Wasabi strengthens management team, returns to expansion trail: Wasabi, the sushi and bento chain led by Henry Birts and backed by Capdesia, has strengthened its management team with the appointment of a new marketing director and operations director as it returns to the expansion trail, Propel has learned. Wasabi has appointed Tom Sugarman, formerly of Pret A Manger, as operations director. Sugarman spent nine years at Pret, most recently as its UK shops director. Meanwhile, the 43-strong Wasabi has appointed Sam Bourke, formerly of ETM Group and The Restaurant Group, as its new marketing director. Bourke joins the business after more than four and half years as director of sales and marketing at ETM Group. The appointments of Sugarman and Bourke follows that of Kate Lucas, who joined the business earlier this year in the new role of managing director for the group’s grocery business. Wasabi said it was in a strong position to grow as covid restrictions ease and the consumer economy recovers. It has now reopened 39 of its sites and said it was “building a confident new openings programme for 2021 and beyond”. It opened one new site in February – London Bridge, which it said was already performing well, and expects to open four or five more new sites during the rest of the year, including in Bishopsgate in May. Birts said: “Over the recent lockdown, we’ve seen sales building steadily through takeaway and delivery, especially in residential areas, and now we’re in a good position to take advantage as people finally venture out again. In addition, the grocery arm of our business has been very strong with sales of our ready meals and expanded range in Sainsbury’s proving extremely popular. We’ve now got a brilliant team in place who will work together to move the business forward. In addition, our food development team is working on exciting new menu items. It’s been a very tough year for the whole team who have done an extraordinary job in working through the many challenges we have faced and for which I thank them whole-heartedly. We are now looking forward to the recovery of our whole sector and a bright future for Wasabi.”
Sushisamba parent company appoints Marc Whitehead as new CFO: Orange Brands Management, the global restaurant group behind Sushisamba, Duck & Waffle and Duck & Waffle Local, has appointed Marc Whitehead, formerly of Busaba and the Fat Duck Group, as its new chief financial officer, Propel has learned. Whitehead stepped down as chief financial officer of Busaba, the Thai chain founded by Alan Yau, at the end of last year after three years with the business. He left after overseeing the sale of the business last summer and its subsequent company voluntary arrangement, which was approved in October. He was formerly finance director of Fridays and the Fat Duck Group. Orange Brands Management operates sites in Amsterdam, Miami, Las Vegas and London. Sushisamba has lined up an opening in Edinburgh, at the city’s St James Quarter, for 2022. The international restaurant brand will occupy the rooftop at the W Edinburgh hotel, located on levels ten and 11 of the scheme, and be part of its final phase. The restaurant will be the brand’s third UK location and its first outside of London, joining Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Dubai and two sites in the capital – Heron Tower and Covent Garden.
Food marketplace business Gourmet4 to make London debut, lines up south west openings: Food marketplace business Gourmet4 is set to make its debut in London, after securing a site in Camden, Propel has learned. The fast-growing company, which currently has 12 sites either open or set to open across the country, is understood to have secured the former Gino D’Acampo My Restaurant in Chalk Farm Road. The new site will feature four kitchens, which will be occupied by Gourmet4’s own brands. The business has circa 12 existing in-house brands, such as Fat Burgers, 3Amigos, Smokin’ Buns, Saucy Chicks and Bangon Thai street food. Meanwhile, Propel understands Gourmet4, which is led by Aaron Kahn, has 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 locations, including Birmingham, Moseley, Telford, Newcastle, Harlow, Watford and Sutton Coldfield. Last month, it signed on a site at the Grand Junction Retail Park, in Crewe. Adam Bowers at Stonebrook London acted on the Camden deal.
Former Whitbread operations director eyes 30-strong Papa John’s estate after signing multi-franchise development deal: Former Whitbread operations director Richard McElroy has signed a development deal with Papa John’s to open nine new stores in the north west of England, with plans to create 20 more in the future. McElroy has teamed up with friend Chris Makin and they are already on track to open six new Papa John’s sites before Christmas, creating more than 150 jobs. The first store to open will be Middleton in Manchester. McElroy has spent the majority of his career with Whitbread where he held a number of senior operational roles across Premier Inn, Costa Coffee and latterly as the national operations director for its restaurant division across 450 sites. His last role was with Morrisons as a category director for its foodservice business. Makin is an entrepreneur with many years of experience growing and developing businesses predominantly in manufacturing, specialising in plastic fabrication and extrusion. McElrory said: “I’ve worked in hospitality all my life and now I’m hungry to open my own stores. It’s exciting making this happen around Manchester, in areas we know and live.” Justin Gilbert, director of business development at Papa John’s UK, added: “Richard and Chris’ wealth of business experience and appetite for growth will help drive the successful development of their stores. They are both equally invested in contributing to the expansion of the Papa John’s brand and we welcome their knowledge and passion to take advantage of the opportunities that running a multi-unit Papa John’s franchise can offer.”
