Story of the Day:
Bulldog secures £4.5m investment from Business Growth Fund: Coaching inn operator Bulldog Hotel Group has secured a £4.5m investment from the Business Growth Fund (BGF) to support a planned £20 million expansion across England. The business, based in Boston, Lincolnshire, operates seven hotels and will use the capital injection to double the number of properties in its portfolio over the next three to four years. Bulldog was recently named as one of the London Stock Exchange Group’s 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain 2015, an annual celebration of some of the fastest-growing and most dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK. Bulldog specialises in finding high quality coaching inns and revitalising their offer across food, drink and accommodation segments. With annual sales in excess of £10m, the company has capitalised on the growth of the UK eating out market by adding substantial day-part business, with a particularly strong coffee offer. Founder and managing director Kevin Charity is now looking to acquire more properties in English market towns around the UK. To support the planned growth, Edward Walsh joined as finance director earlier this year and became a shareholder in the business through an investment made through his family-owned Commer Group vehicle. Bulldog’s existing hotels are located across Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire and County Durham. Charity said: “We have ambitious plans for the next few years, which are centred on finding and acquiring the right sites in the right locations, and sensitively restoring them. BGF’s investment means that we are able to pursue our growth plan at a faster pace thanks to additional financial resources.” Mark Freer, of BGF said: “Bulldog has grown through the acquisition of individual hotels and has a strong track record of substantially improving profitability at every site. We are backing a strong management team, with plenty of energy and extensive experience in the hotel and hospitality market.” The current Bulldog financial year will see a full-year contribution from the 62-bedroom Three Swans in Market Harborough and The Old Bridge Inn and Coffee House in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, which saw a “transformational” investment in March last year. Bulldog’s Old Talbot in Oundle, Northamptonshire is currently Les Routiers 2015 Hotel of the Year. The company saw double-digit sales growth every month last year from April onwards.
Royal assent given to insolvency law changes: Royal assent has now been given to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015, which will not only introduce the controversial statutory code of practice to govern the relationship between the big pubcos and their tied tenants, but also mean changes to the UK’s insolvency laws, among other measures. These include new powers for the government to seek compensation orders against disqualified directors guilty of misconduct; a broader range of matters a court must consider when disqualifying a director, including the director’s past record in running failed companies; changes to the laws covering bank accounts for bankrupts; and new rules covering insolvency practitioners, including that the costs of their services should be fair and reasonable; and changes to the law to prevent unnecessary delays to the appointment of administrators. The changes will be introduced “over the course of the next year or more”, the Insolvency Service said. The Act also gives the government the reserve power to establish a single insolvency regulator “if current reforms to strengthen the regulatory regime do not build confidence”; and a reserve power making it possible to either prohibit administration sales to connected parties or to impose conditions or requirements on them, which would include connected “pre-pack” sales. This power would only be used if the voluntary measures arising from the Graham Review into pre-pack administration prove unsuccessful, the Insolvency Service said.
Jamie Oliver partners Time Out to publish print version of Food Tube: Jamie Oliver and Time Out have gone into partnership to launch a print version of the chef’s online Food Tube brand. The first issue of the monthly “mini magazine” will be published on 28 April and will be distributed, at least initially, inside the London issue of Time Out. It is a joint venture between the Jamie Oliver Media Group and Time Out London. Oliver will be the editor-in-chief and if it proves successful there are plans to publish the title internationally through Time Out’s network. The 24-page magazine will include recipes and food news. Oliver said: “Food Tube is a massive celebration of super-talented food lovers, chefs, experts and cooks, and to be sharing their knowledge, tips, recipes and ideas with the Time Out audience is really exciting.” Food Tube launched as a YouTube food community in January 2013 and has over 2.6m subscribers. It spawned a Drinks Tube spin-off.
