Story of the Day:
Inventive founders set to roll-out pub brand after runaway success of first site: A modern pub concept created by Inventive Leisure founders Roy Ellis and Neil McLeod and celebrity chef Simon Rimmer is set to be rolled out after the first site has turned into a runaway success. The trio, who have formed a company called Flying Pig & Lobster, set out to modernise the traditional pub offer by creating a retail offer that trades through all the day-parts with a broad demographic. A total of £350,000 was invested in The Elephant pub in Liverpool, a Star Pubs & Bars site, last year and the venue is now taking circa £50,000 per week, of which £20,000 is food and the rest is drink sales. “We have nearly trebled the pub’s cask sales and we sell a lot of local beers,” Ellis told yesterday’s Propel Multi Club Conference. “We have quadrupled the sales in wine and we can see a payback on our original investment in under a year.” The Elephant, which has 90 covers, has been such a success that the concept is ready to be rolled out with two new sites already selected. “The sites are 50% bigger than the original,” he said. “Plus we are in negotiation with another three sites.” Success has been driven by strong breakfast sales, a broad customer base and events to create a strong community appeal. The Elephant is one of two concepts launched by Flying Pub & Lobster. As well as a modern British pub concept, represented by the Elephant, the duo also launched an “American tavern” concept called the Liberty Tavern after extensive research in the US. The ‘shack-style’ venue, located adjacent to the Elephant, offers US classics such as shrimp cocktails and slow-cooked Texas chilli. The venue has a large outside space, giving total covers of 130, while its wet to dry ratio is 48:52, and it has an average spend per head of £18. It is taking £35,000 a week and is expected to return its investment in circa 2.4 years but, Rimmer told the Propel conference, the concept isn’t quite ready to be rolled out yet. “We are proud of it but we don’t think we have got our ‘big idea’ right yet,” he said. “We want to recalibrate and possibly revisit America as the voice isn’t quite right yet.”
Host of companies sign up for Propel Social Media Masterclass:
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Manchester sees UK’s biggest jump in food-led hospitality businesses: Manchester city centre has seen the biggest rise in the number of food-led hospitality businesses such as restaurants, gastropubs and cafe-bars over the past ten years, with Leeds second. The figures, from the leisure consultancy CGA Peach, show Manchester has seen a 57% rise in eating-out establishments, with Leeds seeing a 55% increase, London 32% and Liverpool 31%. The figures were released by the Northern Restaurant & Bar show, which takes place at Manchester Central on 17 and 18 March, and which itself has seen exhibitor numbers jump 15% this year, to 270. Northern Restaurant & Bar’s chief executive, Thom Hetherington, said: “The north has always punched above its weight in terms of food and drink, but it seems that the rest of the world has finally woken up to its strength and potential. Northern operators are thriving, the audience of diners is growing and big names are rushing to embrace the region. Our job is to make sure Northern Restaurant & Bar itself continues to reflect this surge of commercial and creative vibrancy.”
US alcohol trade bureau approves powdered alcohol: Powdered alcohol could be on sale soon in the United States after the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved labels for a product called Palcohol, made by a company in Arizona called Lipsmark. The approval comes after a scientific review of Palcohol by the US Food and Drug Administration which said last summer that it did no have concerns about the ingredients of the product and did not find a legal basis to block it. Lipsmark says Palcohol will come in several varieties, including a vodka and a rum, and in three cocktails, a Cosmopolitan, Lemon Drop and Powderita, which is designed to taste like a margarita. The powder comes in foil pouches that hold the equivalent of one shot of alcohol and can take six ounces of liquid. However, at least three states, South Carolina, Louisiana and Vermont have passed laws banning powdered alcohol and at least eight more are considering doing the same. Opponents raised concerns that it might be abused by being sprinkled on food, snorted or used to spike drinks. A bill is currently under discussion in the US Senate that would ban powdered alcohol completely.
