Abokado appoints new head of marketing and finance director: Abokado, which is backed by Kings Park Capital, has appointed Vineeta “Vee” Anuj as head of marketing, while Richard Chee has been promoted to finance director. Anuj was previously marketing manager at Odeon Cinemas and is a specialist in food and beverage branding, with more than ten years’ experience working for global brands including Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee. Chee has been with Abokado for eight years, most recently as financial controller. Abokado chief executive Mark Lilley said: “This is an exciting time for Abokado as we continue to grow and appoint new senior hires. We’re looking forward to Vee’s contribution to building the Abokado brand into London’s number one healthy grab and go chain. She will be working on all elements of our marketing function from local marketing to in-store comms, digital and email campaigns and growing our social media engagement. Richard has been a loyal and passionate member of the Abokado family for many years, during which time he’s been a key part of the leadership team supporting our growth. He continues to be a vital asset to the company.” Lilley and wife Lindsay founded Abokado in 2004. It currently operates 24 stores across London.

Pizza Punks looking to open three sites in 2019, like-for-like sales at debut Glasgow site up 50% as concept bucks casual dining market trend: Pizza Punks chief executive Brad Stevens has told Propel the company is looking to open three sites in 2019 following the launch of its second restaurant, in Belfast. Stevens, who stepped away from the Bar Soba business he founded earlier this year to focus on Pizza Punks, said the company was bucking the trend seen in the casual dining market, with like-for-like sales at its Glasgow venue up 50% on last year. The company is also in legals over a site in Newcastle for its third restaurant, while cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool are in his sights as he looks to scale the business nationally. Pizza Punks launched in St Vincent Street, Glasgow, in September 2016. The restaurant gives customers the option to create their own pizza by putting as many toppings as they want on a sourdough base for the same price, while also offering wine on tap, tank beer, cocktails, freak shakes and locally brewed coffee. Along with pizza, the menu also features chicken legs and mac ‘n’ cheese. Stevens said: “We’re all about the experience rather than just being a place to go for dinner and I think that’s why we are bucking the trend being seen in the casual dining market. We’ve worked hard to build a team that offers fantastic service and a great product. There are definitely opportunities out there at the moment because the property market is not as difficult as it was five years ago.” The Belfast venue has opened in the redeveloped Longbridge House on the corner of Waring Street and Hill Street. Stevens added: “Belfast has a similar demographic to Glasgow so when the opportunity came up it was the perfect location for us. It also has a healthy student population. The opening in Belfast has exceeded our expectations, while on average like-for-like sales in Glasgow are up 50% on last year. Newcastle is a similar story in terms of the demographic and we hope to be on-site there in the next couple of months. We would be interested in talking to landlords in other cities as we try to develop our pipeline further.”

Brewhouse & Kitchen to open biggest site to date, in Milton Keynes next week: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the brewpub business led by Kris Gumbrell and Simon Bunn, will open its biggest site to date, in Milton Keynes next week. The company will launch the venue on Monday, 23 April in the recently rebranded 12th Street – formerly known as the Theatre District – creating 50 jobs. Brewhouse & Kitchen has invested £1m to transform the space that spans 6,300 square feet across three floors. It will have 250 covers internally plus an additional 80 external seats and a private function room. Brewhouse & Kitchen beers will be brewed on-site up to four times a week. Many of the original brews will receive their names from key figures in Milton Keynes’ history including Webber’s Vision after the man credited with inspiring the birth of new town Milton Keynes and Leaping Man in tribute to Olympic and world champion long jumper Greg Rutherford. There will also be a range of gin, wine, cocktails and soft drinks, together with more than 50 craft beers and ciders. Each food dish will come with a recommended beer match and many will feature beer in the recipe. Bunn said: “We are really excited to be bringing our biggest pub and micro-brewery to Milton Keynes while also being part of the relaunch of 12th Street.”

