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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 6th Dec 2016 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Coco di Mama looking to ‘own London’ before considering regional expansion: Coco di Mama, the London-based quick-service Italian food and coffee operator owned by Azzurri Group, is looking to “own the capital” before considering regional expansion. The company will open its 15th site on Thursday, 15 December, in Coleman Street – its seventh outlet this year. Daniel Land, who co-founded the company with Jeremy Sanders in 2011, told Propel it is aiming to add eight sites to the estate next year. He said: “We are in a really interesting moment right now and it is a fairly critical time for the business. There is the group at the top everyone knows about such as Pret, Wasabi and Itsu. Then there’s a noisy vocal tail and we are in that. We are trying to emerge from that group by being known as a respected brand and that happens once you get scale. We want to own London – we want to be the place where the hard-working people of London go. Then we can think about heading to the regions. We are determined to make sure we build a strong recognisable brand and you do that by being brave and winning those marquee sites. We’d love to be in Canary Wharf and we have been having some fairly good conversations with Network Rail because we think travel locations represent a really good opportunity for us as well as the high street. Our focus is on London at the moment – it’s a market we know really well and the city still provides us with so much opportunity. But we can go anywhere our customers are so other cities with hard-working professionals such as Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham certainly appeal to us.” Azzurri Group invested in Coco di Mama earlier this year, which Land said had allowed the company to be taken to the next level by accelerating its roll-out. He added: “It wasn’t just about money – it’s the strategic input as well. Jeremy and myself had no experience in this industry before we started and we spoke with a number of investors and Azzurri really stood out for this. We just feel so comfortable in its hands especially with it already working with other operators. We only open a new site once we’re comfortable and we’ve never closed a site. But we know we have to keep improving – that includes our food, teams and service. We are focused on doing what we do well. I am concerned about what’s going to happen with Brexit and the economic fallout from that and the cost pressures we are facing so we have to make sure what we have is strong and that will allow us to thrive in these turbulent times.”

Industry News:

Line-up for Advanced Marketing and Insights Masterclass revealed: A host of companies have signed up for the Advanced Marketing and Insights Masterclass. They include Polpo, My Lahore, Living Ventures, Beds and Bars, Black and White Hospitality, City Pub Company, The New World Trading Company, Greene King, Marston’s, Be At One, PizzaExpress, Mitchells & Butlers, Oakman Inns, Young’s, Coaching Inn Group, TRG Concessions, Cambscuisine, Electric Star Pubs, Coal Grill & Bar, Signature Pub Company, Epic Pub Company, Parkdean Resorts, Namco UK, and True North Brew Company. The line-up for the Advanced Marketing and Insights Masterclass, in which Propel is partnering with leading sector public relations and marketing expert James Hacon, has been previously revealed. Hacon will share industry-leading marketing campaigns and activity from some of the biggest and best brands across the globe and share tips on how to capture ideas and apply this innovation to a brand. He will also share his strategy and direction for marketing at Thai Leisure Group and will reveal how the company has refined and defined the Chaophraya and Thaikhun brands, developed the proposition, and delivered a research-based, award-winning marketing campaign. Charles Banks, of The Food People, will dive into the hot new concepts, foods and products in the international market to see what eating trends are shaping the industry, how the traditional business model is evolving, and how millennials are changing the models and concepts of the future. There will be a guided group session sharing best practice, seeking advice and sharing stories. Oliver Taylor, senior insight manager at Elliotts, will share the latest insight on how consumers are making decisions on where to go to drink or dine out, what inspires them, how they plan their evening and how they prefer to book. Cote marketing director Andrew Gallagher will reveal what’s at the top of his marketing agenda and what he thinks will have an impact on this during 2017. Helen Baptist, senior vice-president of Fishbowl USA, will show how data can be leveraged to understand and better target customers to drive revenue, and share top tips on data-driven wins. She will also share real-life case studies from leading-edge, fast-growing US concepts, including Blaze Pizza, Average Joe’s and Jamba Juice. There will be also be a panel discussion led by Hacon with Maxwell’s marketing manager Anthony Wright, G1 Group marketing director Lyn MacDonald, and Drake & Morgan marketing and sales director Pooja Sharma Jones about where they see success, their plans for the future, and other topics discussed throughout the day. The event takes place on Thursday, 12 January at One Moorgate Place in London. Tickets are priced at £295 plus VAT for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) members and £345 plus VAT for non-ALMR members and are available by emailing Anne Steele on

