Rosa’s Thai Cafe secures two further London sites: TriSpan-backed Rosa’s Thai Cafe is set to further add to its presence in London, with openings in Bloomsbury and King’s Cross, Propel has learned. The company has secured the former ASK Italian unit in Grafton Way for an opening later this year, and a shell unit of Caledonian Road. Last month, the Gavin Adair-led business opened its first Midlands restaurant, at Paradise Birmingham. The company is also currently on-site at the ex-Bella Italia site in Baker Street for an opening this summer. The 24-strong group, which was founded by Alex and Saiphin Moore in 2008, also operates a handful of delivery kitchen sites. The business plans to open up to six new restaurants this year and continue to add to its delivery kitchen estate. Thomas Rose, of P-Three, acts for Rosa’s.
Joe & The Juice to replace Caffe Nero in Soho: Denmark-based smoothie and juice chain Joe & The Juice is to further add to its presence in central London, with an opening in Soho. The company, which currently operates circa 50 sites in the UK, including about 40 in the capital, is understood to have secured the former Caffe Nero site on the corner of Lower James Street for an opening later this year. The business recently opened at the Bentall Centre in Kingston. Etch Group acted on the Soho deal.
Hard Rock buys London building housing its first cafe: Hard Rock International has marked its 50th anniversary by buying the building that houses its original cafe in London. The company has acquired the building in Old Park Lane, where the debut cafe launched in 1971, for an undisclosed sum. Hard Rock purchased the 13,832 square foot building from Amsprop Estates. It spans seven floors including the basement and ground floor occupied by the cafe, and first floor offices. Stefano Pandin, area vice-president, Hard Rock Cafe International, said: “London is where Hard Rock Cafe’s story all began and where we will be making memories for many years to come.” The brand also kicked off its anniversary celebrations last week with the unveiling of a new partnership with footballer Lionel Messi, who will serve as brand ambassador for the next five years as the first athlete to partner with Hard Rock. Propel reported earlier this week Hard Rock has also extended the lease of its site in London’s Piccadilly until 2037 and the UK business has received a letter of support from its US parent committing financial support so it can meet its liabilities over the next year.
Taster smashes initial £250,000 crowdfunding target within hours of launch, more than £450,000 raised so far: Delivery-only kitchen concept Taster, which was founded by one of Deliveroo’s early executives, Anton Soulier, has smashed its initial £250,000 target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube within hours of the campaign launching. As revealed by Propel last month, Taster is embarking on fundraising to increase its presence across the UK, France and Spain, and drive rapid expansion into new cities. It has already hit its initial £250,000 target and has so far raised more than £450,000 from about 350 investors, with 30 days of the campaign remaining. Taster is offering 0.4% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £100.5m. The pitch stated: “To date, Taster has launched five highly successful digital restaurant brands with chefs and food personalities, is available in 11 cities across the UK, France and Spain, and accounts for more than 20 partners. In 2020 alone, our revenue grew 110% to €10.5m (P&L minus €4.2m) and we delivered more than one million meals. Our immediate ambition is to increase Taster’s presence across the UK, France and Spain, and drive expansion into new cities, as well as to support the launch of two new consumer brands this year. Our ultimate goal is to take Taster global through more restaurants brands and licensed partner restaurants. To date, Taster has raised $50m. In April, Taster raised $37m (£26.5m) of new funding toward further expansion targeted through licensing. UK-based Octopus Ventures was the lead investor with global venture capital firm Rakuten also participating alongside the company’s existing investors Battery, Latitude and Heartcore. Soulier’s goal is to expand from 11 European towns and cities to 40 by the end of 2021, and jump from 70 digital restaurants today to 10,000 globally by 2025. Taster will keep its existing ten kitchens in London, Paris and Madrid to test new menus and use as training kitchens for licensees – but won’t launch any others.
