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Thu 2nd Apr 2015 - Bella Italia to debut retail park site as five open
Bella Italia to debut retail park site as five open: Five new Bella Italia restaurants are set to open in just ten weeks, including two firsts for the revitalised chain. Its first retail park site will open in Bristol next week while Hemel Hempstead will see the unveiling of the biggest ever Bella in July. Securing the Hemel Hempstead site, in Hertfordshire, which is over 5,000sq ft and will comprise more than 200 covers, has been described as ‘hugely significant’. The raft of new openings, representing a £4m-plus investment by owner Casual Dining Group, will generate more than 200 new jobs across the five sites. The new openings are at Abbey Wood Retail Park, Filton, Bristol, on Bank Holiday Monday 6 April; Bishop Centre, Taplow, near Maidenhead; Castlegate, Dudley; Ashton Leisure Park, Ashton-under-Lyne, all in May; and Jarman Fields, Hemel Hempstead, in July. The 3,750sq ft Bristol unit will be the first retail park location in the Bella portfolio, while the new Hemel Hempstead restaurant will be one of the largest in the estate, at 5,500 square feet. Additional covers across the five sites total almost 650, with Hemel Hempstead boasting 220. All five restaurants are on easily accessible leisure/retail park schemes in high population catchment areas, including shoppers, office workers, commuters and students. Casual Dining Group property director Phil Derbyshire said: “These openings, all within a few weeks of each other, demonstrate perfectly our strategy of targeting out-of-town leisure and retail schemes in, or close to, high catchment areas, while continuing to open sites on busy high street and in prime shopping centres across the UK. For example Bristol, which leads the way, is on a well-established scheme with a catchment of around 382,000 people, and as a result is busy all day with shoppers, students, commuters and office workers. It’s our fourth Bella in city, and provides a real platform for further expansion into the south west.” Bella Italia has signed 15-year leases on all five units, which will be open all day, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. It now has 90 restaurants across England, Scotland and Wales, with recent new openings including Peterborough, Milton Keynes and Bexley Heath. Casual Dining Group chief executive Steve Richards has reported that Bella Italia will be a £200m annual turnover brand once it has been expanded to 150 sites by 2018. The company believes there could be room for as many as 300 Bella Italia venues eventually. It is currently in double-digit sales and profit growth and the company is getting a Return on Investment (ROI) of more than 30%.

Duck & Rice pushes back opening date until 13 April: Wagamama founder Alan Yau will now open his Chinese gastropub, Duck & Rice, in Berwick Street, Soho, on 13 April, later than previously thought in view of the site serving beer on Tuesday evening this week.  Yau told the London Evening Standard: “It will be my interpretation of the pub. It happened by accident because I loved the building since my Yauatcha days (Yauatcha is located next door).” A 70-seat dining room upstairs will serve reinterpretations of classic takeaway dishes including sweet and sour pork, kung po chicken and crispy shredded beef. He added: “I don’t do pastiche. What we have is a proper pub with a Chinese kitchen. It’s not a ‘Chinese pub’, because then it becomes an extreme exercise. It’s not a gastropub, because to me a gastropub is a restaurant instead of keeping the integrity of the pub with the eating component on top. It is what I call Chinese comfort food. I wanted the food offering to be much more accessible.” Sources told Propel this week that its Singaporean owners are looking to roll-out the concept, although future sites will not be elaborate as the first, which has taken more than 18 months to build and contains very high-end fittings, including glass windows imported from Venice. The site is an Enterprise free-of-tie lease. 

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