very best ingredients.” Bao, which is backed by JKS Restaurants, opened its first restaurant in Soho in April 2015, following a successful period trading at Netil Market in Hackney. Its second restaurant opened in Fitzrovia in July 2016. A third restaurant, Bao Borough, opened in May 2019, while the company opened its latest site, Cafe Bao, in King’s Cross at the start of December last year. It also operates a delivery service – Rice Error by Bao – in various locations across the capital.
Stack & Still owners put other businesses up for sale to focus on pancake concept: Scottish-based TDQ Group, the parent company of pancake house concept Stack & Still, has put four of its businesses up for sale, Propel has learned. Gin71, Cup Tea Rooms and The Gin Spa all operate in Glasgow, and are for sale with leasehold offers above £475,000 welcome. The deal also includes its Ambr hand-blended tea brand, which is used at Cup Tea Rooms and is sold online. All the businesses operate out of a site in Virginia Court during different day parts, while Gin71 and Cup Tea Rooms also share a site in Renfield Street. TDQ Group co-founder and chief executive Paul Reynolds said: “The journey to create a great hospitality company started just over 11 years ago with the creation of Cup Tea Rooms followed by Gin71 and The Gin Spa. I am pleased to share this incredible opportunity to acquire a well-recognised and profitable business. I need to focus my time on Stack & Still with another acquisition and opening imminent.” The businesses are being marketed by Smith & Clough Business Associates, whose owner Nathan Clough stated Cup Tea Lounge and Gin71 sales in 2019 were £2.16m net (70% gross profit) and The Gin Spa sales in 2019 were £395,279 (adjusted net profit circa £120,000). Stack & Still opened its fourth pancake restaurant at Glasgow’s Braehead Shopping Centre in December last year. It also has sites at Silverburn, Glasgow Fort and West George Street.
Food marketplace business Gourmet4 secures Croydon site: Food marketplace business Gourmet4 is set to open a site in Croydon, after securing a former The Restaurant Group site. The 11-strong company has secured the former Chiquito site at the Valley Leisure Park for an opening later this year. Last month, Propel revealed the company was set to make its debut in London after securing the former Gino D’Acampo My Restaurant in Chalk Farm Road, Camden. The business has circa 12 existing in-house brands, such as Fat Burgers, 3Amigos, Smokin’ Buns, Saucy Chicks and Bangon Thai street food. It is understood Gourmet4, which is led by Aaron Kahn, has also lined up its first two openings in the south west. The business is set to open on the former Pizza Hut site in Imperial Park, Bristol, and on the former Chiquito site in Alphington Park, Exeter. Gourmet4 currently operates sites in Birmingham, Moseley, Telford, Newcastle, Harlow, Watford and Sutton Coldfield. David Muslin at Ecliptic acted for the landlord on the Croydon deal.
Adam Handling to take sustainable casual restaurant and bar concept to Cornwall: Chef Adam Handling is taking his sustainable casual restaurant and bar concept, Ugly Butterfly, to Cornwall. Handling initially trialled the concept in Chelsea in November 2019. Now he is opening a site at the Carbis Bay Estate, near St Ives. Opening on Monday, 2 August, Handling said the menus, inspired by Cornwall, would be as “elevated and theatrical” as at Frog by Adam Handling. Offering an all-day dining experience, the Ugly Butterfly bar uses trims and offcuts from the ingredients used in the restaurant to create drinks and bar snacks. Handling said: “Everything we do at our restaurants and bars is based on the location and surroundings. It’s super important to me to support the local suppliers and Carbis Bay has a beautiful seaside and rural setting so we’ll be using more of the seafood and foraged ingredients that the area is well-known for. This area has already established a great reputation for food with some of the country’s best chefs and restaurants located here, and we are committed to adding to Cornwall’s dining scene.” The restaurant will offer 65 covers and there will be two private dining tables situated in the main dining area. The bar will also offer 65 covers. Carbis Bay Estate is hosting the G7 summit between 11-13 June, at which world leaders will discuss climate change and the global recovery from covid-19. Ahead of the opening of his new restaurant, Handling has been asked to create sustainability-focused dishes for the leaders to enjoy, while overseeing the food offering for the summit.
