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Mon 4th Jul 2016 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Brits more impatient than US counterparts when dining out, take-out ‘big opportunity’ for UK operators: Brits are more impatient than their US counterparts when it comes to dining out, a new report has found. The GO Technology findings from hospitality management solutions company Zonal Retail Data Systems and CGA Peach showed for Americans their biggest frustration was the wrong order being taken [32% versus 24% of Brits] and for the British it’s all about speed of delivery [44% versus 31% of Americans]. UK diners are more focused on speed of service and in the US it’s more about quality of service, the report found. Not being able to pay quickly was a bugbear in the UK with 14% citing it as their number one pet hate, whereas in the US only 9% expressed this as a major issue. Zonal’s chief executive Stuart McLean said: “From our experience of the US hospitality market they are definitely behind the times when it comes to adopting technology to support the customer journey. In the UK technology is considered central to an operator’s infrastructure and this is supported in our research findings. In the UK we experience fewer mistakes when it comes to orders being taken, so it’s less of an issue. In the US where there is a huge service culture, consumers are less forgiving when it comes to receiving incorrect orders.” However, the biggest opportunity for UK food operators is take-out. In the US, 40% of consumers order food-to-go at least once a week, with 54% choosing to collect their order from the restaurant. Only 29% opt to have their food delivered. In the UK there are signs the take-out trend is being adopted, but still falls short of the US with only 14% of consumers having food delivered at least once a week (6.7 million or one in seven British consumers). As the demand for take-out is on the up, so is the use of smartphone delivery apps, such as Just Eat, Hungry Horse and the fastest growing app Deliveroo. About 5.6 million people are opting for these third party delivery services. Jamie Campbell, director of CGA Peach, said: “High street restaurant brands have recognised the potential of takeaway as part of their overall service offer and we will see this grow in the coming months and years as the market matures with more delivery providers entering the market. To support this, the demand for app technology is also on the up with consumers feeling increasingly comfortable to book a table, order food and pay for it from their personal devices.” Working in partnership with Zonal, the CGA Peach GO Technology report tracks consumer attitudes and experiences with technology when eating and drinking out. The research is conducted quarterly to gain an insight over a period of time to measure consumer behaviour and trends.
 

Industry News:

Rick Stein pulls out of Eastbourne restaurant plan blaming Brexit: Chef Rick Stein has pulled out of plans to open a seafront restaurant in Eastbourne, East Sussex – blaming Brexit. Stein had been chosen by Eastbourne Borough Council as the preferred operator to run a destination restaurant – being built at a cost of £1.2m – at the Wish Tower site. But his advisers have contacted the authority and said the deal was off, blaming the result of the EU referendum, reports the Eastbourne Herald. It said the council had anticipated announcing the restaurant’s arrival this week following a Stein family board meeting to rubber-stamp the move. A council spokesman said: “The council was in advanced negotiations with a preferred operator for the new Wish Tower restaurant. These discussions followed a procurement exercise where three potential suppliers had been shortlisted. In light of the result of the EU referendum the preferred operator has decided to withdraw from the process. The council will not make any further statement pending a re-evaluation of all the options open to the authority at this time.” Earlier this month the council’s Wish Tower Board chose Stein after a “superb” presentation by his team. A spokesperson for Stein said he did not want to comment on the latest development.
 
Increased competition and Brexit forces closure of Harrogate fine dining restaurant: Increased competition and economic uncertainty following the UK’s decision to leave the EU have forced an award-winning fine dining restaurant in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, to close after seven years. Van Zeller, based in Montpellier Street and winner of The Good Food Guide Readers’ Restaurant of The Year in 2013, offered a choice of options from a three-course dinner menu to a ten-course tasting menu, using fresh, seasonal ingredients and supporting local producers. But chef patron Tom van Zeller has closed the venue. He told Insider Media: “Further economic uncertainty and a staggering eight new openings in Harrogate leave me with little choice.” Yorkshireman van Zeller worked in some of the best kitchens in the world before returning to his hometown to open the restaurant in 2009.
 