Home Office chef sponsorship rules force Chinese restaurant closure: The China Brasserie restaurant in Billingshurst, West Sussex has closed because of restrictive Home Office chef sponsorship rules. This decision will not affect sister site China Brasserie in North Street, Horsham. Co-owner Don Burstow told The District Post: “Unfortunately, because of the pressure to reduce immigration numbers, since 2008 the Home Office has raised its qualifying criteria for employing qualified chefs from overseas to a level that simply cannot be sustained by restaurants of our kind in a location such as Billingshurst. In order now to qualify for sponsorship, a chef would have to be paid a level of salary, plus accommodation and keep, far in excess of anything that we can afford. This has meant that, having successfully sponsored a number of chefs in the early years of our sponsorship licence, that is no longer possible. This really is a great pity as employers such as us, who have attempted to comply with the rules and remain legitimate with regard to the people that we employ, are now being priced out of the market. It would be very easy to employ workers who are not legitimately in the UK but we are not prepared to do that.”
Alan Yau’s Duck & Rice set to debut this week in Soho: Alan Yau’s Chinese gastro-pub Duck & Rice, located within the former Endurance pub in Berwick Street, Soho is set to debut tomorrow evening with the launch of Pilsner Urquell tankovna beer at the site. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “I had a sneak preview at the weekend and the venue certainly seeks to meld Chinese restaurant and gastro-pub. The external design has seen the traditional pub frontage replaced with a modern Chinese aesthetic. But at the entrance, picked out in gold lettering on the floor, are the words: cask ale imbibed. Furthermore, the four copper Pilsner Urquell tanks are mounted directly inside the front door and are the first things you see. The downstairs design is very pubby with a full bar displaying five handpulls with the walls displaying traditional Chinese restaurant design motifs. All in all, it is exactly as we were promised – Chinese restaurant meets gastro-pub.”
Spaghetti House returns to profit: London-based 12-strong restaurant group Spaghetti House has reported a return to profit. The company made a pre-tax profit of £32,136 in the year to 30 March 2014 compared to a loss of £771,877 the year before. Turnover rose to £15,182,971 compared to £14,476,586 in the prior year. The company said like-for-like turnover had increased by 4.88% and profit margin had improved. A Companies House report added: “The directors consider the business to be putting in a strong performance in the market and are encouraged to see this trend continue into 2014-2015.”
Pug Pubs develops food-focused format for third opening: Pug Pubs, the pub operator led by former Mitchells & Butler executive Nigel Pinegar and business partner Matthew Crowther, has developed a more food-focused format for its third opening, The Pug & Greyhound at Great Glen, near Leicester. The new venue has an open charcoal fired rotisserie grill. Along with dishes from the rotisserie, including BBQ chicken wings and crispy pork belly, the menu includes stone-baked pizza, 28-day aged Aubrey Allen steaks, and tapas style dishes to share. Crowther said: “We’ve now taken the Pug concept to a new area and have also expanded our range of trading formats. With existing town centre and edge-of-town sites in Leamington Spa, we’ve now demonstrated that we can successfully combine local appeal with a destination food offer in a village pub site. Having this range of trading styles puts us in a strong position as we actively look for additional opportunities to expand Pug Pub Company.” A second stage of development is now planned for The Pub & Greyhound, which will see seven converted barn letting rooms added, offering a boutique weekend retreat as well as a luxury accommodation option for mid-week travellers. The Pug & Greyhound is Pug Pub Company’s third pub, following The Fat Pug and The Royal Pug in Leamington Spa.
Eddie Rocket’s plans Europe-wide expansion after winning Irish franchise award: Eddie Rocket’s, the Ireland-based US-diner style eatery, is planning Europe-wide expansion after being named ‘Best Indigenous Irish Franchise’ at this year’s Irish Franchise Awards 2015. Niall Fortune, owner of Eddie Rocket’s Ireland, said: “It’s a fantastic achievement for Eddie Rocket’s to be recognised by our peers for our ongoing hard work and dedication. We’ve had a fantastic year with the introduction of our new Rocket’s by Eddie Rocket’s dining concept and the launch of new diners in Tullamore and Newbridge, as well as our first ever Eddie Rocket’s diner in Northern Ireland at The Quays Shopping Centre Newry. These new introductions bring the total number of diners throughout the country to 32 Eddie Rocket’s and three Rocket’s by Eddie Rocket’s, of which the majority are operated as franchises. As part of our brand’s continued growth plans, we are looking at a number of locations where we hope to open franchise diners in the very near future and are seeking interested franchisees to get in touch. By 2018, we expect that there will be 100 Eddie Rocket’s and Rocket’s by Eddie Rocket’s throughout the country and Europe.”