Calls for contributions to latest ALMR Christie & Co Benchmarking Report: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has launched the 11th edition of the annual ALMR Christie & Co Benchmarking Report survey and is calling on licensed hospitality businesses of all trading styles to contribute. The annual report, produced in partnership with agent Christie & Co, provides a complete overview of operating costs for pubs, bars, nightclubs and restaurants and is used extensively by the ALMR in its lobbying efforts. This year’s survey is more comprehensive than ever and seeks additional information on wage rate increases, business rates revaluations, and Brexit prospects for businesses. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The annual benchmarking report is one of our most valuable tools and the most comprehensive and authoritative of its kind. This year’s survey is more detailed than ever and will give us meticulous information on wages, business rates and businesses’ prospects as we move towards Brexit. This will provide an extra dimension to the report that will be invaluable during these uncertain times.” Neil Morgan, managing director – pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, added: “The report has never been more essential, enabling owners and operators to assess the performance of their businesses and plan effectively for the future. For the first time, the 2017 report will include the impact of the Brexit vote and introduction of the National Living Wage on sector performance, while providing comprehensive data that will prove invaluable for those seeking to appeal business rates as well as manage their business effectively.”

Digital loyalty card service for restaurants hits target in £240,000 crowdfunding campaign: Loyalzoo, a digital loyalty card service for restaurants, has hit its £240,000 target in its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. The company, co-founded by Massimo Sirolls and Mark Ryan, is offering a 7.07% equity stake in return for the investment as it aims to grow its service in the UK and US. So far, it has raised £246,048 from 120 investors and is now “overfunding”. It is a match-funding campaign aimed at raising £500,000 for Loyalzoo, with an existing investor already committing £260,000 as debt capital on the condition the company raised an additional £240,000 in equity capital. The pitch states: “Almost every large retail chain has moved their loyalty card to a digital medium (apps, web, etc), either in parallel to traditional loyalty cards (Costa, Nando’s, Tesco, The Body Shop), or as their only loyalty system (Starbucks, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Giraffe, Harvey Nichols). They do it because it gives them better information about their customers and it makes them more competitive. The goal of Loyalzoo is to help small and medium-sized independent merchants and smaller groups achieve the same results, offering them a technology service that’s affordable and designed for them. Besides continuing to expand our core service, with this new investment we will recruit a sales/partnership manager in the US, which will be supported by a member of the London team moving to work with them; hire an additional software developer (up from the current three) to accelerate our deployment; and consolidate the London team with an additional marketing person. In terms of exit opportunities, we believe Loyalzoo would be an attractive acquisition target for large loyalty marketing companies that traditionally only service large retailers and brands, or for payment companies and similar.”

Punch boss – ‘we have no intention of closing Caroline of Brunswick pub in Brighton despite MP’s fears’: Punch chief executive Duncan Garrood has said the company has no intention of closing the Caroline of Brunswick pub in Brighton, despite the fears of city MP Caroline Lucas. The company was responding to Lucas’ suggestion the site would be closed after leaseholder Cliff Barnes was given a year’s notice and told his lease would not be renewed next November. Lucas also called for measures that offered better protection to landlords from big pub companies. However, Garrood refuted any suggestion the pub would shut. He said: “Punch has no intention of closing the Caroline of Brunswick; a hub of cultural, music and comedy entertainment in Brighton. Mr Barnes’ lease agreement is due for renewal in November 2017 and, as such, the pub will operate as either part of our established Falcon model or under a five-year tenancy agreement. Publicans currently operating under the Falcon model have fed back a high degree of satisfaction to date and, because of this, increasing the Falcon estate is core to Punch’s ongoing business strategy. Our local teams are working closely with Mr Barnes and his team to ensure the pub remains open and continues trading to the community it serves. Punch is committed to large-scale investment in our pubs and seeing them continue to thrive.”