EG Group begins rollout of Cinnabon brand: EG Group, the forecourt and roadside operator, which recently acquired Leon, has begun the roll out of Cinnabon, the US bakery brand, across its estate. The company, which late last year signed a deal to roll out 150 sites under the US bakery brand across the UK over the next five years, opened the first three sites under the agreement last week. The new sites opened at Frontier Park, Blackburn; Manchester Road, Bolton; and Coopers Lane, Knowsley. Propel revealed in October the two businesses were in talks to relaunch the bakery brand in the UK. Cinnabon previously operated a handful of sites in the UK, including one at the Trocadero in Piccadilly at the start of the previous decade, before retreating from the country.
Big Smoke Brew Co to open site at Heathrow airport: Surrey-based brewer and retailer Big Smoke Brew Co is to open a new independent craft beer and food site in Heathrow airport’s Terminal 2. The company, which was founded in 2014 by Rich Craig and James Morgan, has teamed up with Airport Retail Enterprises to launch the Big Smoke Taphouse & Kitchen. Opening later this month in the former La Salle premises in the terminal, the site will include an all-day menu with a focus on “comforting pub classics, all day breakfasts and sharing dishes”. Big Smoke has also produced a beer and a gin to be sold exclusively at Heathrow – Flight Mode, a 4% pilsner, and Taphouse London Dry Gin. Big Smoke Brew Co’s own range of locally produced beer, cider and gin will also be available. Heathrow retail and property director Fraser Brown, said: “Heathrow strives to provide our passengers with the best airport service in the world and this opening will serve as a fantastic new addition for our international travellers, as they will get the opportunity to experience an authentic local brewery.” Craig said: “We’re excited to showcase our range of beer and gin to people travelling from Heathrow. Our brewery is based only eight miles from the airport so we are offering passengers a truly local experience. The new Big Smoke Taphouse & Kitchen represents everything we love about modern beer and pubs and we can’t wait to welcome our first guests.”
Mike Robinson to open Chester restaurant for fourth site: Chef and restaurateur Mike Robinson is to open his fourth site, in Chester. The Forge – a restaurant, cocktail bar and private dining room – will launch on Wednesday, 19 May at the Hotel Indigo Chester, in Grosvenor Park Road. The restaurant has space for 70 diners, with the private dining room holding ten people. The Forge continues Robinson’s passion for British food, using only British ingredients, with an emphasis on wild produce and sustainability. The open kitchen cooks over wood and charcoal, using wild and locally reared meat, all aged on the premises. The kitchen will be headed by Curtis Tonge, who trained under Lisa Allen Goodwin, of Northcote, and has worked alongside Liam McCay at Chefs Table as well as Simon Radley at The Grosvenor Hotel. Robinson said: “My family are originally from Lancashire so the region feels very special to me. Some of the most amazing ingredients in the UK are from the north west and we intend to use them wholeheartedly.” Robinson’s other restaurants are The Harwood Arms in Fulham, which is the only pub in London with a Michelin star; the Woodsman in Stratford-upon-Avon; and the Elder in Bath.
Norman – we were on a brink of a financial agreement for Polpo, new venture to launch in August: Russell Norman, the co-founder of Polpo, has said last year the business was on the “brink of a financial agreement in February and then in March, it disappeared in a puff of smoke”. Last summer Polpo, the restaurant business founded in Soho in 2009 by Norman and Richard Beatty, was placed into administration. At one time it operated six sites in London, plus restaurants in Brighton and Bristol. Speaking to the Evening Standard about his upcoming new venture Trattoria Brutto, Norman said: “When we opened in 2009 in Soho, we had a cherished and loved standalone. Like with Tinkerbell when her light fades, I felt that the original idea of Polpo has always been slightly tarnished by subsequent Polpos.” It was the pandemic that put the brakes on this business, Norman said. He rubbished speculation he acrimoniously split from the business, saying he and Beatty still speak on a “twice, thrice-weekly basis”, and are in talks to possibly open a new site under their Spuntino concept abroad. On Trattoria Brutto, which will open in August on the site where Hix Oyster & Chop House used to be, next to Smithfield market, Norman said: “I want this to be traditional and authentic, the dishes to be familiar, comforting. But a slavish adherence to regionality isn’t necessary sometimes. You can have a general Tuscan, Florentine menu with a few favourite dishes thrown in from other regions.”