New better burger brand to launch in Manchester this weekend: A new better burger brand, Filthy Cow, is to launch in Manchester this weekend. The venue is based on Tib Lane, at the site of the former Lounge Ten fine dining restaurant. Dining is split over two levels, with seating for up to 71 in total including a private dining area. There is exposed brickwork, neon signs, scrawled graffiti on the walls and funky furniture including original farmyard troughs turned into glass-topped tables. Entrepreneur Jordan Gallimore, 23, is the woman behind the new venue. She said: “The interiors are stripped back, it’s raw just like the food. The most simple food is the most exposed and that’s what the interiors are supposed to represent too.” Gallimore is backed by silent partners and she plans to roll the concept out across the country. She added: “I’ve travelled across the UK eating food, everything from fine dining to takeaways, but burgers were always my go to food. I’m a big believer in simplicity, with the best food it’s all about keeping it simple.” The menu is based around four burgers – a classic beef burger, a cheeseburger, the beast (a beef burger with Red Leicester cheese and crispy pancetta bacon) and a vegetarian burger of grilled halloumi and mushrooms.
Camden Town Brewery – crowdfunded investment will help secure favourable interest rates: The founder of Camden Town Brewery, which has secured £1,787,000 in investment through crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, has said the money will allow access to more favourable interest rates on bank debt. The cash will also be used to return Camden Town Brewery’s entire manufacturing operation to the UK. The brewery has been forced to outsource some brewing to Belgium after sales jumped from £2.5m in 2012 to £9m last year. Jasper Cuppaidge said that the overwhelming vote of support from investors, many of whom are customers, would help him to negotiate better terms with lenders. “We’re talking to all the banks at the moment to see which one will come up with the best financial plan for the next five years,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “We knew the deal would depend on what we do on Crowdcube, and I want to minimise the interest we pay on the debt.” The Crowdcube campaign values Camden Town Brewery at £75m. Cuppaidge said this valuation will help him to maintain a controlling stake in the business even if larger rounds of venture capital are required later on. The company has turned down multiple offers from “major brewers” who sought a controlling share in return for investment, Cuppaidge told the newspaper. “We want to stay in control,” he said. The company was founded in the basement of The Horseshoe pub in Hampstead, North London in 2006 “I put everything on the line to start the business,” he said. “I mortgaged my house, sold my car, I had guarantees coming out of my eyeballs.” Of the crowdfunding support, he said: “If you borrow from the bankers, you don’t get bankers going out and buying your beer. These investors will back, drink and market us.”
‘One of the largest Starbucks in the UK’ and new Cosmo buffet restaurant announced for Northampton: One of the largest Starbucks in the UK, and a new outlet for the pan-Asian buffet chain Cosmo, are to take up units in Market Square in Northampton, the town’s council leader, David Mackintosh, announced yesterday. The announcement of the two schemes was part of a presentation at Northampton Guildhall in connection with the Northampton Alive regeneration programme. Mackintosh said: “New projects continue to be added to the programme as the success of our many regeneration schemes breed more success and encourage more businesses to choose Northampton as a place to grow.” The new Cosmo restaurant, to be located in the former home of the Balestra nightclub, which closed in 2013, will have 350 covers and will open in 2016. The Balestra building was initially put on the market for £1.1m. According to the Northampton Chronicle, a council spokesman said the new Starbucks, due to open in the summer in a ‘landmark’ building on the square, will be one of the largest Starbucks stores in the country. A development programme will also see eight more Starbucks outlets open at various locations across Northampton, the newspaper said. Both schemes still have to have planning applications approved.
Buccaneer pushes up pre-tax profit: Buccaneer Holdings, the west of England pub operator, pushed its pre-tax profit up to £122,000 for the year to 1 November 2014 from £86,000 in 2013, as its turnover rose 3.3% to £6.65m, thanks to what it said was a better performance at its houses. The company saw its gross profit margin rise to 68% from 67.2% for the year to 1 November 2013 as the cost of sales rose just 1.1%. Operating profit was up 10.4% to £177,000. Wages and salaries rose 1.3% on 2013, to £2.56m. Buccaneer said it was “actively looking” to acquire the leasehold or freehold of additional pubs.