White Rabbit Projects to open restaurant and bar at East Lothian hotel on Scotland’s Golf Coast: White Rabbit Projects, the Chris Miller-led business, is set to open two projects at the Marine North Berwick hotel on Scotland’s Golf Coast in East Lothian in the summer. The Victorian-era hotel, which is part of the Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts collection, will house The Lawn restaurant and The Bass Rock bar and lounge. MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist Chris Niven, previously executive chef at The Fairmont, St Andrews and The Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh, will head up The Lawn restaurant, focusing on the best ingredients from East Lothian and the surrounding area, served in a relaxed setting. Niven will also oversee the menus for the hotel’s bar and lounge, The Bass Rock. There will be a range of small and large dishes to choose from such as Loch Fyne oysters, mackerel pate and a steak and bone marrow burger. He said: “Dishes will not be complicated, the flavours of the produce will really shine through. North Berwick is such a beautiful location with a real sense of community. It is not too far from Edinburgh as well, making it the perfect escape from the city.” White Rabbit Projects is also set to launch three dining concepts – 18, The Bridge and One Under Bar – at Rusacks St Andrews hotel, which is also part of Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts and owned by Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners. The hotel is set to open this month, followed by the restaurants in July, which will be led by inaugural MasterChef: The Professionals winner, Derek Johnstone, who won the competition in 2008.
Wingstop secures Manchester site: Lemon Pepper Holdings, which is rolling out US chicken brand Wingstop across the UK, has secured its first site in the north west, in Manchester. As flagged up by Propel in March, the company has secured the former Bella Italia in the city’s Piccadilly Gardens. In March, the business agreed a “trilogy” deal with landlord Hammerson to open three new regional locations at its Bullring (Birmingham), the Oracle (Reading) and Cabot Circus (Bristol) schemes. It has since opened the Reading site and will open on a former Pizza Hut site in Kingston-upon-Thames at the end of this month. It currently operates five restaurants and a handful of dark kitchens. It has plans to reach 20 locations in the UK by the end of 2021. Last month, US chicken brand Wingstop, which has more than 1,500 locations worldwide, announced a minority investment in the UK business, which is operated by its UK franchisee, Lemon Pepper Holdings. The company said the investment follows strong performance in the UK and underscores the brand’s confidence in the market as a key growth lever for global expansion.
Living Ventures opens second Grand Pacific site as part of £16m Leeds hotel revamp: Living Ventures, the Paul Moran-led group, has opened its second site under its Grand Pacific restaurant and bar concept in Leeds. The company, which opened the first Grand Pacific in Manchester in 2017, has opened the venue in The Queens Hotel, in Leeds, which is part of The QHotels Group. It forms part of a £16m refurbishment of the hotel. The 100-cover restaurant, private dining rooms and bar offers flavours from “far-flung lands fused together with quintessential British classics” as it “aims to recreate the golden age of high society with a sumptuous, yet relaxed, charm accompanied by great service”. In addition to the main restaurant and bar, the hotel is home to Cafe Pacific, an all-day social hub offering coffees, drinks and snacks. The refurbishment of the City Square hotel has included a renovation of all bedrooms, as well as adding an additional 17 bedrooms, bringing the total to 232. Hotel management said it has seen a huge spike in bookings, given the boom in staycations due to the ongoing travel restrictions as a result of the pandemic.
Portfolio of eight pubs let to Marston’s on market for £21.6m revealed: The portfolio of eight pubs let to Marston’s that has been put up for sale with a guide price of £21.6m has been revealed. Aviva Investors has instructed CBRE to sell the group of pubs, which are located across the UK, with the guide price reflecting a net initial yield of 5.75% in the first year, rising to circa 7.75% in year ten and almost 18% by lease expiry in 2055. The pubs are being marketed under the name Project Gold, Propel has learned. The pubs have a total rent roll of £1,326,506 per annum, subject to Retail Price Index-linked rent reviews, collar and capped at 1% and 4%. The rent was originally set in 2014 at projections of circa 35% of Ebitdar. The pubs are the Blaina Wharf, Newport; Featherbed, Shrewsbury; Flying Shuttle, Haverhill, Suffolk; Market Cross in Dunstable, Bedfordshire; Sweet Chestnut, Dunfermline; Three Lights, Fleetwood, Lancashire; Waterwheel, Port Glasgow; Inverclyde; and White Willow, Bridgwater, Somerset. Additionally, each lease includes the provision for the tenant to benefit from a £1 buyback option in 2055. David Fraser, senior director and investment specialist in CBRE’s operational real estate team, said: “The portfolio comprises high-quality real estate that benefits from good underlying fundamentals and a strong return profile, in a sector that we expect to flourish as we continue to come out of the pandemic.”