Licensing update: licensing solicitors John Gaunt & Partners produce a useful monthly summary of topical issues and the latest can be accessed here

Company News:

City Pub Company reports turnover and Ebitda boost: City Pub Company, which operates 28 sites through two subsidiaries, City Pub Company West and City Pub Company East, has reported a turnover and Ebitda rise in the first nine months of this financial year. The company saw sales increase 36.7% to £19,718,000 while company Ebitda was up 38.6% to £2,838,000. It stated in a note to shareholders: “We are delighted with the continuing improvement in profitability of our companies and anticipate this improvement will accelerate in 2017 too. Since the last communication in September, City Pub Company has refurbished The Althorp in Bellevue Road (London SW18), which was reopened mid-November. The Inn on the Beach in Hayling Island will open shortly having also benefitted from a major refurbishment. Recently we also opened The Punt Yard in Cambridge, which takes our number of outlets opened in that city to four. There are a further four pubs to open next year – The Smugglers, Brighton, due to open March 2017; The London Road Brew House, formerly The Varsity, Southampton, due to open February 2017; The Petersfield, formerly the Back Street Bistro, Cambridge, due to open April 2017; and another site (currently confidential) that is due to open May 2017. The board still intends at the end of 2017 to seek a listing on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange and simultaneously merge City East and City West. This introduction on to AIM will provide an effective market for shareholder’s investments and will enable the combined companies to raise further equity to fund future pub acquisitions. As previously communicated, the directors intend to commence a progressive dividend policy for ordinary shareholders with the amount payable declared in April 2017 following the announcement of our 2016 results. The dividend payment, which will be subject to shareholder approval, is anticipated to be modest to begin with, as we wish to retain as much capital within the businesses as we can, in order to help finance further acquisitions and grow the company. As we become a more significant player in the pub retail market, it will be the board’s intention to increase these dividend payments. The directors will also look at a scrip alternative, which will give shareholders the opportunity to acquire more shares as an alternative to receiving cash dividends. The dividend payment date for the preference shares is in the middle of January. Trading has been in line with budget and since the start of November has been very encouraging. It is important that in 2017 we ensure our retailing remains focused so as to generate continuing good returns on investment. 2016 has been a transformational year with Alex Derrick and Rupert Clark continuing to grow their companies and take them forward. Whilst there are some challenges, we are confident we have the right strategy and right team in place to meet them and to continue to build our estate to in excess of 50 pubs over the next few years. The estate will not just be 50 pubs – it will be 50 great quality pubs, which will continue to generate high levels of profitability for our shareholders.”

Admiral Taverns – our optimal size is 1,500 to 1,700 pubs: Tenanted pub company Admiral Taverns has told Propel it regards an estate of 1,500 to 1,700 tenanted pubs as its optimal size – it currently has an estate of 887 pubs. Chief executive Kevin Georgel said the company was interested in packages and single sites and expected the market to present opportunities in the coming year – the past year had been “frustrating” because of the lack of available acquisitions. Georgel said capital expenditure in the estate would hit between £8m and £9m this year, compared with £8.2m last year, with the company embarking on some of its largest per-site investments at more than £300,000. The company has recorded best-in-class licensee feedback on its business development managers. Georgel said the company had made a point of hiring older business development managers with greater maturity, with between 60% and 70% having experience of running pubs themselves. He added that Admiral Taverns’ backer, Cerberus, was “extremely happy” with the performance of the company thanks to it hitting its business plan every year since acquisition.