Jason Atherton to launch restaurant at Harrods: Chef Jason Atherton is to open a restaurant in Harrods. Atherton will launch Harrods Social in the former Harrods Brasserie on the lower ground floor of the store on Monday, 17 May. Dishes will feature whole Cornish lobster on champagne risotto and shellfish velouté; and roasted Cumbrian rack of lamb and shepherd’s pie, asparagus, broad beans, peas, morels and violet artichoke. The drinks list will include cocktails such as the Russian Spring Punch consisting of vodka, black raspberry liqueur, lemon juice, sugar syrup and champagne, reports Hot Dinners. Harrods will also be keeping its Dining Hall open later – until 10.30pm – and will be adding a kiosk from pasta delivery start-up Pasta Evangelists.
Krispy Kreme files for IPO: Krispy Kreme has announced it has filed with US regulators for an initial public offering, a move that would result in the doughnut chain’s return to the stock market five years after it was taken private. The company first went public in 2000, but it had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy following financial restatements, investigations into its accounting practices and a plunge in sales at some of its franchisees. It was taken private by current Pret A Manger owner JAB Holdings in a $1.35bn (£0.97bn) deal in 2016. Krispy Kreme opened its first store in North Carolina in 1937 and currently operates almost 1,400 shops in 33 countries. Rival Dunkin’ Brands was taken private last year by Inspire Brands, owner of Arby’s and Sonic Drive-In, for $8.76bn.
Treetop Adventure Golf to swing into action at Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre: Discovery Adventure Golf, a partnership between former Goldman Sachs entrepreneur Elizabeth Stanway and experienced leisure operator Chris Richards, will open a site for its Treetop Adventure Golf concept in Birmingham this month. The site – its fourth in total – will launch at the Bullring shopping centre following an investment of more than £2.4m. Treetop Adventure Golf has signed a 25-year lease for the former Forever21 unit with landlord Hammerson. The site – which opens on Monday, 17 May – will offer two indoor 18-hole mini golf courses – the Tropical Trail and Ancient Explorer – as well as a bonus 19th hole that gives guests the chance to win a free round. The food and drink offer will include pizza from “Pizza Cabana”, cocktails and mocktails from The Thirsty Toucan bar, as well as coffee from the Rainforest Roast Cafe. Stanway said: “Birmingham has always been a landmark location and we’re excited to be launching in the heart of the city centre and look forward to seeing guests making treasured memories together.”
Rudy’s to make London debut with spring opening in Soho: Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza, which is owned by Mission Mars, is to open a flagship restaurant in central London this spring, in Soho, as the concept expands south. As previously revealed by Propel, the Roy Ellis-led company has secured the former Wahaca site in Wardour Street. Rudy’s makes its dough on-site each day, taking 24 hours to double ferment and 60 seconds to cook. It operates two sites in Manchester as well as one in each of Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds and Sale. Rudy’s will shortly launch its seventh site, in Stockton Heath, Cheshire. It plans to open in the former Barclays Bank premises in the Church Farm shopping precinct in the town’s Walton Road. Mission Mars, which is backed by BGF, also operates the Albert’s Schloss concept.
Good Neighbour heads to Peckham for third site: London-based wine bar and restaurant Good Neighbour is to open its third site, in Peckham. Founder Paul Williamson will open the venue in Peckham Rye on Saturday, 22 May. The space, which was previously occupied by restaurant and bar concept Pedler – which is heading east to a new location – will be split into two, with a wine bar at the front and banquette seating at the back. There will also be a terrace, reports Hot Dinners. Dishes on the menu will include crispy pig cheeks, celeriac slaw, stilton and Bramley apple sauce; and tuna tataki, miso cauliflower, and apple and beetroot salsa. The wine will be a mix of natural and old world. Williamson launched the concept in Camberwell in 2018 before opening in Tooting last year.
Hakkasan to open two restaurants in Turkey: Hakkasan Group, which was acquired last week by US-based Tao Group Hospitality, is to open two new restaurants in Turkey. The new venues are in partnership with Alfardan Group, a hospitality and development company with a strong presence throughout the region, and Astas Holding, an exclusive lifestyle developer in Turkey. The first restaurant will open within Mandarin Oriental Bodrum in Bodrum this summer, followed by a launch in Istanbul at the Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus in the latter part of 2021. The Turkey outposts mark the 11th and 12th worldwide locations for Hakkasan, which opened its debut site in London in 2001. Hakkasan Bodrum will be an open-air restaurant with sweeping views of the Mediterranean while Hakkasan Istanbul will sit overlooking the Bosphorus, providing 180-degree sights of the waterway. Hakkasan Group and Alfardan Group will build upon their longstanding partnership and prior work since opening Hakkasan Doha in Qatar in 2013. The Turkey projects follow the recent announcement of the tenth Hakkasan location, at St Regis Al Mouj Muscat, in Oman.