YO! Sushi, Byron, Cote and Cau sign for £10m Harrogate development: Four restaurant chains, YO! Sushi, Byron Burger, Cote and the Argentinean steak operator Cau have been confirmed as tenants for the redeveloped Beales department store site in Station Parade and Albert Street, Harrogate, which is due to open next year. It will be Cau’s first opening in the north of England. Paul Lancaster, managing director of 4Urban Consultants, the urban regeneration specialist that is behind the scheme, said: “They are great brands, bringing a great offering to Harrogate. We have said from the outset we are going to raise the bar in Harrogate and we are on the way to delivering that.” Planning permission for the new £10m complex, which will house a four-screen arthouse cinema as well as nine restaurants and bars, was passed by Harrogate Council in September. There are still five units available, and more announcements are expected in the next few months.
Nando’s to launch ‘biggest menu revamp in five years’ tomorrow: Nando’s is launching what the brand is calling its biggest menu revamp since the chicken butterfly breast was introduced five years ago. The new dishes include the churrasco thigh burger, boneless thigh fillets in a Portuguese roll filled with coleslaw, cheddar cheese and churrasco “perinais”; quinoa salad, with sweet potato, avocado slices and feta cheese; and sweet potato wedges. The new dishes arrive on the menu tomorrow, Tuesday 31 March.
Oakleaf seeks to open microbrewery and pub-restaurant in former Gosport armaments depot: The Oakleaf brewery, based in Gosport, is hoping to open a new brewery in the “E” gunpowder magazine at Priddy’s Hard in Gosport, a former Royal Navy armaments depot, along with a new waterside pub and restaurant. The plans are reliant upon the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, which owns the Priddy’s Hard site, getting a £1.9m grant towards its redevelopment, something which has now moved a step nearer after the Heritage Lottery Fund endorsed the redevelopment scheme. The scheme, which is now looking to unlock £11m of private backing, will involve building 104 new homes, securing the future of 17 listed buildings and supporting the Explosion Museum, which is based at Priddy’s Hard, as well as providing a home for Oakleaf and its proposed pub. Ed Anderson, head brewer at Oakleaf Brewing Company said: “This is brilliant news. Priddy’s Hard is a fantastic, prestigious site and with its steady temperature of 10C, E Magazine is the perfect environment for brewing and storing beer. We will offer tours of the brewery, showing how we make our award-winning ales and how this amazing building was converted for the purpose. We look forward to welcoming visitors to the new waterside pub restaurant to enjoy delicious meals and, of course, our beer.”
Tante Marie Culinary Academy to open restaurant this week: Tante Marie Culinary Academy’s training restaurant will open its doors in Woking town centre on Thursday (2 April). The Restaurant at Tante Marie will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week as well as offer a pre-theatre/cinema menu and brunch on the weekends. The restaurant will be overseen by newly appointed operations manager Marco Di Michele alongside head chef Sue-Lee Jones, a former pupil and teacher at the academy. Di Michele said: “I am particularly excited about launching the daily specials menu which will offer diners a limited number of dishes that have been created by the current Cordon Bleu students that day. This will provide a unique insight into the extremely high standard of cooking taking place in the first floor teaching kitchens. The dishes on offer will depend on the day’s syllabus and could include anything from a carefully crafted amuse bouche, fragrant soup, perfectly constructed pie or delicate soufflé.”
Cote due to open in Dorking today: The brasserie chain Cote is due to open in Dorking, Surrey today, Monday, three and a half months after local councillors went against the advice of their officers to approve the brand’s application. The company’s bid to move into what was previously the furniture shop Maison in the St Martin’s Walk shopping centre was opposed by locals and planning officers because a restaurant was against the council’s Town Centre Plan to promote the growth of retail opportunities in the area. However, councillors voted ten to six in favour. Earlier this month the owners of St Martin’s Walk praised the council’s decision to allow the change of use, saying it set a precedent that would ultimately benefit all businesses in the town.