Whitbread opens second Bar + Block, in King’s Cross: Whitbread has opened its second Bar + Block site, this time in London. Following the success of the debut Bar + Block in Birmingham earlier this year the flagship, steak-focused, all-day casual dining restaurant has opened in King’s Cross, close to King’s Cross and St Pancras International stations. The 5,522 square foot, 212-cover site has been developed by Harrison Design and includes a 68-cover central feature bar with copper detailing, a large open kitchen, branded mosaic signage at the entrance, and a mix of stand-alone seating and leather booths. Exposed brick walls showcase a number of contemporary artwork pieces, including the company’s signature neon cow signage and preserved moss “Hello” sign, as well as wall calligraphy detailing the Bar + Block brand story. Bar + Block has an emphasis on high-quality steaks at affordable prices, all hand-cut to order. The “butcher’s block” features a range of rotating specials. Bar + Block also offers an extensive drinks list, with a focus on craft beer and cider from BrewDog, innovative cocktails, and a specially curated wine list. Last week, Whitbread said it had four Bar + Block sites lined up to open in the first half of 2017, with its third due to launch in February at the Whiteley Shopping Centre in Fareham, Hampshire.

World buffet restaurant company Panda Mami opens first UK site in Chester, plans 30 further venues in next five years: World buffet restaurant company Panda Mami has opened its first UK site, in Chester, and is planning 30 further venues in the next five years. The company has opened the 200-cover outlet, arranged over two floors, in Newgate Street. The restaurant’s menu includes specialities from China, Thailand, Japan, India, the US, Italy and the UK. The company stated on its website: “The group has ambitious plans for continuous growth and expansion. With more than 30 further restaurants planned for 2017 and beyond, the Panda Mami Group will serve thousands of customers every day in the future and aims to be one of the best restaurant groups in the UK.” Owner Kaixiang Liu told The Business Desk: “We are delighted to have chosen Chester as the location for our flagship Panda Mami restaurant.”

Leon to open ninth site this year, at London Bridge station: Natural fast food brand Leon will open its ninth site this year, at London Bridge station today (Tuesday, 6 December). The opening, which is the company’s 43rd outlet in total, is on the ground concourse (travel side), where passengers ascend to platforms eight, nine and ten, and has 36 covers. London Bridge station is in the midst of a multimillion-pound transformation programme and is the fourth busiest station in the country. Leon’s director of brand and marketing Kirsty Saddler said: “At Leon we want to help everybody to eat well and live well. Where better to do that than at the heart of a bustling train station serving 56 million passengers a year? Train travel can leave you tired and frustrated; we want to lift passengers’ flagging spirits and send them on their way with a spring in their step.” Leon secured £19m funding in the summer to fund its regional expansion. The team opened restaurants in Brighton and Oxford in the autumn and has its sights set on Manchester for the spring.

Burgers-and-ribs brand The Smoke Haus to open fourth site, in Bristol city centre: American-style burgers-and-ribs brand The Smoke Haus is set to open its fourth site, this time in Bristol. The restaurant will open on the ground floor of Colston Tower in the city centre, although the company has yet to announce the launch date, the Bristol Post reports. Jayne Myall and Mark Power opened the first Smoke Haus in Swansea in 2012 and began expansion with a second venue, in Cardiff. In June, the company opened its first site in England – a 150-cover venue above Stonegate Pub Company’s Slug and Lettuce in Birmingham. The company’s ethos is to provide “quality food in a great atmosphere, huge portions, masses of meat and a challenge not for the faint of heart”. Burgers include The Big Bertha (five 8oz cheeseburgers topped with jalapeños, smoked streaky bacon, fried onions and burger sauce), alongside a wide range of meat combos, large helpings and sweet treats. The restaurant provides a music playlist, and diners with an iPhone can help to choose the running order.