Indian restaurateur to open debut UK site: Anubhav Srivastava, who runs two Indian restaurants in Chennai, is to open his debut UK site. Srivastava, who was born in London, is returning to the capital to launch Ritu in St John’s Wood. The venue in Blenheim Terrace is set to open in July. Navin Prasad, who was previously head chef at Benares and also worked at Zaika, has been brought in as culinary director. Ritu will reflect the various cooking traditions of India and will feature dishes such as lotus stem chaat and naga chicken skewers and Mumbai classic bread rolls. Anubhav told Hot Dinners: “Ritu is a project that has been in my mind for a very long time. Now is the perfect time to turn this dream into a reality.”
Moto invests in flagship electric vehicle charging site: Moto, the motorway service area operator, has launched the UK’s flagship electric vehicle (EV) site with the opening of its new Rugby services following a £40m investment programme. The services features 24 ultra-rapid EV charging points, making it the largest ultra-rapid charging site on the motorway, ahead of the government ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030. The ultra-rapid 350kW direct current (DC) chargers are set to be at a total of 28 Moto sites are set to have ultra-rapid chargers by the end of this year. The aim is to have all Moto services with at least six ultra-rapid chargers by the end of 2022, as part of a long-term, £100m-plus investment programme, including an upgrade to all existing 50kW chargers by the end of July. Following the blueprint of the new Rugby site, Moto is planning a further 24 ultra-rapid charger locations at Reading, Thurrock, and Exeter by the end of 2021. Moto chief executive Ken McMeikan said: “Moto is committed to sustainable motoring and we want to play a key part in encouraging more people to have the confidence to switch into electric vehicles. Rugby services is the most significant first step in achieving this and we’re proud to be launching the UK’s largest EV charging site.” Located at junction 1 of the M6, the site is also home to foodservice outlets including Greggs, Costa Coffee, KFC, Pret A Manger and Burger King.
Helen Dumbreck promoted to oversee Wetherspoon’s Scottish pubs: JD Wetherspoon has promoted Helen Dumbreck to general manager with responsibility for the company’s 60 pubs throughout Scotland. Dumbreck has worked for Wetherspoon since 2000 and held roles as a pub manager, area manager and regional manager. She will have overall responsibility for Wetherspoon’s Scottish pubs, which employ more than 2,500 people and have annual gross sales of £160m. Originally from Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, Dumbreck started her Wetherspoon career as a part-time bar associate at The Salt Cot (Saltcoats), where she spent three years. She spent a further three years at The Wheatsheaf (Kilmarnock), becoming pub manager there in 2005, followed by four years in Glasgow at The Society Room, before being appointed as area manager in 2011 and regional manager in 2017. Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: “Helen richly deserves her promotion to general manager. She is Wetherspoon through and through and our Scottish pubs are in very safe hands with her at the helm.” Dumbreck added: “I look forward to working with the area and pub managers, as well as all staff, to ensure the pubs continue to be popular with our customers and successful.”
North Yorkshire holiday park operator acquires animal visitor attraction for £1.85m: Holiday park operator York House Leisure has acquired an animal visitor attraction near Thirsk for £1.85m. Monk Park Farm has now reopened after being taken over by new owners with a new look following investment in a programme of improvements. Director Phil Brierley said the company’s experience within the leisure industry meant Monk Park Farm was a great fit for the business. He said: “We are delighted to be giving such a much-loved local attraction a new lease of life. In many ways, the elements that make our holiday and residential parks such a success equally apply to a visitor attraction such as Monk Park Farm. We’ll be using our knowledge of the tourist market in North Yorkshire and our expertise in providing a great experience for our holiday park visitors to ensure people have a fantastic day out.” At its peak, Monk Park Farm was welcoming up to 50,000 visitors each year. The 85-acre site at Bagby offers a range of farm-based activities, including the chance to meet and feed a variety of animals. York House Leisure has been operating in North Yorkshire since the 1960s. The company was advised on the purchase by a legal team from Andrew Jackson Solicitors.
Screach to expand internationally after securing $2m investment: The live sports streaming and advertising platform built specifically for commercial venues, Screach, is rolling out its technology globally after securing $2m in investment. The funding round included investment by several high net worth individuals and Hotspur Capital, who together with the British Business Bank’s Future Fund have provided $2m in growth capital to power its international roll-out. The cloud-based Screach platform aggregates all live sports content available in the user’s home country into a single place. Chief executive Robert Rawlinson said: “The streaming revolution has left few corners of the consumer market untouched – with millions of people around the world embracing the ease and abundance of content available on countless new streaming services. Understandably, during lockdown the focus of broadcasters and rights holders has been on getting content into people’s homes. But as commercial venues reopen, the Screach platform offers a frictionless way for sports rights owners to extend their reach into the globally underserved enterprise market. Our intention has always been to help content rights holders and advertisers to monetise the enterprise space, by offering venues a business tool that helps them drive footfall and revenues. With our app now available in 157 countries, we’re in advanced discussions with a string of international broadcasters and top tier sport rights holders.”