Upham Group boss – our pubs have moved to the next level: Upham Group chief executive Chris Phillips has told Propel he believes its pubs have “moved to the next level” following a year of consolidating the estate. He said: “We’ve done a lot of work on developing our existing pubs. We get a much better return on investment by working with what we’ve got. We’ve increased the number of bedrooms and restaurant covers at some of our sites and it’s not really affecting operational costs. With our rural pubs, we’re building a corporate offering at the start of the week – we have no problems filling our pubs at the weekend. It’s been a year of consolidation and the pubs have moved to the next level. The White Hart in Overton in Hampshire had its biggest week last week. We’re also putting in new food procurement systems that should help us with our food margins.” Phillips said the company, which operates 16 premium pubs across the south of England, with its own regional brewery, would like to add “a couple” of sites this year and was still targeting a 30-strong estate. He added: “We are looking at our strategy at the moment. I think there will be lots of opportunities out there especially given the slowdown in the casual dining market. Our expansion plans have been limited because it has been hard to find the managers and chefs to run our pubs and kitchens. The company, which saw total sales increase 25.1% to £15.6m for the year ending 31 December 2017, recorded a pre-tax profit for the first time but Phillips said he wished it had done so a year earlier. He added: “We took our eye off the ball a bit while we were looking at the initial public offering, which I think is inevitable given that’s where management needed to focus at the time. This year, though, we’ve been able to fully apply ourselves to the business. We had a restructure at the start of the year, including bringing in a new training and retention manager, which has really helped with retaining staff. We’ve got the management structure in place to allow us to reach that 30-site target.”

Buzzworks to ‘slightly flex model’ as it continues to grow: Buzzworks Holdings managing director Kenny Blair has told Propel the company is looking to “flex its model slightly” as it continues to grow the business. Blair said the Ayrshire-based company, which last week reported turnover increased 15.6% to £14.8m for the year ending 30 April 2017, was now looking at other potential revenue streams. He added: “We are optimistic we are going to continue to grow the business. We are looking to flex our model slightly – the last four venues have all had a pub in them as well as a restaurant. Pub operators are showing strong figures so I think we’ll focus a little more on drink as we move forward. We’re due to open a pub next to our Treehouse restaurant in Ayr in the next six weeks. Accommodation is also something we’re looking at and we’re opening eight bedrooms above one of our current venues – The Mill House in Stewarton.” Buzzworks’ only scheduled opening for 2018 so far is its Scotts restaurant at Port Edgar Marina. However, Blair said the company was in negotiations over another three sites and hoped “at least two would come off”. The company, which currently operates ten venues, reported like-for-like sales grew 2.5% for the four weeks to 31 December 2017. Blair said Buzzworks was facing many cost headwinds that were having an impact on margins but felt the challenge was being “well handled” and was something the business, which has about 500 staff, was “getting on top of”. He added: “We’ve got a huge focus on people and it’s something we’ve been working hard on since the end of the financial year. For example, we’ve reduced the working week, which has obviously had some impact on costs, but we feel it will benefit us in the long run. These people are key to the future of our company.”

Arc Inspirations to continue north west expansion with second Banyan Bar & Kitchen site in Manchester: Arc Inspirations, the Leeds-based bar and restaurant operator led by Martin Wolstencroft, is to open a second site for its flagship Banyan Bar & Kitchen brand in Manchester. The venue, an eighth for the brand in total, will open in the summer in Spinningfields following a £1.6m investment. The 7,000 square foot bar will accommodate 230 covers and create 50 jobs. The news follows a momentous 12 months for Arc Inspirations, which will also launch a first site in Manchester for its Manahatta brand this summer, while the Banyan Bar & Kitchen it opened in Ilkley, Yorkshire, in November had “exceeded all target expectations”. Wolstencroft said: “Following the announcement we are bringing our shamelessly glamorous Manahatta brand to Manchester, it felt only natural we secured a second Banyan Bar & Kitchen. We’ve worked with contemporary designers No Chintz, which is elevating and reforming the Banyan brand to take it to the next level. We’re set for a phenomenal year of growth.” Last month, Arc Inspirations appointed a new property director and operations manager for the north west to work alongside Wolstencroft and managing director Anni Opong in orchestrating the company’s next phase of growth. The company’s turnover rose 17.5% to £22.2m in the year to 2 April 2017. It currently operates 15 sites.

London’s first dedicated prosecco bar opens: London’s first bar dedicated to prosecco has opened at the One Tower Bridge development. Kristina Issa has launched Prosecco House with 20 proseccos on the menu, including Prosecco DOCG, the premium prosecco from Veneto, where the drink originates from. Issa is working with five family-owned vineyards – Marchiori, Rivalta, Cirotto, TASI Bio and Andreola – to stock prosecco that is unavailable elsewhere in the capital. Guests are able to enjoy prosecco by the glass or bottle, alongside a small selection of prosecco cocktails. The interior features burnt-orange velvet bar stools, hand-selected Italian marble, and antique bronze tables with mirrored surfaces. The focal point of the room is a large wine fridge that spans the whole of one side. A small selection of cicchetti is also served. Issa said: “I love prosecco but could never find a glass of the same quality in London compared with Italy. I wanted to create a bar that felt luxurious but was also open to everyone. There is a gap in the market for a high-quality bar serving the finest prosecco that is not in a hotel or cocktail bar.” Prosecco House sits within Berkeley Homes’ One Tower Bridge, a development of apartments, five-star residents’ facilities, restaurants and commercial space, including The Bridge Theatre.