Allegra World Coffee Portal CEO Forum to return in September: The second Allegra World Coffee Portal CEO Forum will take place on 15-16 September. The two-day global gathering of more than 200 senior leaders and influencers from across the coffee, cafe and related food-to-go sectors will take place at the Intercontinental Times Square hotel in New York. The event will feature an “unprecedented line-up of inspirational speakers, thought leadership and critical business insight”. The central theme of the forum will be “New Innovators and Industry Disruptors”. The speakers list includes Le Pain Quotidien chief executive Doug Satzman, Nespresso vice-president Ambereen Sheikh, Illycaffè senior vice-president Mark Romano, S&D Coffee & Tea vice-president marketing John W. Buckner, Colonna and Small’s partner Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, Tether founder Stanley Hainsworth, Bluestone Lane Coffee founder Nicholas Stone, Truth Coffee founder David Donde, Intelligentsia Coffee founder Doug Zell, Volcafe Specialty Coffee assistant general manager John Moore, Sir Hudson International founder Jennifer Liu, and Allegra Group chief executive and founder Jeffrey Young. The forum will also include a black-tie gala dinner, a study tour, and a visit to the New York Coffee Festival. Young said: “We are delighted to have such a prestigious list of speakers and guests for this annual gathering of global coffee and related food-to-go sectors to debate and share ideas. It is important for industry leaders to share ideas and debate key topics that will shape our industry in this very interesting period of growth and change.” To reserve a place at the forum, visit https://www.worldcoffeeportal.com

Lords committee launches Licensing Act 2003 inquiry: The House of Lords Committee set up to look at the Licensing Act 2003 has launched its investigation. The committee is now calling for evidence, and will begin its inquiry by questioning officials from the Home Office, Department of Culture Media and Sport, and the Department of Health, as well as officials from Public Health England on Tuesday (5 July). The Licensing Act 2003 was evoked to provide greater freedom to the hospitality and leisure industry, as well as giving consumers more choice. The House of Lords Licensing Act 2003 Committee will now investigate the effectiveness of the act. Committee chairwoman Baroness McIntosh of Pickering said: “While many heralded the act as the start of a more continental drinking culture, others predicted round-the-clock consumption, leading to disorder and a deterioration in public health. But what has the reality actually been like? Has deregulation allowed the drinks industry to thrive? Have drinkers embraced a more relaxed and healthier approach to alcohol? What happened to the anticipated cafe culture? For good or ill, the licensing Act has altered the drinking landscape of England and Wales, but an examination of the changes is long overdue. I would therefore encourage as many people as possible to send us written evidence before our deadline of 2 September.”
 
Customer engagement platform Cheerfy completes crowdfunding campaign having raised nearly £230,000: Customer engagement platform Cheerfy, which aims to deliver “memorable customer experiences” at hotels and restaurants, has completed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube having raised nearly £230,000. The company, founded by Carlos Gomez and Adrian Maseda, was looking to raise £180,000 and offered a 7.08% equity stake in return for the investment. It has now closed the campaign having raised £228,370 from 138 investors. The pitch stated: “Cheerfy uses Wi-Fi hot spots as a beacon to share customer presence and information from business customer relationship management (CRM), online e-commerce platforms, loyalty systems, employees and customers themselves. Employees get this information in real time (on customer arrival), when and where they need it to personalise the service they offer. To date, our strategy has been quality rather than quantity, which has taken us to high-end restaurants and hotels in New York, London, Madrid and Lisbon. The funds raised in this round will be used for business development and product development to build deeper integration in the retail or hospitality space (CRMs, property management systems) and build chat capabilities between businesses and their customers.”
 

Company News:

Leon in talks with Alan Parker to aid US expansion, opens first site outside UK: Leon is in talks to bring former Whitbread boss Alan Parker in as an adviser to oversee its US expansion, the Telegraph has reported. Co-founder John Vincent said he plans to create a separate company, Leon America, with its own management team and balance sheet to roll-out restaurants. He revealed he and a Leon colleague were planning a road trip in September on Honda Goldwing motorbikes from Washington DC to Denver to identify suitable sites with the aim of having the first restaurant open in one of the two cities by next April. “We don’t want to follow the UK model – we want to be ubiquitous in the US and be in baseball parks and stadiums and across the country,” he said. “The US is the home of fast food because it has a systemised approach to roll-outs, which is what we want to do.” Meanwhile, Leon has introduced the future of fast food to Europe. The chain’s first European store, operated by HMS Host, threw open its doors to guests in Schiphol Airport Plaza, Amsterdam, yesterday (Sunday, 3 July). The Leon Schiphol menu gives guests the opportunity to try dishes that have been on the menu since its first store opened in 2004, such as the Moroccan meatball hotbox, signature fish finger wrap and original superfood salad. Leon will also be bringing with it its sourcing policy. All ingredients (apart from the Spanish chorizo) will be sourced in the Netherlands. As in the UK, meat will be to higher welfare standards, eggs will be free range, and milk will be organic. Vincent said: “Amsterdam, we’re on our way. I spent most of my childhood holidays in Holland so I’m very happy to be going back and reliving those happy memories. The Dutch are almost as funny as the English so we’ll have to keep our jokes as fresh as our food." Leon Schiphol is located at the centre of the Plaza, landside, near the train station. It will give travellers, airport workers and plane-spotting day trippers a healthy fast food option for the first time.
 