Loungers strengthens property team: Listed cafe bar operator Loungers has further enhanced its property team with the appointment of Alex Kalebic as senior property manager. Kalebic, who takes up the role from Monday (7 June), joins from Savills, where he was an associate director in the retail and leisure team, working on many high-profile landlord and occupier accounts. Kalebic will lead new site acquisitions across the south, south west, Wales, West Midlands and north. Loungers has 172 sites in England and Wales, across its Lounge and Cosy Club brands. Property director Tom Trenchard said “We are delighted to have secured such a talented and experienced individual for this crucial role within the business. During lockdown, we have built a strong pipeline of new sites for FY22 and FY23, and we look forward to a return to opening 25 new sites a year.” Loungers has opened four new Lounges since April – in St Ives, Stourbridge, Welwyn Garden City and Wolverhampton.
Maray team to open first pub: The team behind Liverpool-based Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant and cocktail bar concept Maray are to open their first pub. The One O’Clock Gun will open at the city’s Royal Albert Dock on Friday, 25 June. It will serve, among other things, pies from Great North Pie Co, a house pale ale created in collaboration with Liverpool’s Carnival Brewery, draught Guinness, wine on tap, and a cocktail list centred around a range of sours. The inspiration behind the name of the pub comes from the rich history of the dockside itself. Fired at 1pm every day from Morpeth Dock, the familiar boom would serve to help ship’s captains set their chronometers. It also signalled to the thousands of workers that it was time to down tools and have lunch. The historic gun itself now lives quayside by the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Maray director Tom White said: “Opening a pub has been something we have longed to do for some time now so we are absolutely chuffed to finally be able to bring our vision to life in such an incredible location. Although it’s a new brand, The One O’Clock Gun will serve as a continued, lasting expression of the values we have maintained through our restaurants for the past seven years.” Maray, which is backed by Rosa’s Thai Cafe founders Alex and Saiphin Moore, was founded in 2014 by White, Dominic Jones and James Bates. It operates sites in the Albert Dock, Allerton and Bold Street in Liverpool and also launched an at-home meal experience during lockdown. Last month, the trio opened Middle Eastern concept Sabich at GSG Hospitality’s Duke Street Food and Drink Market while they appointed Lucy Noone Blake as the company’s new chairman.
Deep Blue launches range of frozen Harry Ramsden’s ready meals at Iceland:Deep Blue Restaurants, owner of the Deep Blue and Harry Ramsden’s brands, has launched a range of frozen Harry Ramsden’s ready meals at Iceland stores. The 14-strong product range is based on signature dishes served in Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip restaurants and takeaways, in collaboration with Boparan Restaurant Group. Available exclusively in more than 726 Iceland Food and The Food Warehouse stores nationwide from Wednesday (2 June), products include Jumbo Battered Cod Fillets, Jumbo Haddock Fillets, Jumbo Wholetail Scampi with Curry Sauce Pots, Mushy Pea Pots and Maris Piper Chip Shop Chips. Other dishes include Harry Ramsden’s Steak Pie, Jumbo Battered Sausages and Sticky Toffee Pudding. Deep Blue Restaurants founder and chief executive James Low said: “We have worked closely with Boparan Restaurant Group and Iceland Foods to perfect this range that brings the best of Harry Ramsden’s to the frozen food retail market.” Deep Blue Restaurants operated 36 restaurants and takeaways across the UK before it added to its portfolio by acquiring Harry Ramsden’s in 2019 from Boparan Restaurant Group.