Just Eat removes foodservice outlets with ‘no hygiene rating’ from app: Just Eat, the online food delivery business, has removed five outlets from its app after an investigation found they were not registered for food hygiene ratings. Just Eat said it required firms to have food hygiene ratings and was making them easier to access on its products. One of the firms was supposedly based at the site of a car wash in Basildon, Essex, while another takeaway not registered for hygiene checks, which has since ceased trading, was found in nearby Braintree. Three other unnamed firms operating from Norwich, Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City were also removed from Just Eat. Restaurants and takeaways must register with local councils to receive a food hygiene rating. The details emerged after BBC Inside Out East contacted councils throughout the east of England using the Freedom of Information Act. A Just Eat spokeswoman told the BBC: “We take food safety extremely seriously and actively work to raise standards across the takeaway sector. Any restaurant wishing to partner with us must be Food Standards Agency-registered with the relevant local authority and provide evidence of this before we put them on our platform. Local authorities are then responsible for carrying out inspections to check businesses meet the requirements of food hygiene law. We positively incentivise food safety and make numerous resources available to our restaurant partners to support and improve standards in this area.”

Sunderland-based operator Pub Culture acquires fifth site: Sunderland-based operator Pub Culture has acquired its fifth site. The company has taken over the former Flynn’s bar in Newcastle Quayside with plans to turn it into a late-night jazz bar. The grade II-listed city centre building has been empty for many years. The jazz bar would open daily from 11am to 1am, with live bands performing on a mezzanine floor. Pub Culture also plans to turn two residential units on the upper floors into hotel accommodation. Newcastle-based Ainsworth Spark Associates has been enlisted to oversee design of the refurbishment, which could potentially include a pavement cafe, Chronicle Live reports. A planning statement, submitted as part of a listed building application, read: “The site is in a highly sustainable city centre location and the proposal would bring these long-standing vacant premises back into use.” Pub Culture, which is backed by businessman Paul Callaghan, also runs pubs The Dun Cow and The Peacock plus bistro bar The Engine Room, all in Sunderland, and The Dun Cow in Jesmond, Newcastle.

Humble Grape launches City wine bar for fourth London site: Humble Grape, the wine bar and shop concept founded by James Dawson, has opened a wine bar in the City of London for its fourth site in the capital. The venue in Devonshire Row offers 30 wines by the glass and a further 400 by the bottle from a larger, evolving list. The venue also features a “winemaker wall”, which reveals where the wine originates from and stories behind the vineyards, Hot Dinners reports. The food menu, created by executive head chef Kishen Raheja, features small plates that focus on ethically sourced, seasonal ingredients such as cuttlefish stew with chorizo, fennel and creme fraiche, and duck confit with clementine. There is also cheese from north London-based Wildes Cheese, while fish is delivered straight from the dayboats. The venue seats 54 people over two floors, with wine also available to take away. Humble Grape’s other sites are in Fleet Street, Battersea and Islington. Last year, the company raised almost £1.3m for expansion on crowdfunding platform Seedrs.

Swansea-based operator takes on third pub: Swansea-based operator Carol Jones has acquired her third pub. Jones has taken on the Cross Keys in St Mary’s Street, which is owned by Ei Group’s Craft Union arm. The pub, which dates to the 1300s, has been undergoing a refurbishment ahead of reopening on Friday (9 February). The venue will feature a new sound system and 15 televisions, while pool and darts will be reintroduced. Jones told Wales Online: “The ethos is to give the pub back to the community. It’s brilliant to be taking over such a historic pub and it suits our identity for wanting to take things back to basics and give people what a pub used to be.” Jones also operates the Castell Nedd Arms in Neath and the Wig And Pen in Swansea.

Healthy eating cafe Farm Girl opens Chelsea venue for third London site: Healthy eating cafe Farm Girl has opened a venue in Chelsea, south west London, for its third site in the capital. The venue in Park Walk offers the brand’s first dinner menu alongside its usual fare of health-conscious, Australian-influenced dishes and superfood smoothies and cocktails. Farm Girl’s first all-day menu features dishes such as coconut bacon BLT, smoothie bowls and oven-baked aubergines for brunch, with the evening menu featuring hearty dishes such as cod croquettes with green herb sauce, lamb gyro with roasted pistachio yogurt, and apple and pear crumble for dessert. As at Farm Girl’s Notting Hill and Soho cafes, the cocktail smoothies include drinks such as strawberry and lavender-infused vodka created with mixologist Gianfranco Spada, of the Experimental Cocktail Club. The venue’s interior features green leather, pink marble and illuminated arches to create “an otherworldly, sensory experience”, Hot Dinners reports. In September, Farm Girl opened a concession in Carnaby after teaming up with clothes chain Sweaty Betty. Farm Girl was founded in Australia and launched its first UK venue in Portobello Road in 2015. The concept was inspired by owner Rose Mann’s childhood on a farm outside Melbourne.