Nationwide healthy meal plan delivery service KBK reports 518% growth in new customers: KBK, the nationwide healthy meal plan delivery service, has reported a 518% growth in new customers in the past 18 months as the demand for meal plans continues. KBK has also seen an upward trajectory in sales, with the ready-meal delivery services booming, as new customers report a sense of urgency to become healthier. With KBK continuing to grow, last year the business acquired Gymology, a Manchester-based business with a similar concept to the KBK brand. KBK operations director James Anderson said: “The meal plan industry has seen a huge spike in demand since the start of the pandemic last March, with many looking to lead a healthier lifestyle or for those who were unable to visit a supermarket last spring/summer. This year, we expect to see even further growth of the brand, with more consumers than ever making meal plans a part of their everyday life.” Although the meal plans have been merged to be part of the KBK brand, the Gymology brand will focus entirely on the fitness industry with the first Gymology boutique gym open at MediaCityUK, Manchester. The ingredients in each of KBK’s plans are sourced directly from farms and local markets. The plans on offer include “Get Lean”, “Everyday”, “Build”, “Vegetarian”, “Plant Based”, “Juice Cleanse” and “Soup Cleanse”.
Flagship Angus Steakhouse site comes to market: The property currently occupied by Angus Steakhouse’s flagship site in London’s Piccadilly Circus has come to the market, Propel has learned. Savills is understood to have been appointed to market the site at 21-22 Coventry Street. The site is available by way of an assignment of the existing lease until December 2032. The current rent passing is £1,460,000 per annum. In March, it was reported that Angus Steakhouse, part of the Gateshead-based leisure group Noble Organisation, had asked restructuring experts from KPMG to negotiate rent concessions as the closure of its restaurants put its finances under severe pressure. It operates five sites in visitor hot spots, such as Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square in the capital. KPMG had written to its landlords requesting a rent holiday until lockdown trading restrictions come to an end. While some have agreed to the plan, without unanimous support the company risks running out of money, according to the Daily Telegraph, which first reported the story. Landlords were being asked to accept the payment of rent on a daily rate rather than quarterly once its restaurants had reopened, the report said. It is thought the company may have had to hand back the lease on the Piccadilly site to the landlord.
Lakeland Inns appoints new executive chef: Cumbria-based pub group Lakeland Inns has appointed Darran Hargan as its new executive chef. Hargan will oversee the food offer and the development of the kitchen teams at the group’s five Lake District venues. As well as holding senior chef positions, Hargan also spent three years as an assessor for NVQ hospitality and management trainees across the area. Lakeland Inns managing director Kirsty Ridge said: “We’re delighted to have been able to welcome someone as experienced as Darran on board to help steer the vision for each pub and to bring out the very best in our teams.” Lakeland Inns’ portfolio includes The Commodore in Grange, The Royal Oak Inn in Curthwaite and The Sun in Ulverston. It also operates eco-brewery The Lakeland Brewhouse.
High-end grocery store and food hall featuring three restaurants launches in Islington: A high-end grocery store and food hall featuring three restaurants has launched in Islington, north London. The Boutique Grocer, located in Islington Square, is the brainchild of firefighter turned food entrepreneur Nick Scallan. As well as offering a range of products, the site is also home to a coffee shop, wine bar and three restaurants in its food hall, reports Hot Dinners. The restaurants are run by oyster and seafood concept The Raw Boys, which has popped up in Borough Market and The Chiltern Firehouse; Waterloo-based Vietnamese restaurant concept Banh Bao Brothers; and Pasta Nostra, the Shoreditch-based restaurant from Michelin-trained chef Wilfred Mafham and Luca Cianti.
East Yorkshire-based operators acquire second site: East Yorkshire-based operators Chris and Simon Leahy have acquired their second site. The brothers, who own Cassiel Bar & Kitchen in the village of Cottingham, are launching Raph’s Bar and Grill in the former NatWest bank premises across the road. The property is now being fitted out, following the renovation project that has seen the vault converted into a cellar. Cassiel opened in August last year and in spite of the stop-start impact of lockdowns, the Leahys decided to press ahead with phase two of their plans. They are going through the licensing process now and plan to open Raph’s Bar and Grill in September, serving drinks, homemade pizza and made-to-measure steaks, with regular live music and space for up to 60 customers. Chris Leahy said: “Nothing is risk-free and we have taken a bit of a gamble but we believe there is plenty of trade in Cottingham – it’s said to be England’s largest village – and, as restrictions ease, customers will become more confident and business will increase. The biggest challenge we face at the moment, in common with the rest of the hospitality sector, is recruiting and retaining staff but we’re optimistic and we hope the quality of our offer and our working environment will appeal to people looking for work in an industry that has a bright future.”