GBK reopens Mailbox restaurant after £350,000 ‘retro’ refurb with new menu on the way: Gourmet Burger Kitchen has reopened its restaurant at the Mailbox in Birmingham after a £350,000 refurbishment that has created a new “retro diner” feel, with dark oak panelling, antique details and bespoke printed cork wallpaper. The restaurant is also launching a new limited-time menu from New Zealand chef Peter Gordon, the creator of the chain’s first ever menu, at the end of the month, on 30 March. The menu, which will be available for a short time only, includes a duck confit burger, layered with a creamy duck liver paté and topped with cheddar cheese, crispy shallots, rocket and a fiery ginger and apricot chilli jam, and sweet potato fries with tamarind dressing. Other new offerings include dukkah, a spring “homeslaw” with mint, pomegranate molasses and sumac, and a banana biscoff milkshake. Katie McDermott, GBK’s marketing director, said: “After seven years in the Mailbox, it is great to be re-opening the doors at GBK this week after our full refurbishment. We are excited to introduce the burger lovers of Birmingham to the newly designed restaurant and kitchen, as well as the upcoming launch of Peter’s Menu.”
Ed’s Easy Diner plans Luton opening: Ed’s Easy Diner has been granted planning permission to open in The Mall, Luton, in a unit between Monsoon and Fone Giant. A statement included in the planning application read: “Given the location of the unit within an established shopping centre, which already includes complimentary restaurant uses as standard, it is expected that the change of use will enhance the vitality of the centre and therefore the defined premier shopping frontage.” Hoardings have gone up around the unit, but no opening date has been named. The 1950s diner chain currently has 28 outlets, with openings due in Cambridge this month, and Aberdeen, Inverness and Islington in April.
Bill’s to take over home of Leeds Law Society: The Bill’s restaurant chain is to move into the current home of the Leeds Law Society at 1 Albion Place in Leeds. A planning application for the conversion of the 5,600 sq ft building has been submitted, and a spokesperson for Bill’s said: “1 Albion Place is an iconic building and has a rich heritage as the beating heart of the legal profession in the region. It’s that heritage and character that attracted us to it and we will be preserving the building and celebrating its history as we give it a new lease of life as a major new leisure destination in the heart of Leeds.” The Law Society, which has been at Albion Place for almost a century, has agreed a 20-year lease at 62 Wellington Street. Its president, Philip Jordan, said: “The legal profession has changed dramatically and the result is that 1 Albion Place is no longer suitable for meeting the evolving needs of our members. We are unable to use the majority of the space and the building has become a major burden on the finances of the society.” Bill’s is currently up to 58 outlets, with openings in Marlow and Reigate due next month and in Baker Street, Central London in May.
First micropub in Liverpool granted permission: Planning permission has been granted for the first micropub in Liverpool, to be called Cask. The proposed pub, in a row of shops on Queens Drive in West Derby, would be like a “large sitting room” 19ft by 19ft, would have no music and would shut at 10pm, Ian Barton, one of the people behind the pub, told the Liverpool Council planning meeting that agreed the scheme. It will sell “real ales and bespoke bottled beers, but no spirits or fizzy lagers,” he said. The meeting was told similar micropubs exist in Liscard, Wirral and in Crosby but none currently in the city. One local resident, objecting to the application, said: “People are not going to go to a pub like a living room when they can buy some real ale in Tesco and go to their own living room.” The council’s Lib Dem leader, Richard Kemp, said “the application describes the pub of my dreams” but said he was concerned about its potential impact on nearby residents and opposed the plans. However, the Labour members of the committee backed the scheme after it was agreed to add conditions in a bid to prevent the site being used as a “normal” pub or restaurant in the future. Barton told the Liverpool Echo after the meeting that he was pleased the plan had been approved. He said: “The work starts now, we’re relying on friends and family really, to do most of the work. Realistically, we hope to open in May.”
Shake Shack shares fall after chain reports loss: Shares in the upmarket burger chain Shake Shack fell by as much as 9% in New York as the chain said like-for-like growth was slowing and it had swung into a loss, in its first quarterly report as a public company. The company’s shares were launched on the New York Stock Exchange in January at more than twice their offered price of $21, as investors sought a repeat of the stock market success of the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain. Shake Shack reported that sales at restaurants open at least two years grew 4.1% in the year ended 31 December, a slowdown from the 5.9% growth a year earlier. Revenue rose 51.5% to $34.8m. It said it expected like-for-like sales to grow “in the low single digits” in 2015. Like-for-like sales grew 7.2% in the fourth quarter. However, the company made a loss of $1.4m in the quarter, a turnaround from a profit of just under $1m for the same quarter in 2013. Shake Shack said the loss was due to a $1.1m after-tax charge related to its IPO. The chain has one UK outlet, in Covent Garden, London, opened in 2013, and others in the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Russia and Turkey, as well as 25 restaurants in the United States.