Porky’s withdraws Crowdcube campaign: London-based barbecue restaurant Porky’s BBQ has withdrawn its crowdfunding push after failing to reach its £650,000 target on Crowdcube. The company, founded by Simon and Joy Brigg, was offering a 7.51% equity stake in return for the investment as it looks to grow its five-strong estate.

New McDonald’s restaurants bolster Roadchef results, operating profits out the red: The installation of McDonald’s restaurants at five of Roadchef’s 28 motorway service sites has bolstered the latter, with newly filed results revealing revenues of £188.5m for the 12 months to 5 January 2016. Roadchef also recorded an operating profit of £9.4m, compared with a loss of £400,000 in the prior year. Pre-tax losses narrowed significantly from £71.4m to £3.3m, although this was mainly down to a loan write-off by the group’s former parent company prior to its sale to Roadchef Bidco by MSA Acquisitions in 2014. In 2015, Roadchef embarked on a multimillion-pound development plan and introduced McDonald’s franchises at five of its motorway service stations. It also launched a Days Inn Hotel at its A34 site in Sutton Scotney, which it bought in 2014, and opened another hotel on the opposite side in March. Roadchef directors said the company would install up to seven grocery stores across its estate in 2016, and invest in developing Fresh Food Café, its own brand catering offering.

Edinburgh-based social enterprise pub company Beer for Good CIC opens second site in city: Edinburgh-based social enterprise pub company Beer for Good CIC has opened its second site in the city. The company has invested a six-figure sum into the Harry’s bar in the West End, creating six jobs and has put the venue’s dance floor back in. Chris Thewlis, director of Beer for Good CIC, said as a social enterprise project a proportion of the profits from Harry’s would be reinvested into helping young people from difficult or disadvantaged backgrounds. He added Harry’s is now part of the city’s first social enterprise pub chain, joining Southside Social, which Thewlis opened last year. Harry’s now sources much of its products from other social enterprises and also has a big focus on craft beers and spirits, including local Pickering’s Gin, Arbikie Vodka, and an exclusive whisky from premium bottler and distillery Adelphi. Thewlis said both sites seek to employ and train young people from hard-to-reach backgrounds, such as those who struggled at school, are unemployed, or who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Thewlis said: “I’m certain that Harry’s will prosper, as it once did, and that it’ll again be a popular and much-loved meeting place, a place where people can enjoy themselves, where they can have a great time in a fantastic atmosphere. And we aim to make it profitable. The more money it makes, the more people it can help and the better it will be.”
 
Nottingham-based operator Junkbars opens third site in city: Nottingham-based operator Junkbars has opened its third site in the city. The company, owned by Nigel Garlick and Sam Dean, has launched The Herbert Kilpin pub in Bridlesmith Walk, creating ten jobs. It has opened on the site of the former The Rhinegold restaurant, which has been dormant for more than 20 years, supported with finance facilities worth £100,000 from The Royal Bank of Scotland. The pub is named after Herbert Kilpin, a Nottingham-born and bred English footballer pioneer, player and manager and was best known as the founder of AC Milan. It is next to Junkbars’ original site Junkyard – the craft beer and deli food venue that opened 18 months ago. Garlick told The Business Desk: “The Herbert Kilpin will deliver something that contrasts as well as complements Junkyard. Nottingham is blessed with so many old and historic pubs but we have felt that there is a need for an urban and contemporary pub in Nottingham’s city centre.” The company also operates the Boilermaker cocktail bar in Carlton Street.
 