Team behind Taka opens Japanese restaurant Maru: The team behind Japanese restaurant Taka has opened Maru, in Mayfair. Maru, led by executive chef Taiji Maruyama and partners Andrey and Anastasia Datsenko, serves a 20-course omakase-style, farm-to-table inspired, tasting menu and claims to be the first Japanese restaurant in the UK to specialise in the culinary technique of dry-ageing fish, in-house. The restaurant seats six people who are served from behind the counter by chef Maruyama and his team. The “omakase” menu, which means “I’ll leave it up to the chef”, is an innovative take on traditional Japanese cuisine, combining British ingredients with classical training and techniques. Maruyama has previously worked in Tokyo, and at Nobu, Beaverbrook and Taka. Maru is based in Shepherd Market, with the 20-course menu having a supplementary drink pairing, including wine, champagne, sake and tea.
Ibis Styles hotel in Reading sold off £4.5m guide price: The Ibis Styles Reading Oxford Road hotel has been sold off a £4.5m guide price to a private purchaser who intends to continue running it as a hotel. The hotel is located on a 0.74-acre roadside site and has 97 bedrooms with a supportive pre-application for development into a six-storey apartment block with 73 residential units. Paul Barrasford, director in the Hotels Agency team at Colliers, said: “The fact the new owner intends to continue running it as a hotel underlines the resilience of the UK hotels market to the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, and the demand for substantial, branded hotel stock.” The hotel was sold through property specialist Colliers and the final price was not undisclosed.
Ricker Restaurants to reopen La Bodega Negra this month with new head chef:Ricker Restaurants will reopen its Mexican street food restaurant La Bodega Negra in London’s Soho next week with a new head chef at the helm. The restaurant in Old Compton Street will welcome customers again from Tuesday, 22 June, while its street level venue Upstairs at La Bodega reopened on Tuesday (15 June). The reopening coincides with the appointment of new head chef Gustavo Giallonardo, who has created a modern Mexican food offering. New dishes will include pork chop with pasilla negra salsa and sweet potato, and a black mole quesadilla with truffle, Monterey cheese and salsa verde. The full menu will be available in the main restaurant while Upstairs at La Bodega offers a smaller food selection, with more experimental dishes being developed and offered. The space will open with an outside terrace and ceviche bar. Having honed his skills in Buenos Aires, Giallonardo headed to Europe. Following a year in Spain, he made the move to London where he has worked in restaurants including Oriole.
Plans submitted for £60m surf park at TraffordCity: Plans to make TraffordCity in Greater Manchester home to the north west’s first surfing lagoon have been submitted. The £60m plans lodged with Trafford Council by Belfast-based property developer McKinney Group would see the former container-base site transformed into a surfing facility that is accessible to people of all ages and abilities. Alongside the surf lake will be space for a cafe/restaurant terrace, pop-up beach bars, surf shop, and changing facilities all within an interactive environment with everything from pump track and fitness zone to a half pipe/boarding area, and exercise, bouldering and balancing zones. McKinney Group managing director Billy McKinney said: “TraffordCity already has a huge and growing leisure offer and we are looking forward to bringing something new to the area that is thrilling, interactive and accessible, to be enjoyed by surfers of all abilities and look forward to getting people on the waves by 2023.” The site in TraffordCity, owned and managed by Peel L&P, encompasses The Trafford Centre and its surrounding 3.5 million square foot of retail, leisure and office space.
Gastropub manager opens wine shop with deli to follow, seeking further sites for expansion: A gastropub manager has opened a wine shop and has plans to open more with complementary delicatessens. Luke Morland and co-owner Craig Buchan opened their debut wine shop, Reuben & Grey, in the Old Town Hall in Market Square, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. The business plans to open a chain of wine shops and high-end delicatessens across the region at pace. It intends to add a deli to the site in the next couple of months and is searching for more premises in Knaresborough, Harrogate and beyond. The deli will offer a selection of luxury produce, with much of it sourced from local suppliers. The wine shop offers hundreds of wines from around the world, including an extensive choice of natural and organic wines and English wines, as well as local beers, gins, rums and whiskies. Morland, who has run the Bay Horse Inn gastropub for the past five years and worked as a front-of-house manager at nearby Goldsborough Hall, said: “Over the past year, we’ve seen a real shift in the way people shop and eat. We will be showcasing artisan suppliers both through our fine wine store and, later, through our gourmet deli, and we believe that there is real public support for an initiative like this.”