Domino’s agrees to stop using ‘human billboards’ in Nottingham: Domino’s Pizza has committed itself to stop using ‘human billboards’ in Nottingham to advertise its special offers, after discussions with the city council. People have been employed to stand inside life-sized blue pizza boxes advertising any sized pizza for £6.99. They have been seen on street corners from as early as 7.45am and around rush-hour. But city council leaders said they had been in ‘positive’ discussions with Domino’s about putting a stop to the advertising strategy, with concerns that it was degrading to staff and a distraction to drivers. Richard Antcliff, the city council’s chief licensing, trading standards and anti-social behaviour officer, tweeted: “Domino’s Pizza have agreed to pull their human mobile ad campaign in Nottinghamshire from tomorrow. Really positive outcome and understanding.” He told The Nottingham Evening Post: “Nottingham City Council is pleased that Domino’s have agreed to respect our view on mobile advertising and, from tomorrow, they will stop using it on the streets of Nottingham and across the county. We have been clear with the company in recent years that the council believes this practice to be degrading to staff. Not only that, but it can cause a dangerous distraction to drivers and has, on occasion, obstructed the highway. There were also questions over whether somebody standing in one place constituted ‘mobile advertising’. However, our talks with Domino’s have been very productive and we thank them for listening to our arguments and agreeing to pull this form of advertising in Nottingham.” A spokeswoman for Domino’s told the Post: “We have now come to the end of our marketing campaign in Nottingham and will no longer be using our wobble boarders.”
Hungry Donkey Greek concept set to launch in April: Hungry Donkey, a new, environmentally conscious Greek restaurant strongly influenced by Hellenic street food, will open in April 2015 in Aldgate, London. Located just off Commercial Street, the 42 cover restaurant will serve simple, top quality Greek food and drink in a contemporary and casual setting and will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Monday – Saturday. The restaurant is owned by Markos Tsimikalis, whose love of his native Greek cuisine led him to create Hungry Donkey. Of the launch he said “I really wanted to create somewhere that is modern and cool without losing the simplicity of classic Greek dishes. The menu has been designed so that we can cater to the city worker who wants a quick and delicious lunch, someone popping in for a coffee or guests who want a relaxed supper.”
Britvic hires marketing director: Britvic has hired Kevin McNair a sits new marketing director for the UK. He will assume responsibility for the overall brand marketing and innovation agenda and for driving GB category growth. He joins from Unilever where he was most recently head of foods for North America and also has extensive sales experience with the Whitbread Beer Company. He will report to Paul Graham, Britvic’s GB general manager. Paul Graham said: “Kevin brings a wealth of experience to the business having held a variety of global, regional and local marketing roles with Unilever over an 18 year period. We are confident he will add significant value to the business, driving brand value. As a member of the senior leadership team he will also be critical in continuing to push forward the transformation that is underway across the business.” McNair succeeds Jonathan Gatward who, after ten years in GB marketing, has moved into Britvic’s strategic marketing and innovation team.
Rush as Poppins restaurant returns to Yeovil after 20 years: The revival of the Poppins restaurant name in Yeovil saw so many nostalgic townspeople turn up that some had to be turned away. The last Poppins in town closed more than 20 years ago and residents had been eagerly anticipating the return of the retro-style diner after a comeback was announced in December. Owner Martin Hellier, 43, who kept the launch date close to his chest for fear of being overrun by hungry locals, told The Western Gazette: “We’ve had to turn people away because we’ve been so full. It’s a fast turnaround, very hard work. But we’re coping. On the day we opened, we only had one customer for the first hour and a half. But when word got round, the customers descended. I could fill this place twice now. People were so excited when they knew it was coming back. I created a Facebook page to say it was coming and within a week I had more than 1,000 likes. It’s a nostalgic trip for people, but it’s not a museum.” Hellier said he remembers drinking lime milkshakes in Poppins as a ten-year-old boy ,and having a restaurant of his own is “a dream come true” He bought the building in July for £157,000 and refurbishment cost a further £160,000. That is “a lot of egg and chips”, Hellier said: “It’s not just my dream. I’ve had comments from so many customers. The air is filled with the sounds of people reminiscing. You can’t walk past a table without hearing people talking about their memories of Poppins as a child. It’s wonderful to listen to.” Poppins Restaurateurs Association Limited, established in 1979, now has 32 independently owned town centre restaurants from Worcester to Canterbury.
