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Fri 21st Aug 2015 - Update: Côte, Hawksmoor, BrewDog, Vaulkhard Group
Côte keeps entire service charge: Restaurant chain Côte is retaining the entire service change it automatically adds to bills, the London Evening Standard has reported. The company, which has 72 sites across the UK, said that the practice of keeping the 12.5% service charge is to pay restaurant staff an hourly wage of around £7.50-8, above the national minimum wage of £6.50 for over-21s. Service charges are optional, but are automatically added to the bill at Côte unless customers ask for it to be removed. One staff member told the London Evening Standard, which carried out the investigation: “We are told by management that we don’t get to keep the service charge because we get paid more than the minimum wage, so we should be grateful, but most of us would prefer earning the minimum wage and taking home our tips for the hard work we do.” According to the Standard, workers at Côte say they are told to tell customers that the service charge is given out between staff. A spokesperson for Côte said: “At Côte the optional service charge is used to increase the pay of all restaurant level staff above what would typically be seen as market standard. Whereas the base salary for a waitress in the industry would typically be minimum wage, currently £6.50 per hour, we are able to pay more like £7.50-8.00 per hour through using the service charge. This applies to all restaurant level staff, as good service is a team effort from the person serving the food to the person cooking the food or cleaning the kitchen.” Dave Turnbull, Unite’s officer for the food and drink sector, told the newspaper: “It is simply outrageous. The sheer audacity of the [Côte] scheme is incredible. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the law the ‘service charge’ belongs to the company, but it is entirely misleading. Similar tactics are already widescale in the hotel sector as a way for companies to increase revenues. Our view is very straight forward – a tip is a tip and we should see 100% of it go to staff.”

Hawksmoor operator reports turnover and underling Ebitda rise: Hawksmoor operator Underdog Restaurants has reported that turnover rose to £28,054,000 in the year to 31 December 2014, up from £25,566,000 the year before. Underlying Ebitda rose to £4,828,00 from £4,792,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit dropped to £3,077,000 from £3,715,000 the year before. The company stated: “Good like-for-like sales growth in the existing restaurants together with the opening of a restaurant in Knightsbridge were the main drivers of improved performance.” The highest paid director earned £173,000.

Vaulkhard Group to open site with in-house gin still: Newcastle leisure company Vaulkhard Group is set to open Newcastle’s only working in-house gin still when it opens Bealim House in early September. Set on the site that was formerly Fluid Bar and Kitchen, the site has seen a £590,000 investment. Bealim House pays homage to what was formerly Bealim Print Works for over 100 years. Director Ollie Vaulkhard said: “With such a magnificent building and history in Gallowgate, we wanted to honour that history throughout the design of the bar. The theme includes printing blocks and historical printing memorabilia along with some amazing original features we discovered as we stripped it all back. We have turned the interiors on its head in the sense that the stair cases and the main entrance are in different places, we have incorporated features like wooden flooring that was once table tops and a bar top that was a wooden floor. That, along with so many other quirky features, creates not only a relaxed environment but something that aesthetically gives it the ‘wow’ factor and a bit of talking point.” Bealim House which spans over two-floors incorporates antique leather seats, vintage tiles, varnished brick walls and an open-plan kitchen on the first floor serving bar tapas, sharing platters and a unique twist on classic bar food. The refurbishment formed the first of Vaulkhard Group’s £4m development plans across several of its city centre bars over the next three years, and the six-figure investment for Bealim House was supported by NatWest and Sintons.

BrewDog hires ‘happiness manager’ and takes on 20 apprentices: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has launched its own apprenticeship programme as part of ambitious expansion plans. The company has taken on 20 modern apprentices across its growing business and recruited a “happiness manager” to handle training and development for the 370 staff. It follows the firm making use of the Skills for Growth initiative offered by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and Investors in People, which provides free consultancy and support to identify growth priorities. Jude Ross, BrewDog’s recently-appointed happiness manager, said: “We’re a young company and a young workforce with many people in their teens and early-20s so it made sense to get people on board with gaining qualifications.We have five business apprentices covering the supply chain, business administration, finance, customer service and IT, and we’ve got 15 apprentices doing food processing and packaging. We’ve recruited locally, forging links with Ellon Academy and North East Scotland College, and helping people to grow with the business is an important part of our strategic plan. We’ve just started digging our third site which will triple the size of the business, so we need young people who will be ready to step up.”