Land Securities withdraws TGI Friday’s plan in Cambridge: A plan for a new TGI Friday’s in the middle of Cambridge Leisure Park has been scrapped. The scheme’s backers withdrew the application this week with the plans heading for rejection by city council planners. The park’s owners Land Securities were bidding to build a TGI Friday’s restaurant in the main square of Cambridge Leisure Park, off Hills Road near the railway station. But there had been widespread concern about the loss of the only open space at the park, which is already heavily developed. The new restaurant would have occupied the equivalent of 30% of the open space at the park. Land Securities had argued the area is currently underused and wanted to provide a children’s play area to offset the loss of open space. “The square was the central part of the council approving the leisure park development in the first place – it really wasn’t envisaged to get rid of the open space,” city council leader Cllr Lewis Herbert said.
 
Healthy food delivery service start-up Pronto closes crowdfunding campaign after raising nearly £840,000: Healthy food delivery service start-up Pronto has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Seedrs having raised nearly £840,000. The company, which was launched in June 2014 by James Roy Poulter and Simone D’Amico, was aiming to raise £689,000 through a convertible share equity campaign with a 15% discount. It has now closed the campaign having raised £838,620 as it plans to open two more distribution centres to expand across central London. Pronto aims to deliver restaurant quality dishes from chefs to homes or office in less than 25 minutes and plans to roll-out to mainland Europe at the start of next year. The pitch stated: “Pronto plans to continue the expansion of our delivery area to cover the whole of central London. In order to do this we need to build out another two distribution centres. These distribution centres are strategically placed so we can ensure as many Londoners are able to avail of Pronto. We see the majority of customers that come to the site are currently outside of our delivery zone. Our roll-out is planned to cover 90% of customers outside our current delivery zone. We also have plans to roll-out operations to mainland Europe in quarter one of 2017.” Last year, Pronto raised £1m in a seed-funding round led by technology venture capital company Playfair Capital to start rolling out the concept across the capital.
 
New US barbecue concept Texas Joe’s Slow Smoked Meats launches in London: A new US barbecue concept Texas Joe’s Slow Cooked Meats has launched in Bermondsey, east London, offering traditional barbecue meat cooked the Texan way, plus a separate honky-tonk bar with jukebox, bourbon, and craft beer. Meat is slow-smoked over English oak in a custom 500-pound-capacity rotisserie. Signature dishes at the 70-cover restaurant in Snowsfields include beef brisket, beef prime rib and pork shoulder, as well as mutton shoulder and ribs. All slow-smoked meats are served with house-made pickles and bread, with a lunchtime option of having brisket, pork shoulder or mutton shoulder in tacos or thick-cut sandwiches. Side dishes include bone marrow with chilli salt, oxtail chilli, and brisket nachos. Texas Joe’s founder Joe Walters said: “We’re bringing Londoners a true taste of authentic Texan barbecue – the kind of rich, flavoursome, slow-smoked meats I grew up eating. I’m really excited about the bar area. It’s going to have the feel of an underground beer bunker where you can let a few tears fall into your drink before taking a short trip into barbecue redemption.” Walters moved to London in 2011 and started the Original Jerky Company. An appearance on BBC television series Dragons’ Den launched Texas Joe’s Beef Jerky on to the UK high street.
 
New cocktail lounge bar concept opens in Altrincham: A new cocktail lounge bar concept has opened in Altrincham, Greater Manchester. Aurous, named after the word meaning “of or relating to gold” has launched in Ashley Road on the site of former bars Blue Dog and Heart & Soul. As well as cocktails, wines, spirits and beers, Aurous has partnered with the nearby Oxford Road Cafe and offers a tapas-style food menu. Manager Michael Carr told Altrincham Today: “We wanted to bring a touch of class to Altrincham and we saw this as the perfect opportunity to do that. We’ve chosen gold as the theme to reflect the gold standard you will get when you come here. We don’t want it to be exclusive or intimidating – we want everyone to feel welcome and to enjoy a fantastic night out.”
 