Licence granted for Midsomer Norton Wetherspoon pub: Bath and North East Somerset Council’s licensing panel granted has granted a licence to JD Wetherspoon for a pub in Midsomer Norton’s former cinema (population: 10,997). It rejected a request for drinking in the proposed pub’s garden until 11pm, settling on a 10pm limit, and also requested that Wetherspoon works with the council’s environmental health team before opening to establish a specific area in the beer garden for use by smokers once it is closed to drinkers. The proposed pub, which will open from 7am every day, has yet to obtain planning permission for a change of use of the building.
Zonal reports soaring turnover but losses amid heavy investment: Zonal Retail Data Systems, the maker of electronic tills for the hospitality sector, whose customers include Greene King, JD Wetherspoon and Mitchells & Butlers, has reported a third successive fall in profits despite a 27% rise in sales. The Edinburgh-based company now supplies 6,500 pubs, hotels, restaurants and other leisure venues. It spent more than £5m on research and development last year, following a £4m spend in 2013, as it invested in the technology and staff to stay ahead of its largely global competitors. It has reported a pre-tax loss of £235,000, while turnover climbed by £9m to £52.3m. It made a £159,000 profit in 2013 after aggregate profits of £5.3m in the previous two years. Turnover, meanwhile has almost quadrupled since 2009. Managing director Stuart McLean, one of four brothers on the board, said the current year had started well. He told Herald Scotland: “We are significantly ahead of last year and making quite good profits so far.” He said major investments, such as £1m into its KitchenIQ management system, were beginning to feed through into a return to profitability. “Once we release it we will get lots of return – there are investment cycles,” he said. Its iOrder system, accessed through a phone app. It is already being used in Greene King’s Hungry Horse chain.
Freehold of Devon coaching inn for sale for £650,000: The freehold of a coaching inn, The Thelbridge Cross Inn, halfway between Dartmoor and Exmoor in the heart of rural Devon, is for sale via Christie + Co for £650,000. The current owners, who have been at the inn for 29 years, are leaving after building up a business that now includes eight four-star letting rooms in a converted barn and a function suite popular for wedding receptions. The owner’s accommodation includes four double bedrooms, a kitchen, a roof terrace, an office, a lounge with views across the countryside and a large master bedroom with en-suite facilities. Richard Wood of Christie + Co’s Exeter office, who is handling the sale, said: “The inn has become the hub of the local community under the current ownership is famous locally for its superb food and high-quality accommodation.”
New company takes over Newcastle’s Popolo cocktail bar as company faces administration: A newly formed company, 1501 Leisure, has taken over the running of the Popolo City Bar in Newcastle upon Tyne after its owner, Popolo UK, heads into administration this week. The sole shareholder of 1501 Leisure Ltd is Stefan Bell, who is also a director of Popolo UK. Jonny Cope, the operations director at 1501 Leisure Ltd, who previously worked for Popolo UK, told The Newcastle Journal that the firm wanted to secure the future of Popolo City Bar, on the Quayside, which will continue to trade under the same name, and also develop another site in Leeds. He said 1501 Leisure was exploring sites in Harrogate, York and Manchester for potential bar openings. Cope told The Journal: “There was an internal buyout to safeguard the future of the premises and the jobs here. We’re very much committed to the ongoing rejuvenation of Newcastle Quayside and see the ongoing success of other bars in the area as testament to that rejuvenation. 1501 Leisure have plans to further develop the venue in line with the cocktail bar stylings that it launched with.” Popolo UK was formed last year after the collapse of Popolo Leisure in 2014, and the closure of the original Popolo cocktail bar on Newcastle city centre’s Pilgrim Street, Popolo Leisure was born in 2012 when it bought the Popolo Newcastle, Popolo Sheffield, San Lorenzo Gosforth, San Lorenzo Cramlington and Establishment Sunderland, from the former Principle Leisure (North East) group, which had gone into administration in 2011. The Manchester-based insolvency firm Harrisons has said it expects to place Popolo UK into liquidation on 2 April. The company also ran another venue in Sheffield.