Liverpool-based operators launch Gracious Development Group as they plan further expansion: Liverpool-based operators Danny Murphy and Ryan McMahon have brought their eight sites under one roof with the launch of Gracious Development Group as they plan further expansion. Murphy and McMahon have co-owned venues in the city centre for the past eight years since opening their first basement tiki bar, Aloha, in Colquitt Street. They have now formed Gracious Development Group as they look to “create an identity”. Propel understands the company will open two further sites in Liverpool this year before looking to expand into Leeds and Manchester in 2019. The duo have also just added to their portfolio in the Royal Institution building by transforming a space above Aloha into a private members’ club and specialist spirits merchants called Whisky Business. Most recently used as offices by Barnardo’s, the company saw an opportunity to create an exclusive members only club, restoring the building and retaining many original features. McMahon said the choice of Gracious Development Group as a company name represented the values and service ethics the pair share with their expanding team. Murphy added: “Development is a huge part of what we do. We invest heavily in developing staff, we have a designated training team, and we’ve developed our sites as a company in the eight years since we started. We’ve grown organically and always promoted from within. We have a low turnover of staff because they’re always developed and helped every step of the way, often from bar to general manager. We wanted a company name that had a real meaning to us and what is important to us in business – Gracious Development Group has that.”

Three Michelin-starred chef Heinz Beck opens debut UK site: Heinz Beck, who operates three Michelin-starred restaurant La Pergola in Rome, has opened his debut UK site. Beck at Brown’s has launched at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair in the space previously occupied by Mark Hix. The Italian casual dining restaurant has its own entrance in Albemarle Street and has been designed by Olga Polizzi. The venue consists of three areas – bar, restaurant and a private dining space – separated by ornamental bronze screens. Each section pays homage not only to Brown’s heritage but also Italian landscape and history. The menu features classic Italian dishes reinvented using seasonal British ingredients such as risotto with artichokes and olive oil, and red mullet “sandwich” with black olive and tarragon. Desserts include Sorrento lemon cheesecake. Beck said: “It’s an honour to have my own kitchen in such an illustrious hotel, with a new modern dining room that reflects the colours of Italy and the heritage of Italian cooking.”

New World Trading Company to launch second The Florist site, in Liverpool next week: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company is to open a second site for The Florist concept, in Liverpool. The venue will open on Monday, 23 April on the site of the former Old Blind School pub. The grade II-listed building, which once housed the Royal School for the Blind, will feature an entrance hall with two in-bloom trees and a floral photo wall at the top of the grand staircase. Artists Gemma Compton and Jody Thomas have created bespoke pieces for the site, while the venue will offer deli, rotisserie and grill-inspired dishes, 60 beers, “Instagrammable cocktails”, DJs and saxophonists. The Florist general manager Joel Lee said: “The Florist needs be seen to be believed. We know it is going to become the place to be in Liverpool and we can’t wait to open. For a really special experience, we are offering masterclasses in cocktails, floristry, gin and ale.” New World Trading Company launched The Florist concept in Bristol in February. The company, which also operates The Botanist, The Oast House, The Trading House and The Canal House, was acquired by Graphite Capital for £50m in June 2016.

Baiting House Group reopens Shropshire pub bought out of administration for fourth site: The Baiting House Group, led by Andrew Cornthwaite and Kate Lane, has opened its fourth site. The company has relaunched The Crown Inn in Hopton Wafers, near Ludlow in Shropshire, as gastro pub-hotel The Hopton Crown. Baiting House Group bought the historic 18-bedroom coaching inn, which was in administration and on the market at £895,000 for the freehold, in January. All 20 staff have been retained. It is the firm’s fourth country pub – all within a half-hour drive of each other on the Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire borders. Cornthwaite, a former city lawyer turned entrepreneur, founded The Baiting House Group three years ago with wife Kate when their local pub, The Baiting House in Upper Sapey, closed. Since then, they have bought and developed The Admiral Rodney at Berrow Green and The Stockton Cross at Kimbolton. Cornthwaite told Insider Media: “The Hopton Crown is a perfect complement to the existing properties in our portfolio. The idea is to ensure we have the same focus on quality and local charm but not as part of a large chain.”