Sushi and bento brand Kokoro eyes Bournemouth for 13th site: Sushi and bento brand Kokoro has submitted plans to open its 13th site, this time in Bournemouth. Plans have been submitted for a former Gamestore shop in Commercial Road that has been empty since 2012. The quoted rent for the property has fallen by about 33% since it was vacated by Gamestore, with attempts to maintain its retail usage having failed, the Daily Echo reports. According to the application, Kokoro is principally aimed at “shoppers and workers at lunchtime”, with only limited opening in the evenings. Kokoro operates two branches in Brighton, as well as sites in Camberley, Crawley, Croydon, Guildford, Horsham, Kingston, Maidenhead, Milton Keynes, Sutton and Windsor. The company states on its website that “Kokoro” means “heart”, “soul” and “spirit”, adding: “We put our heart, soul and spirit into the food made for you. All our sushi is prepared using fresh and high quality ingredients in the premises. At any branch you can enjoy authentic oriental foods that are delicious and affordable to you and your family.”
 
Manchester-based craft beer brewer Seven Bro7thers launches £150,000 crowdfunding campaign to increase capacity and fit-out first bar: Manchester-based craft beer brewer Seven Bro7thers has launched a £150,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to increase capacity and fit-out its first bar The company, founded by the seven McAvoy brothers, is offering a 16.84% equity stake in return for the investment. It distributes its beers to pubs and restaurants across the UK and is in advanced discussions to stock its brands in Tesco stores. The pitch states: “Our vision for Seven Bro7thers Brewery is committed to becoming one of the best craft beer breweries in the world. After one year of trading we believed we were on to something big. When we first started thinking about starting a brewery in 2013, we focused on making the beer as good as it could possibly be. We wanted to brew great craft beers full of flavour and be distinctive in our marketplace. Since we launched in 2014 we have grown steadily and we need to update the brewery to keep up with the demand for our beer and also to fuel our ambition. We are seeking £150,000 to increase capacity with the procurement of five additional fermenting vessels to keep up with demand, procure canning and bottling lines and fit-out our first craft beer bar in Manchester. In terms of a planned exit, Camden Town Brewery was sold for approximately £85m to Anheuser-Busch InBev (the world’s biggest drinks company). Meanwhile Meantime brewing company sold to SABMiller (The world’s second biggest brewer). We are seeking an exit of this nature via a trade sale to a large multinational company.” 
 
New French bistro concept Oriel opens in Chislehurst high street: New French bistro concept Oriel has opened in Chislehurst high street in Kent. Oriel executive chef Martin Caws spent a year working in Paris, taking inspiration from the French capital’s classic bistros, to produce a menu that features traditional recipes with a contemporary twist to make them “healthier and lighter”. Dishes include egg meurette and confit lamb shank, as well as a range of steaks and desserts such as warm chocolate moelleux. There is also a take on classics such as prawn cocktail with apple and avocado, and a sweet-yet-savoury duck a l’orange, as well as a selection of sharing platters. Parisian designer Richard Lafond has created a unique interior, featuring retro and vintage furniture alongside antiques, mirrors, brass and copper. The restaurant seats 130, including an outdoor dining space, offering brunch, lunch and dinner and is open seven days a week. Its opening created 30 jobs, News Shopper reports.
 
Building home to Michelin-starred restaurant in Leamington Spa sells for £1.8m: A building that is home to a Michelin-starred restaurant in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, has been sold for £1.8m. Waterloo House has been acquired by Milton Keynes-based property investor Starstone Capital. The building houses The Emperors Restaurant, which agreed a new 15-year lease on the premises in August 2014. It will continue to trade while the rest of the building will be convert into 17 apartments having been bought with planning permission to carry out the redevelopment. Jonathan Moore, director of agents Shortland Penn + Moore, which marketed the property, told The Business Desk: “This is a very significant deal for this part of Leamington and the development will be of a very high quality, in line with the offering at The Emperors Restaurant that will continue to trade here and, I have no doubt, will remain as popular as ever.”
 
Nando’s lines up Pizza Hut site for second Swindon restaurant: Nando’s is lining up a second site in Swindon, Wiltshire. The company is looking to open at the Orbital Retail Park on the site of Pizza Hut. It plans to transform the venue and will comprise of a ground floor and lower ground floor with outside seating, creating 50 jobs. The retail park’s bosses Orbital Shopping Park Swindon has put forward the plans to give the site, which opened in 2002, “more of an identity” and a better “quality of retail experience for shoppers”, as well as attract people there in the evenings, according to the application lodged with Swindon Borough Council. Nando’s opened its first site in Swindon more than a year ago at the Regent Circus development, but the application stated the company does not believe the proposed venue would take trade away from the town centre restaurant.
 