Croeso Pubs opens fourth Cardiff site after taking over lease from Brains: Cardiff-based Croeso Pubs, led by Craig Davies and Simon Little, has opened its fourth site in the city. The company, which was behind the refurbishment and reopening of The Philharmonic, has turned its hands to doing the same to one of the city’s oldest pubs, the Goat Major. Croeso Pubs, which also runs Brewhouse and Retro, has taken over the lease of the Goat Major from Welsh brewer and retailer Brains and restored it to its former name, Blue Bell. The Blue Bell originally opened in 1813 in High Street opposite Cardiff Castle, but its name was changed in 1995 when Brains renamed it the Goat Major after the goat mascot of the Royal Regiment of Wales. Little said: “As a Cardiff-born small pubco, we are very proud to be taking over another one of Cardiff’s most iconic and oldest venues with the reopening of Blue Bell. The Philharmonic has been a roaring success so when we saw a venue like the Goat Major was closed with no sign of reopening, we jumped at the chance of taking it over.” The Blub Bell is managed by Nick Newman, who has run pubs and clubs around the Welsh capital for 40 years and is the chair of the Cardiff Licensees’ Forum.
Caring confirms second Ivy Asia opening in London with Chelsea site: Serial sector investor Richard Caring has confirmed a second opening for his Ivy Asia concept in London. As first revealed by Propel in January, Caring is launching the venue in Chelsea after taking over the former Le Pain Quotidien premises in King’s Road, which is next door to the Ivy Chelsea Garden. Slated to open this summer, the Asian-inspired restaurant and bar will open daily, serving lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. It will offer theatrical drinks and cocktails alongside a menu of dishes including salmon sashimi with spiced yuzu and avocado salsa; and Hunan-spiced pork ribs with sesame and coriander. Also available will be platters including the Ming Dynasty, adorned with a selection of sashimi, tuna nigiri and oscietra caviar, wagyu beef tempura with enoki mushroom, and gold and black truffle sauce. Caring currently operates two Ivy Asia sites – in London’s St Paul’s and Manchester – and is thought to be looking at further opportunities to expand the concept, either as stand-alone sites or adjacent to existing Ivy Collection restaurants. Propel understands locations in Guildford, Richmond and Mayfair are being lined up for Ivy Asia sites.
The Ned opens basement jazz and cabaret bar in the City: Membership Collective Group, the private members’ club operator, which was previously known as Soho House Group, has opened a jazz and cabaret bar at The Ned. The Parlour is located in one of The Ned’s basement spaces at its site on Poultry, in the City of London. It will operate on Wednesday to Friday evenings and residencies include saxophonist and clarinettist Giacomo Smith and his five-piece band; British singer, songwriter and pianist Reuben James; and Seattle native artist Kimberly Nichole, former mistress of ceremonies at The Box New York. The food menu includes a yakitori section that offers shitake mushroom and yuzu miso, umeshiso chicken breast with plum shiso and Gyukushi Japanese A3 wagyu. Other menu items include chicken Kiev with black truffle and spinach; whole lobster thermidor with brandy, parmesan and English mustard; and wild sea bass with capers, samphire, tomatoes and croutons. New cocktails have also been created such as the Gypsy Rose with Bombay Sapphire gin, champagne, hibiscus and citrus.
WatchHouse product and partnerships marketing manager launches UK’s first travelling concept grocery store: Nicole Compen, product and partnerships marketing manager at Edition Capital-backed coffee concept WatchHouse, is launching the UK’s first travelling concept grocery store. Raye aims to support innovative food, drink and wellness brands “to elevate their reach and boost brand awareness” by putting their products in front of shoppers and also media, buyers of larger retail stores and investors. Compen is launching the concept in east London by opening a ten-day pop-up grocery shop in Commercial Street, Spitalfields, on Thursday (3 June). Raye will showcase 200-plus products from more than 50 innovative food, drink, and wellness brands. The brands, 80% of which are vegan and 90% are from the UK, have been chosen for their values – “well designed and well intentioned, with health, use of natural ingredients and sustainability at its core”. She said: “The way we shop is constantly changing. We are discovering new brands digitally and now, more than ever, care about the story, quality and look of products. With shoppers looking for an experience, Raye brings to life a unique discovery space. By showcasing like-minded brands and practising cross-marketing activities, we are set to elevate amazing brands, inspire and educate.”