Homeslice to open fifth London site, in White City this week: Better pizza brand Homeslice is to open its fifth site in London, in White City this week. The venue will begin a short soft launch at the Television Centre development on Thursday (19 April) offering the brand’s 20-inch pizzas whole or by the slice, alongside natural wine, frizzante prosecco on tap, locally sourced lager and a rotating selection of London craft beer. The interiors will feature a terrazzo floor with brass inlay, a bespoke curved steel counter that reflects the famous “doughnut” building at Television Centre and a wood-fired oven. A spokesman said: “We hope to have created a space that feels Homeslice while paying homage to this historic building and its architecture. White City is a unique part of London with an interesting history. We’re very happy to be part of this next phase. As we expand, our aim above all else is to maintain the culinary integrity and style of service we already offer. We will continue to keep things simple with the menu.” Homeslice joins other brands at the £8bn development that include a second site for D&D London’s Bluebird concept, Indian small plates concept Kricket, better burger brand Patty & Bun, a Soho House members’ club and an Electric cinema. Homeslice was founded by Mark Wogan, Alan Wogan and Ry Jessup in 2011, opening their permanent site in Covent Garden two years later. Its other sites are in Queen Street, Old Street and Fitzrovia.

Bristol-based brewery led by former BrewDog operations director closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £1m: Bristol-based Left Handed Giant Brewing, which is led by former BrewDog operations director Bruce Gray, has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising more than £1m. The company hit its initial £450,000 target within an hour of launch as it offered a 6% stake in return for the investment. In total, 1,501 investors have pledged £1,068,570 with the campaign now closed. The pitch stated: “We will build our new brewery here, brewing beer in the heart of Bristol. We will house a bar, restaurant and events space to create a venue that matches the quality of our beer. Our existing brewery will become a mixed fermentation-specific facility with an extended barrel and foudre store, where we will develop sours with a true tie to our locality. We intend to purchase the long leasehold of the building by way of a commercial mortgage.” When Gray extended the Crowdcube campaign, targeting £1,100,000, he said: “This is exactly half the projected budget of the total project (including buying the building).”

New Black Sea-inspired restaurant to open in Mayfair: A new London restaurant inspired by the Black Sea is opening in Mayfair next month. Babel House, which takes its name from modernist Odessan novelist Isaac Babel, will be based in a 19th century townhouse in Bruton Place. The 110-cover restaurant will infuse the cultural heritage of the Black Sea and its six bordering countries with an avant-garde design to present a menu influenced by the region’s history. With nods to modernism and Odessan art deco homes, the decor will feature touches of white and green marble complemented by accents of satin brass, dark wood and patterned tiles. There will be a cypress tree-lined outdoor seating area and glass atrium. Mains will include an array of seafood from the region such as pan-fried Black Sea turbot and blue fish prepared in the in-house smoker, as well as traditional dishes such as slow-cooked lamb shoulder and beef stroganoff. The bar will take guests on a journey to the heart of the Tales Of Odessa – a modern spin on Babel’s famed 1931 collection of short stories entitled The Odessa Tales – with seasonal cocktails inspired by the book’s protagonist Mischka Yaponchik.

Rarebreed Dining signs deal with hospitality chat app Yapster: Fledgling pub company Rarebreed Dining has signed a contract with Yapster, the chat app for hospitality and retail teams, to connect its staff through mobile messaging. Rarebreed, which operates The Plough Inn in Cobham and The Shurlock Inn in Reading, started with the vision of bringing a “fresh young approach to suburban dining”. Since founding in 2015, the company has received a multimillion-pound investment from Havisham Group to help fund the acquisition of further venues. Yapster’s dedicated mobile app will provide a safe online space for Rarebreed Dining staff to share information through one-to-one and group chats and an “Instagram-style” company news feed. Jordan Hallows, founder and operations director of Rarebreed Dining, said: “We chose Yapster because it shares our belief that quick, easy communication is crucial to building the right company culture. It also gives us the peace of mind that colleagues’ work-life balances can still be respected and their data and ours kept safe with GDPR in mind.” As part of the deal, Yapster will also formally integrate with Kobas, a cloud-based hospitality management service that unites different but interlinked operational areas such as point of sale, stock control, rotas and HR. Rob Liddiard, co-founder and chief executive of Yapster, added: “I’m always excited when we come across new players in the market that are committed to doing things differently. We’re proud to be adding Rarebreed Dining to our growing list of industry trailblazers and to be working closely with our friends at Kobas to transform the hospitality experience through technology.” Yapster, whose customers include Firmdale Hotels, Caffe Nero and Krispy Kreme UK, is currently raising £650,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to support its growth in return for a 6.5% equity stake. So far, 51 investors have pledged £147,260 with nine days remaining.