Plans submitted for restaurant and five-screen cinema multiplex at Horsham shopping centre: Plans have been submitted to create a three-floor multiplex featuring four “family friendly” restaurants and a five-screen cinema in Horsham, West Sussex. The owners of the Swan Walk shopping centre has applied to Horsham District Council to demolish part of the western end of the complex, currently home to Wilkinsons, Trend, and Hop Skip and Jump, for the development. The ground floor (street level) would be turned into four “family friendly” restaurants. Two of the restaurants would expand upstairs and a new large retail unit would be built along with the entrance to the cinema. On the top floor the current office space is set to be taken out and replaced with a five-screen cinema, which it is believed will be operated by Everyman, which has 17 sites across the UK, mainly in the south of England. A new public seating area would be built outside the building and access to the centre would be at the north western corner, currently used as the entrance to Trend. The project is expected to open in autumn 2019, subject to approval. Swan Walk manger Gill Buchanan told the West Sussex County Times: “This investment delivering a large single level store alongside the new leisure and food offer means that our loyal shoppers will be able to access so much more in their town.”
 
Manchester-based experimental beer company Carbon Smith Brewery extends £100,000 crowdfunding campaign: Manchester-based experimental beer company Carbon Smith Brewery has extended its £100,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube due to ongoing conversations with investors. The company, founded by Ollie Shorley-Smith that started in an Edinburgh bedroom and now operates from an archway on the Piccadilly Beer Mile, is offering a 30% equity stake in return for the investment having initially offered 20%. So far, 54 investors have pledged £21,690, with the largest investment to date being £5,000. The company stated: “Due to ongoing conversations with investors, Carbon Smith Brewery’s campaign has been extended until 11.59pm on Tuesday, 5 July.” The pitch states: “It’s time to upsize, but just going for a larger kit felt like only half the battle, so we’re going to war with a three-pronged attack. This is a bespoke 10BBL (1,600L) kit to continue brewing our regular brews complemented by an ever-changing premium and super-premium range of intensified beers, bigger in their complexity and ambition. Then there’s the ‘BrewSpace’ – a living breathing community of craft beer enthusiasts with access to all the advantages of a commercial brewery. With the brewery open to the public to brew, we feel it would be abhorrent for there not to be a bar. We would like to install a simple, six-to-eight tap line-up plus bottle fridge. If there is a spare corner somewhere, you may just spot a bar billiards table too.”
 
Holiday park operator invests £8m in Lincolnshire site as part of £12m portfolio programme: Holiday park operator Away Resorts, which is backed by private equity firm LDC, has invested £8m redeveloping its Tattershall Lakes site in Lincolnshire. The project is part of a £12m investment programme across the portfolio of five locations after LDC backed the secondary buyout of the business in April last year. The redevelopment includes a new £4m entertainment complex called The Merlin, which features a life-size replica of a Battle of Britain Spitfire suspended from the ceiling, celebrating the heroes from the RAF, which has a base located near Tattershall Lakes. In addition, a further 250 pitches and accommodation units will be added to the resort over the next two years. Away Resorts chief executive Carl Castledine told The Business Desk: “The Tattershall Lakes redevelopment is part of a long-term investment and development plan across our estate, with the aim of providing a range of accommodation options and the latest must-do activities, facilities and entertainment. It’s clear that more Brits are holidaying in the UK than ever before so we need to move with the times and provide them with the memorable experiences that will make them want to come back again and again.” Founded in 2008, Away Resorts has a current annual turnover of £30m and five sites – Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight; Tattershall Lakes; Mill Rythe in Hayling Island, Hampshire; Barmouth Bay in Wales; and the newly acquired Mersea Island Park in Essex.
 