Burger King is first name for new Walsall food court: Work has begun to transform a unit at Walsall’s Saddlers Shopping Centre for Burger King to move into in a bid to kick-start wider plans for a planned food court. Management at the shopping centre, in Park Street, which has never had a food court in its 35-year history, said further discussions are taking place with other interested retailers. Work to get the space ready for Burger King to move into is due to be completed by 23 March 23 and the handover will then take place. Shopping centre manager Angela Henderson said: “They are changing the unit back into a shell to get ready for the handover. Burger King will hopefully kick-start the plans for the food court. There’s a lot of stuff happening behind the scenes and discussions are taking place with a lot of people.” Steve Pope, director of the shopping centre’s owner, Topland, speaking of the planned food court, said: “Customers can take advantage of the total offer of convenient car parking, shopping and eating in one place in a safe and secure environment. The intention is to look after the loyal customer shopping base that the Saddlers Centre has. The addition of a food hub will appeal to existing shoppers, but also the younger generation, who expect more food choice.”
Welcome Break kicks off food court roll-out with £1m Hopwood Park scheme: Welcome Break has begun its £10m food court roll-out for 2015 with the relaunch of Hopwood Park services, at junction two of the M42, in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. The £1m new food court, with outlets for Subway, Harry Ramsden’s, Starbucks and Waitrose, was officially opened today by Rod McKie, chief executive of Welcome Break, and John Ruck, Head of Bromsgrove Council. Another five Welcome Break sites will receive a makeover over the coming year, including Leicester Forest East, Corley, Warwick, Gordano and Fleet, after the success of the initial three re-launches in 2014. The new food courts include a large multi-screen video wall, soft seating and booth seats, free Wi-Fi and charging sockets for phones, tablets and laptops. Welcome Break has also opened six new Starbucks drive-throughs, at Fleet North, Hartshead Moor East, Membury West, Membury East, Gordano and Warwick South. Welcome Break has 27 sites across the UK and sees 80 million customers a year.
Yum to open second Super Chix restaurant: Yum! Brands, owner of the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains, is opening a second restaurant under the Super Chix fascia, a year after first airing the concept in Texas. Super Chix offers a simple menu of chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, hand-cut fries, salads and frozen custards, with a fast-casual-inspired queue, paper goods with simple graphics and a chalkboard-style menu. Yum said the brand remains what it called an “exploratory concept”. The second Super Chix restaurant will open in Dallas late next month. Nick Ouimet, who heads the Super Chix project for Yum, said: “Dallas is a vibrant, growing market with a strong culinary scene. We are excited to open our second Super Chix restaurant in Dallas and offer customers what we call ‘the Last True Chicken Sandwich’.” Yum said that “no additional new Super Chix restaurants are planned at this time.” In the past two years the company has launched a number of what it calls “innovation incubators”. Last September, it opened a Vietnamese-inspired Asian sandwich concept, called Banh Shop, in Dallas. It has since added a second location at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. In August, Taco Bell opened a fast-casual-style concept, US Taco Co and Urban Taproom, in Huntington Beach, California. In 2013 it opened thee fast-casual KFC Eleven concept as a test unit for the brand.
Combined Brewers to double capacity in move: Combined Brewers, created last year through the merger of two Gloucestershire breweries, Severn Vale Brewing of Cam, founded in 2005, and Cotswold Spring Brewing Co of Chipping Sodbury, also founded in 2005, plans to more than double output with a new 50-hectolitre brewing plant when it moves all production to a new site at Tortworth Business Park in South Gloucestershire in April. The move and expansion is being part-funded by a grant of more than £30,000 from the West of England Growth Fund, which is drawn from the government’s Regional Growth Fund. Managing director Mark Frankcom said: “Combined Brewers has two Supreme Champion brewers, and our sales are such that we have needed to invest in new production capacity. Our new operations at Tortworth will put us in a great position to make more of the brands and products that our customers are asking for.” Ales produced by the two breweries include Old Sodbury Mild, Stunner, Severn Sins and Dursley Steam Bitter.