Bob’s Lobster to launch London Bridge wine bar and kitchen next month for debut permanent site: Street food market trader Bob’s Lobster is to open its debut permanent site, in the revamped arches of London Bridge train station. Specialising in lobster rolls, the company will launch the 55-cover site on Tuesday, 22 May with the decor featuring the brand’s original 1957 Volkswagen split-screen food truck. Street food signature dishes will include ahi tuna tacos and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, alongside crab rolls and new bite-size versions of lobster rolls. Bob’s Lobster Wine Bar & Kitchen will offer 100 bottles of wine as well as 15 by the glass, with a reserved list of vintage Rieslings on rotation. A spokesman told Hot Dinners: “We will have a surreal list of epic wine bottles to enhance wine and food combinations, all with the support of the wine team from Bedales of Borough. The wine team will be brought to the new site to bring spontaneous wine exploration to the playfulness of Bob’s food.”

Dorset-based chocolate shop and cafe opens fourth site, in Horsham: Dorset-based chocolate shop and cafe Chococo has opened its fourth site, in Horsham, West Sussex. Founders Claire and Andy Burnet have launched the venue in the Carfax at a site that formerly housed Rooney and Co estate agents. The Chococo cafe offers cakes, sundaes, ice cream, breakfast and savoury bites. It also sells handmade chocolates and gifts. The company’s other sites are in Exeter, Swanage and Winchester.

16 Hospitality Group repositions Anglesey bar: 16 Hospitality Group, which operates four pubs and restaurants in the north west and North Wales, has refurbished and repositioned Wills Bar within the Oystercatcher Restaurant site at Rhosneigr on the island of Anglesey. The bar has been rebranded as The Oystercatcher Bar & Cafe and now offers a more casual setting with a “rounded and extended range of food and drink” to complement its first-floor sister restaurant. 16 Hospitality managing director Edward Barlow said: “We are delighted with the response to our new-look bar, which is essentially a cafe by day and a buzzing and vibrant bar by night. We have a new menu that centres on a selection of hot drinks, freshly prepared light snacks and an endless range of cakes and pastries, while our drinks list now includes bottled and canned craft beer, some new wines for the season as well as a number of local artisan ciders and Aber Falls Gin.”

Superbowl UK to open £2m Swansea site: Tenpin bowling operator Superbowl UK is set to open a site in Swansea following a £2m investment. The company plans to transform the 25,500 square foot Aspers Casino, which has been vacant since 2012, with an opening in October creating 35 jobs. The new entertainment centre at the City Gates leisure quarter will feature 14 tenpin bowling lanes, a diner and bar, a soft play centre, an assault course and an amusement arcade. Superbowl UK director Kate Quaintance-Blackford told Insider Media: “Swansea presents us with an exciting opportunity to extend our distinctive brand of family entertainment further across South Wales, where we believe it will prove extremely popular.” Phil Morris, of EJ Hales, leasing agent for City Gates, added: “We believe this new arrival is a wonderful win for Swansea and City Gates. We look forward to welcoming Superbowl UK to the city and are excited to see the entertainment they bring with them.” Superbowl UK currently operates seven sites – in Cardiff, Hull, Ipswich, Macclesfield, Merthyr, Newport and Widnes. It has also signed to open sites in St Helens and Warrington next year and in Barnsley in 2020.

Filmore & Union launches spring/summer menu: Healthy eating cafe and restaurant company Filmore & Union has launched its spring/summer menu. The menu combines Filmore’s ethos to create “pure, natural and wholesome dishes” using health-inspired ingredients. It features a range of new dishes including a large selection of “build-your-own salads” with main elements such as courgette and turmeric chickpea cake or salmon fillet with flax and sunflower seeds. A summer porridge has been added to all breakfast menus, while favourites such as hummus eggs, smashed avocado and classic bagels are still available across its 17 restaurants. The drinks list sees the addition of iced coffees and sparkling infusions including icy maca mocha and agave, and grapefruit juice with lime and cayenne pepper and aromatic tonic. Filmore & Union nutritionist Jake Chapman said: “The summer menu reflects our customers’ desire to eat healthily but also to try new flavours and ingredients that can contribute to a sense of well-being. We’ve worked with local suppliers to ensure our menus include the best seasonal produce available and are packed with taste and colour.”