Bewiched Coffee opens first drive-thru, two more signed up: Northampton-based cafe operator Bewiched Coffee has opened its first drive-thru coffee venue, has two more signed up and is seeking further opportunities. The company said the site in Moulton Park, Northampton, is the first purpose-built independent coffee drive-thru in Europe, with 55 internal covers. Bewitched Coffee operations manager Richard Wagg said it was “a great day in the history of Bewiched” but what follows is “the serious work of developing a fantastic operation that surpasses customer expectations”. Bewiched founder and managing director Matt Fountain added: “Since starting this business in 2010, I have had a dream to open a drive-thru unit, to now have the first one open is amazing. So much planning, training and testing has taken place on this project and, no doubt, a challenging time ahead as we manage the drive-thru and sit-in customers combined peaks. But we are up for that challenge and intend to make this drive-thru industry-leading. The fit out on this site is amazing, we wanted to create a contemporary, aspirational space with a finish that matched the nationals. Although I am biased, I think it actually surpasses some of our larger competitors finishes in this drive-thru market. None of the national drive-thru coffee operators can guarantee freshly roasted coffee, ours (as with all our stores), of course, will be. We have two more drive-thru units signed and are seeking opportunities nationally.”
Team behind Diogenes the Dog to open new wine bar and cafe in Battersea: The team behind wine bar Diogenes the Dog will open a new site called Aspen & Meursault in Battersea, in August. Natural wine will be the focus of the wine bar on Westbridge Road, which will open during the day as a cafe and as a wine bar by night. Day service includes Guatemalan roast coffee from its sister site Diogenes the Dog in Elephant & Castle, south London, and a deli will open until 5pm, serving fresh organic bread, pastries, charcuterie meats, cheese and its wines will also be sold to take away at reduced retail prices. In the evening, the majority of wines will be available by the glass from a list of low intervention varieties, “which prove natural wines don’t have to be funky”. The food menu includes boozy cheeseboards, south London-cured meats, camembert and morcilla. Sunny Hodge, who helped set up Michelin-starred Fordwich Arms, near Canterbury, Kent, opened Diogenes the Dog in a former pub in Rodney Road in 2018.
Mapal acquires France-based restaurant and kitchen management software provider Easilys: Mapal Group, the European hospitality software developer behind Edinburgh’s Flow Hospitality Training, has acquired Easilys, a multi-site restaurant and kitchen management software provider based in France with offices in Paris, Geneva and Barcelona. The acquisition is the latest in a series of investments by Mapal in complementary hospitality technologies, with a view to combining solutions to create a powerful, integrated back-of-house multi-site operating system for the hospitality sector. The move follows the acquisition of UK-based Flow Hospitality Training in December 2019, US-headquartered Cloud Reputation in 2020 and Sweden-based GetCompliant earlier this year. Easilys was founded in France by three brothers who aimed to change how catering and restaurant groups manage, supply and control their restaurants and kitchens. Its software is used by more than 5,000 hospitality websites in six countries to improve margin and drive procurement efficiencies through multiple features such as production and recipe management, inventory, RFP management, waste reduction and compliance control. Key customers include Sodexo, Big Mamma Group, Vapiano, Pokawa and more than 2,000 schools. Mapal founder and chief executive Jorge Lurueña said: “Welcoming Easilys to the Mapal Group family is very exciting because we believe it represents one of the missing pieces of our puzzle in offering a full-suite of management tools to the hospitality sector. While we have been active in France for a while, we are excited to grow our presence in the country and use it as a base to grow in neighbouring countries also.”