Politicians’ favourite Shepherd’s Restaurant reopens: Shepherd’s Restaurant, in Marsham Court, Westminster, a favourite with MPs and political commentators for 20 years until it closed in 2013, has reopened under new management. The venue described by the Harden’s guide as a “Westminster institution” is now being run by a former Conservative Party campaigner, Lionel Zetter, who bought the lease and the Shepherd’s name last year, and has hired a team of experienced staff. The head chef is Paul Crosdale, previously at Jason Atherton’s Berners Tavern in Fitzrovia, who is backed up by sous chef Owen Williams, formerly of the two-Michelin-starred Michael Wignall at The Latymer in Bagshot, Surrey. The bar is overseen by Goran, former head barman from the Ivy and Brasserie Zedel, who will be working his magic behind the famous Shepherd’s Bar, and the general manager is Philippe Lhermitte, previously general manager of the Grain Store in Kings Cross. The restaurant has 60 covers with an extensive bar area and two private dining rooms. The menu includes English beetroot salad, roast Scottish scallops, suckling pork belly, and the restaurant’s signature dish, shepherd’s pie.
American diner Hickory’s relaunches as East Coast Kitchen after sale: The American diner Hickory’s in Newborough, Scarborough has relaunched as East Coast Kitchen after a restructuring. The restaurant was founded by the chef Andrew Porter and his business partner Sarah Thompson and operated Hickory’s diners in Scarborough and on the A64 at Flaxton, near York. The partners went their separate ways after falling out, with Thompson taking over the A64 restaurant, which has changed its name to Huckleberry’s and has picked up national exposure with its claim to have England’ first “man versus food” menu, and Porter running the Hickory’s Roadhouse in Scarborough. Liabilities associated with the Scarborough eatery led to the restructuring specialist David Wilson of DFW Associates being appointed to Hickory’s Restaurants (Scarborough) on 19 February. He has now completed the sale of the American-themed diner in Scarborough to East Coast Kitchen Ltd, which has reopened the restaurant under its new name after a refit and rebrand, with Porter still producing an authentic American menu.
New Dundee restaurant with food-throwing chef has plans to expand: A new Japanese-style restaurant on the Waterfront in Dundee where the chef will throw food for people to catch in their mouths has plans to expand to other cities. Kobee, which opened last week in the former home of Marco Polo on Dock Street, has hired a skilled teppanyaki chef who will prepare food in front of customers. Kayleigh Fraser, the manager of Kobee, said: “We offer a completely unique experience for diners with our new teppanyaki station. Our experienced chef, Jay-Jay, prepares all the food in front of you – he uses intricate knife skills, throws food for people to catch in their mouths, things like that. It’s really quite amazing to watch.” As well as sushi and teppanyaki, Kobee also offers a separate menu with pasta and steaks and what Fraser called “the most unusual wine list you’ll see.” She said: “We tried to steer clear of traditional wines like Sauvignon Blanc, and went for more obscure and exciting ones. We also have a list of boutique gins, and craft beers available, as well as a range of vodkas from around the world.” Although the Dock Street outlet is the first, Fraser said: “As long as we do well enough, we are hoping we will be able to expand in the future to new locations, in other cities. For now though, we’re focused on giving a high quality dining experience to the people of Dundee.”
Penleys upgrades Richmond outlet from cafe to bar and restaurant: Penleys of Richmond, the cafe which opened in Richmond Market Place, North Yorkshire last year, has joined its sister outlet Penleys of Leyburn by upgrading into a bar and restaurant in the evenings. The venue was started by business partners Matthew Colley and Amanda Penrose eight years after they opened the first Penleys in nearby Leyburn. Penrose told The Northern Echo: “Penleys of Richmond has been building up its reputation as a cafe for the past year. We’re now opening in the evening as well and hope this too will be a success. The idea is to have the bar area downstairs and the restaurant upstairs. We hope to offer something different to what’s already available in the town and we’re really excited about the expansion.” The new restaurant and bar, which is being managed by Colley and his partner Sophie Davison, will be officially opened by the mayor of Richmond, Clive World, on Friday 27 March.