Bistrot Pierre opens Birmingham canal-side restaurant, 15th site: Private equity-backed restaurant group Bistrot Pierre has opened its 15th site, this time in Birmingham. The Gas Street restaurant is the former headquarters of the Birmingham Canal Company. The archway, where thousands of boats passed through, has been reopened with a glass front revealing the wine cellar in the vaults. Many of the grade II-listed building’s original features remain, such as the wrought-iron staircase, while the large safe that held the canal toll money in the 1860s has been turned into a second-floor dining alcove. The courtyard has been refurbished to create additional outdoor seating and a two-storey glazed extension features additional seating with canal views. Bistrot Pierre operations director Marylise Perrard said: “We always like to pick quirky locations so we were thrilled when we came across this building. We knew it was going to take a lot of work but it’s been worth it.” It is the group’s third restaurant to open in only 12 months and the company, formed by Rob Beacham and John Whitehead, is set for further expansion this year with openings in Weston-super-Mare, Swansea and Altrincham.
 
Former L’Enclume chef to launch first venture, in Stockport: Former chef at the two Michelin-starred L’Enclume restaurant Samuel Buckley is to launch his first venture, in his hometown of Stockport, Greater Manchester. Buckley, who has also worked for Gary Rhodes, is opening That’s Where The Light Gets In on the site of a former Victorian coffee warehouse in the autumn. It will feature a fine dining restaurant on the top floor, a cafe-cum-grocers below it, and a gin parlour in the basement. The restaurant won’t have a menu – just six courses that vary depending on the day’s produce. Made entirely from scratch, the food will be a celebration of fresh local food, as well as the traditional techniques used to store and age it. Buckley told the Manchester Evening News: “Cooking at L’Enclume rubbed off on me – the natural approach rather than the modernist approach.”
 
Tennent’s to turn pints into pixels with launch of retro ‘barcade’ games: Scottish beer brand Tennent’s Lager is aiming to turn pints into pixels with the launch of retro “barcade” games. Tennent’s Barcade is the latest creation from the brand’s animated series Wellpark, and will take players back to the world of 1980s arcade games. In “Chap-Door-Run”, pub philosopher Bobby faces an assault course of obstacles as he makes his way to the safety of the pub after knocking on his neighbour’s door and running away, collecting points in the form of pints of Tennent’s Lager. Meanwhile, the “Wallie” involves one player, one ball and one wall. Four Barcade games will be previewed at T in the Park festival from 7-10 July, before touring Scottish pubs from 25 July. When consumers buy a drink in participating bars, they receive a token to play. Tennent’s marketing director Paul Condron said: “Lots of us look back fondly on the days before smartphones and Facebook, when we’d entertain ourselves outside playing games. So we thought it would be fun for punters to relive the nostalgia of younger days and have a bit of a laugh as part of the latest Wellpark series.” Wellpark launched last year with 25 original sketches attracting millions of views globally online.
 
Former D&D London and Caprice Holdings chef opens restaurant at new boutique hotel in Tunbridge Wells: Former D&D London and Caprice Holdings chef Marco Goldin has opened a restaurant at a new 39-bedroom boutique hotel in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Goldin is spearheading the 75-cover restaurant L’Amore at One Warwick Park, which has been opened by Markerstudy Leisure. Goldin joined the hotel from his role as executive chef at the Royal Academy’s Keeper’s House restaurant, and prior to that worked for Caprice Holdings as well as D&D London, where he was head chef at Cantina Del Ponte. Markerstudy Leisure managing director Louise Clark said: “Having Marco Goldin goes a long way to establishing One Warwick Park as Tunbridge Wells’ destination of choice for discerning guests.”
 
Laine Pub Company partners with Siren for BeerKat pop-up in Islington: The Laine Pub Company, led by Gavin George and backed by Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners, will partner with Reading-based craft beer specialist Siren Craft Brew for the latest instalment of Laine’s nomadic craft pub format The BeerKat. The format involves a pop-up pub that finds “great spaces to throw a party focused around cutting-edge beer, street food and live music”. The BeerKat has just completed a five-week partnership with London-based Beavertown Brewery at a site in Holloway Road, Islington, and will remain at the venue to work with Siren during the first two weekends in July. George said: “We thank Beavertown for helping us curate such an off-the-wall residency and we welcome Siren Craft Brew and their wonderful beer for a few more weeks of unforgettable tastes, sights and sounds.” Siren founder Darron Anley added: “Expect some old favourites, some previously unreleased beers and some barrel-aged rarities that even we didn’t know we had in the cellar.” The Laine Pub Company operates 47 pubs around Brighton and London.

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