White Brasserie opens 17th pub, in Histon: The White Brasserie Company has opened its 17th pub – The Boot in Histon, Cambridgeshire. The site has undergone an extensive renovation to enhance original period features, including brick arches, beamed ceilings and an inglenook fireplace. The 123-cover pub also features a large new bar, and open and log-burning fires, while a green oak-beamed extension has been added to house the main restaurant. Mark Derry, chief executive of Brasserie Bar Co, the 36-strong group behind Brasserie Blanc and The White Brasserie Company, said: “The pub is full of character and we have gone to great lengths to restore many of the original features in the building as well as create an impressive new extension.” Last week, Derry told Propel turnover for its current financial year was up 20%. He said the company, which reported turnover up 14% to £46.8m for the year ending 31 June 2017, was looking to open four or five sites this year across the two brands.

Hop Stuff Brewery to open third taproom, in mid-March: Hop Stuff Brewery, which is currently embarking on a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube, is set to open its third taproom site in mid-March. The company, founded by James Yeomans, will open the venue in Ashford, Kent, having secured the former Vinnie’s Bar And Club site in Bank Street. Hop Stuff Brewery is refurbishing the property to feature a micro-brewery alongside sourdough pizza, its own craft beer, and a small selection from other brewers, particularly from Kent. Hop Stuff Brewery, which currently operates the SE18 brewery taproom in Woolwich and SE8 in Deptford, is raising up to £800,000 on Crowdcube as it bids to grow its taproom estate from three to eight sites by the end of 2019. The campaign hit its initial £400,000 target within 48 hours of launch and Yeomans is offering a 1.57% equity stake in the business in return for the investment. So far, 717 investors have pledged £630,890. Yeomans has told Propel he expects to close the fund-raise this week.

Islington-based pizzeria Zia Lucia opens second site, in Brook Green: Islington-based pizzeria Zia Lucia has opened a second site in London, in Brook Green. The concept, which launched in Holloway Road in June 2016, offers wood-fired pizzas with 48-hour fermented dough. The new 50-cover restaurant in Blythe Road offers extra outside seating. Zia Lucia, Italian for “Auntie Lucia”, is the brainchild of Claudio Vescovo and Gianluca D’Angelo and offers four types of dough – traditional flour, vegetable charcoal black base, wholemeal and gluten-free. Unusual toppings include nduja, spianata salami, truffle honey, burrata, gorgonzola and vegan butternut squash cream. The menu also features Italian-style starters, seasonal specials, salads and desserts. The drinks menu focuses on spritzers, negronis, bottled beer from Italy and local brewers, and wine and prosecco sourced from small Italian producers. D’Angelo said: “The area embraces our ‘neighbourhood’ spirit and we hope to become the go-to destination for pizza-lovers in the West End.”

Whitbread opens Premier Inn in Middlesbrough town centre: Whitbread has opened a Premier Inn in Middlesbrough town centre. The 83-bedroom hotel has opened in Wilson Street offering king-size beds, 40-inch televisions and unlimited free breakfast for children at the Thyme restaurant. Operations manager Gemma Wood told Gazette Live: “We are looking forward to quickly establishing ourselves as a valuable and successful member of the community. We are located in Middlesbrough town centre, very close to the football ground, town hall and the local nightlife.” In August, the site that houses the hotel was acquired by property investment company LXi Reit for £6.2m. The forward purchase price reflected a net initial yield of 5.1% with the acquisition funded from the company’s Scottish Widows debt facility. Premier Inn’s lease will run for 25 years, with a one-off tenant break at the end of year 20. The rent is subject to five-yearly upward-only reviews, index-linked to the Consumer Prices Index.

Glasgow-based coffee company to open roastery, cafe and bakery: Glasgow-based coffee company Thomson’s Coffee Roasters is set to open its first roastery, cafe and bakery. The company will open the venue at the city’s Argyle Street Arches – underneath Central Station. The open plan space will include a training centre and allow customers to experience the coffee roasting process, as well as a 58-seater cafe and in-house bakery offering pizza, bread and pastries. Thomson’s Coffee Roasters managing director Russell Jenkins told Glasgow Live: “As Thomson’s embarks on its 176th year, opening our first open plan coffee roastery, cafe, bakery and training centre in Glasgow is a great milestone for the business. A Glasgow business through and through, the roastery will see us return to our roots in the city centre and we are proud to be the first business to take a space in The Argyle Street Arches.”