Northamptonshire-based multi-site operator Frank’s set to open new casual dining restaurant concept: Northamptonshire-based multi-site operator Frank’s is set to open a new casual dining restaurant concept. The company, owned by Tom Hewer, has announced plans to relocate its Frank Steakhouse in Wellingborough Road, Northampton, to an unspecified location in Northamptonshire, opening early next year, and replace it with the new venue. Meanwhile, the company’s Hamburger House brand located in the restaurant section of The Sevens pub in Weedon Road, Northampton, is closed until mid-September as part of a refurbishment of the site. The Enterprise Inns sports pub is undergoing a £150,000 revamp that will include an upgrade of the restaurant area. Hewer also runs a second Frank’s Hamburger House in Northampton along with The Artizan Pub, in Artizan Road, Abington, and a butcher’s shop.

Hathor Inns set to open fourth Filthy McNasty’s in Newcastle alongside new upmarket cocktail and wine bar concept:
Irish bar operator Hathor Inns is set to open its fourth Filthy McNasty’s in Newcastle’s Bigg Market alongside a new upmarket cocktail and wine bar concept. The company is investing more than £750,000 converting the former Bambu nightclub, which closed over a year ago after more than 10 years in operation when owners PBR went into administration. The new Filthy McNasty’s, which will employ about 20 staff, is expected to open next week. The front section of the bar will include quirky, vintage-style seating as well as pavement-cafe style seating. To the rear, a stage will host live music from local bands every night, and the centrepiece is a huge 40ft shipping container that has been imported from Belfast, currently being fitted out with quirky, mismatched furniture. Once open, Hathor Inns will turn its attention to the other half of the site, which will be transformed into Albion – an upmarket cocktail and wine bar – set to open within two months. General manager Michael Moreland said the company had been keen to open up in Newcastle for some time, seeing the city and its vibrant student population as a perfect setting for its first north east venue. He added: “The Filthy’s concept is very student orientated and we feel that Newcastle and Belfast are quite similar cities in that they both have big student populations, and our other Filthy McNasty bars.”

New bar, club and restaurant concept Reina opening in Glasgow city centre tonight: A new bar, club and restaurant concept is opening in Glasgow city centre tonight (Friday, 21 August). Reina is launching on the site of the former Make Do nightclub in Hope Street, located across from Glasgow Central station. The 500-capacity venue will offer a bistro, cocktail bar, club and VIP room and people will also be able to hire booths in the club space. The club and bar area will be located in the basement with the bistro, on the ground level, opening at noon for lunch and dinner served until 9.30pm. Reina will also present live music from Monday to Wednesday with a variety of DJs taking over the club for the rest of the week. Meanwhile, fellow city centre nightspot Saint Judes, based in Old Bath Street, is reopening tonight following a full refurbishment after it closed earlier this year following a flood. Its owners Paul Hislop and Brendan Hegarty have also welcomed new partner Richard Cook to the business. Spokesman Ciaran Keenan, said: “Our small intimate nightclub space, Lola’s, in the basement is soon to be open five nights a week with DJ’s of old and new, playing both in the club and bar and kitchen.”

BrewDog co-founder takes stake in Serious Pig: BrewDog co-founder James Watt has taken a stake in artisan salami maker Serious Pig. Watt invested in the London-based meat business as part of a £125,000 funding round on the Crowdbnk platform. Serious Pig plans to develop a new snack range as well as opening a charcuterie bar and headquarters in Peckham. It products are soon to be stocked in BrewDog’s bars around the UK. Watt said he has known the Serious Pig team for years and believes they can lead a “snacking revolution”. Serious Pig founder George Rice said: “I’m thrilled that we now have the chance to expand our product range and bring the snacking industry some serious competition.”
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