PizzaExpress honours Laurence Olivier in Dorking refurb: PizzaExpress has continued its programme of restaurant refurbishments honouring local connections with a transformation of its restaurant in Dorking, Surrey featuring artwork inspired by the films of Laurence Olivier, who was born in the town in 1907. The interior has also been given a more “glamorous” style reflecting the film era in the mid-20th century, with wine-coloured leather and brass and pewter pendants. The Dorking restaurant originally opened in 1989.
Chinese restaurant group acquires Birmingham industrial unit: The Chinese restaurant group Pepper Chef has bought a 30,000 sq ft industrial unit in the Digbeth area of Birmingham for an undisclosed sum. Pepper Chef says it has plans to expand its UK network and open further restaurants. The unit, at 66-75 Lower Essex Street, is close to the Pepper Chef restaurant in Hurst Street, in Birmingham’s Chinese quarter. John Sambrooks of DTZ’s industrial agency team, which arranged the sale, said: “We are delighted to have facilitated Pepper Chef’s expansion.”
Wiltshire inn on market for first time in 24 years: The Westbrook Inn in Westbrook, near Melksham, Wiltshire is on the market for the first time in 24 years. The pub was bought in 1991 by Bob and Tracy Chandler, who are now retiring, and have put it up for sale through the property agent Christie + Co at an asking price for the freehold of £395,000. It has a traditional bar area with a timbered curved bar servery, a 30-cover dining area and a separate restaurant room seating 26. Owner’s accommodation on the first floor includes an office/study, lounge and two double bedrooms both with en-suite facilities. Outside there is a large garden and car parking at the rear. Nicholas Calfe, director at Christie + Co’s Bristol office, who is handling the sale of the property, said: “Westbrook Inn operates as a traditional inn and enjoys repeat trade from local villages and towns such as Devizes, Calne, Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge and as far as Swindon. The pub relies on word of mouth rather than the internet to attract new customers, meaning there is plenty of scope for a younger couple to bring in new ideas and more up-to-date marketing initiatives.”
Former Little Chef site in North Wales may become retail store and restaurant: An application to turn a derelict former Little Chef site in Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynnedd, North Wales has been posted by the town planners and chartered surveyors Owen Davenport. A “major retailer” has shown interest in the site, according to the firm’s planning support statement, but further information cannot be divulged for “commercially sensitive reasons”. It said if the application to redevelop the former Little Chef site on Park Road, along the A487, which closed in 2008, is passed, “the retail development will go hand-in-glove with the re-opening of the cafe adjoining, and it is anticipated that the redevelopment of the restaurant and the establishment of a retail convenience store here could create some 26 jobs, with 18 being full-time.”
Yeovil Beefeater to open on Monday: The Beefeater Grill at Whitbread’s new Premier Inn hotel in Yeovil town centre is due to open on Monday, a year after work began. Guests at the new 80-bed hotel will be served food, including breakfast, in the restaurant. A spokesman for the chain said: “We’re really excited to open a new Beefeater in Yeovil and look forward to welcoming people through the doors. Beefeater has filled 34 team member roles for the restaurant and Yeovil job centre has been fantastic all through the process. Beefeater has recruited 11 team members from a sector work-based training course.” Details of up to three remaining retail units on the South Western Terrace site in Middle Street are yet to be released. Development manager Duncan Tindale, of Mayforth Property, previously said the space could suit new restaurants. The developer, Peveril Securities, said the space available was flexible and the units could be adjusted to accommodate interest from occupiers from around 2,750 sq ft and upwards.
St Austell appoints wine buyer: The St Austell Brewery in Cornwall has promoted sales manager, Louisa Fitzpatrick to the role of wine buyer as its wine and spirit business, Walter Hicks & Co. Fitzpatrick has been at the company since 2005, starting out as sales development manager for West Cornwall. In 2010, she completed the Diploma of Wines and Spirits and was awarded a scholarship for the Master of Wine qualification as well as the Fortified Wine Scholarship. St Austell Brewery’s sales director, Ian Blunt, said: “Louisa was a natural choice for this position. She knows our business inside and out and her knowledge of the market is so impressive. We know we have an excellent portfolio, but Louisa’s insight means we can now be much more customer focused and ensure we can continue to grow our business with their needs at the forefront of our buying decisions.”