Thaikun to open in Oxford at end of next month: Thai Leisure Group has scheduled the end of next month for the latest opening for its latest Thaikun chain. It will be moving in to a site on George Street in Oxford that has had three other hospitality owners in the past five and a half years: Old Orleans to September 2009, the pizza brand Fire and Stone until December 2013 and, most recently Prezzo’s Cleaver brand. Thai Leisure Group currently operates 11 restaurants and four cocktail bars in northern England and Scotland, and its due to open another Thaikun restaurant in Cambridge in May, with plans to push out from its current Scotland and north of England locations, southwards towards London. It was founded in Leeds in 2004 by Martin Stead and his partner and chef Kim Kaewkraikhot.
Geronimo relaunches only pub in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush: Geronimo Inns has re-launched The Bull, the only pub in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, West London, after a major refurbishment that means increased dining capacity downstairs and a new food and drinks menu, including a new cocktail list and an extensive selection of craft beer and bourbons. Geronimo, owned by Young’s, said the pub “draws its style from a townhouse chic with a twist of the Hamptons”, and caters for the shoppers of Westfield as well as regulars and local residents. The new menu includes sliders with pork and chorizo and smoky scallop, oyster Rockefeller and English crumpet, smoked salmon and avocado. Main courses include steak and oyster pudding, guinea fowl Kiev and steaks. The dessert offering includes mini-Oreo cheesecake, salted caramel doughnuts and chocolate brownie baked Alaska. The pub also has a new afternoon tea menu as well as a daily brunch menu.
BrewDog Manchester launches homebrew competition: The BrewDog bar in Manchester has announced a competition for homebrewers in the north west of England to be judged by some of the best boutique brewers in the country. Brewers can enter their beers for free in one of six categories, from session ales up to 4.2% abv to IPAs to stouts and porter, for a judging in June by brewers from BrewDog itself, Magic Rock, Blue Monkey, Tickety Brew, and Beers of Manchester. Prizes will be announced “closer to the event”.
Manchester sees four new openings in one night: The buzzing bar and restaurant scene in Manchester saw one of its busiest nights ever on Friday (27 March), with no fewer than four new openings. The new pizza concept Ply, on Stevenson Square, in the Northern Quarter, which is owned by the team behind the Tariff Street bar Kosmonaut, unlocked the doors to customers on its 5,500 sq ft site, where the entire interior is made from plywood, as the name implies. Elsewhere in the Northern Quarter, the owners of Dry Bar on Oldham Street opened a new late-night cocktail lounge called the Blue Brick Club in the basement area of Dry, with an industrial feel, reclaimed vintage furniture throughout, and a nine-metre bar running the length of the room. On Princess Street, Urban Cookhouse, based in a former shipping warehouse, and owned by Tim Coulston, previously director of operations at the Alehouse Collection, opened with “minimalist modern vintage” interiors and try an “eclectic fusion” menu. Finally, the celebrity bar Panacea on John Dalton Street unveiled its new look, costing £900,000, which includes charcoal grey leather booths, sparkling mosaic tiled frescos and a huge new bar complete with intricate laser-cut panels.
Gusto confirms second venue for Leeds: The Gusto Italian restaurant chain has confirmed it is due to open a second venue in Leeds in the summer. It already has a restaurant in Cookridge, north Leeds, and will be opening its 12th on the ground floor of a block of student accommodation, Pennine House, Russell Street, in Leeds City Centre, in the former Henry’s Bar site, opposite Prohibition. Gusto was backed last year in a buyout by Palatine Private Equity to help the business roll-out its expansion plans across the UK. It intends to open five new sites a year, with the aim of building an estate of 30 venues.
Hall & Woodhouse overhauls only Hertfordshire pub, run by multi-siter: The only pub in Hertfordshire owned by the Dorset brewer Hall & Woodhouse, The Greyhound at Aldbury, has been given its first refurbishment in 20 years. The eight en-suite guest rooms upstairs have been overhauled and all the pub’s windows have been replaced like-for-like. The licensee for the past 11 years, Tim O’Gorman, said: “We are bringing The Greyhound into the 21st century while retaining the heritage. It looks a lot cleaner, tidier and fresher.” Gorman also runs the nearby Valiant Trooper pub in the village, where he will be celebrating 36 years as licensee this Christmas.
Revere opens tenth outlet: The Revere Pub Company, Marston’s premium pubs-with-rooms brand, has opened its tenth and largest outlet, The Farmhouse at Mackworth in Derbyshire. The Farmhouse is a converted 18th century building covering 4,660 sq ft, with ten bedrooms, including a bridal suite with a freestanding bath. It also has dining and bar areas with room for 200 covers, a private dining room for up to 16 people, a space for conferences and meetings for up to 44 and outside seating for up to 172, and The Folly, a wedding and events venue of 2,280 sq ft with its own entrance and private terrace and a capacity of 70 seated and 100 standing. Rates for rooms start from £90 per night. The opening comes just two weeks after Revere opened its ninth venue, the 2,500 sq ft Elephant at the Market in Newbury, Berkshire. All Revere outlets have been designed by Concorde BGW. The chain was started in 2012, and its other outlets are in Bournemouth, Coventry, Birmingham, Hampshire, Wiltshire, West Sussex, Sheffield and Kent.
Grosvenor Casinos launches new menu: Grosvenor Casinos, the UK’s largest casino operator, has launched a new menu in its 57 casinos, focusing on grilled steaks, racks of ribs and chargrilled burgers, and sharing and grazing dishes such as smoky pork ribs, crispy calamari, Moroccan lamb kibbeh and sweet potato fries. The menu also includes the award-winning dish chicken breast stuffed with goat’s cheese and peppers, created by Grosvenor Casinos’ chef of the year, Tom Kettless. A ‘prix fixe’ menu is available from Sunday to Thursday, which gives customers the option to pick a main course from a reduced menu and add a starter or dessert for an extra £2 each. Kevin Boyle, head of food and beverage at Grosvenor Casinos, said: “By taking a relaxed approach to dining in our casinos, we can create a warm and inviting atmosphere where the great-tasting dishes from our new menu can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere in the casino. Our focus on upscale casual dining will ensure both new and existing customers feel comfortable wherever they choose to dine, without distracting from our core casino offering.”
Spirit set to open former Manchester lap dancing bar as a pub: Spirit Pub Company has applied to Manchester Council to turn the former Fantasy lap-dancing bar on Deansgate, Manchester into a pub. The company has applied for a series of licence variations for the premises, which ceased operations in 2013, that it says are no longer necessary for somewhere operated as a pub, including restrictions related to striptease; a bar on under-18s at any time; and the need to liaise with the crime reduction team. It also wants to cut the opening hours allowed to the bar from 4am to 2am Monday to Saturday. The premises are currently undergoing a refurbishment.
Seafood Pub Company chefs run service at catering college for second year running: Chefs from the Seafood Pub Company in Lancashire have returned to Nelson and Colne College for a second year to run service for a week at the college’s Farringtons restaurant. Students from the college’s School of Culinary Arts worked with the company’s executive chef, Antony Shirley, and his team on lunch and dinner service throughout the week, serving more than 400 customers. Shirley said: “Staff at Nelson and Colne College do a fantastic job teaching their students the skills needed to be a success in the hospitality industry and it is great for us to have the opportunity to work with them at this early stage to show them how we work. With our seventh site opening in Ormskirk this Easter, we are always on the lookout for the best young talent – both in the kitchen and front of house. Spending time working alongside the students and finding out which areas of cooking interest them is better than any job interview and helps us to employ the highest quality staff for our business.”
Seven restaurant directors banned for employing illegal staff: Seven restaurant owners in North Yorkshire, Worcestershire, Wiltshire, Norfolk and London have been disqualified as directors for employing illegal workers as waiters and cooks in breach of UK immigration rules. The directors, who had employed between them around 20 illegal immigrants in Scarborough, Calne, Worcester, Norwich and London, were disqualified for a combined 47 years. The recent disqualifications bring to 16 the number of directors banned in the last nine months for immigration offences after collaboration between the Insolvency Service and Home Office Immigration Enforcement. The 16 directors, aged 22 to 59, had collectively employed 52 illegal workers, who were caught during intelligence-led Home Office enforcement operations.