London-based vegetarian restaurant The Gate opens third site, first of its venues to serve breakfast: London-based vegetarian restaurant The Gate has opened its third site, this time in Marylebone. The company has opened the 86-cover venue in Seymour Place and it is the first of its outlets to offer breakfast. The restaurant has simple furnishings and plain walls while there is also a terrace, reports The Handbook. Dishes include green banana fritters, aubergine teriyaki and plantain chips, while its breakfast menu features scrambled tofu with smoky shiitake mushrooms; bagels with avocado and poached eggs; and egg white and spinach omelette with avocado. There is also a range of freshly made juices and non-alcoholic and alcoholic cocktails. The Gate’s other restaurants are in Hammersmith and Islington.

Craft Beer Co launches eighth site with new look: The Craft Beer Co, which operates six sites across London and one in Brighton, will open its latest site on Wednesday (7 December), this time in London’s Limehouse. Previously trading as the Railway Tavern, the pub will reopen as The Craft Beer Co Limehouse following an extensive refurbishment. Craft Beer Co managing director and founder Martin Hayes said: “It’s a smaller site than many of our others but it has a lot of character, it’s full of history and in an area that’s progressive. I like that. We’ve also taken a very different approach to the look and feel of the site – I’d place the design mid-20th century, there’s a lot of 1950s and 1960s influence, it’s pretty daring. Customers will recognise a lot of usual Craft Beer Co touches, though, not least our commitment to an amazing line-up of beers. We’ll have six cask beers on tap, 21 keg beers and a wide selection of bottled and canned craft beer, along with a wide range of wines and spirits.”

Oakman Inns reopens Hertfordshire hotel following £1.5m joint investment: Oakman Inns and Restaurants has reopened the former Banyers Hotel in Royston, Hertfordshire, following a £1.5m joint investment with Beechdale Homes. The hotel has been renamed Banyers House and is Oakman’s 17th venue in its growing portfolio of pubs and restaurants. The grade II-listed building features a 90-cover restaurant, a private dining room, bars and nine boutique en-suite bedrooms. The restaurant offers breakfast, brunch, pizza, bar snacks, afternoon tea, wines, cocktails and dinner. Mediterranean-influenced dishes are cooked in a Josper charcoal-fuelled grill and oven, while Italian-trained pizzaiolos use a traditional wood-fired oven to produce hand-made Neapolitan pizzas. Oakman Inns chief executive Peter Borg-Neal said: “Royston is really great town and we are all looking forward to providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere and seeing Banyers once again play a key part at the heart of Royston's community.”

London-based arcade bar Four Quarters to start expansion with second site, in Hackney: London-based arcade bar Four Quarters is set to start expansion by opening its second site, this time in Hackney. The company will open the new venue in East Bay Lane in late January, reports The Londonist. The site, which will be called Four Quarters East, will be modelled on its existing site in Peckham, featuring retro arcade games such as Sega Rally and Pac-Man, alongside American craft beer, cocktails and bar food. The company stated: “We’re working on a bunch of arcade cabs at the moment, ready to unleash in tip-top condition at the end of January! What games would you like to see at Four Quarters East?”

Burger King franchisee fined almost £180,000: A Burger King franchisee has been ordered to pay almost £180,000 for health and safety breaches before and after a worker was scalded by hot oil. KFG Quickserve, which runs 35 Burger Kings, including the outlet in Westgate Street, Ipswich, was fined £166,600 at South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court after previously pleading guilty to two charges of breaching a duty to an employee. The company must also pay £12,000 costs and a victim surcharge of £125. The prosecution was brought by Ipswich Borough Council after 18-year-old Burger King employee Michael Firth was injured in March last year. One of the charges related to health and safety failures on or before the accident. The other offence involved breaches that had not been rectified until some time after the accident. District Judge Celia Dawson said the incident occurred when Firth was tasked with emptying oil from three of the branch’s four fat fryers. The fryers should not have been cleared until the oil had cooled to a temperature of 40C or below. However, the oil was still hot on the night of accident. Firth spilled oil on himself as he was carrying it in a bucket up some metal stairs. The bucket should have had a lid, but it did not. Although protective clothing – including an apron, boots, and gauntlets – should have been worn it was said to only have been available in a very large size. Firth was not wearing the equipment at the time of the accident. KFG Quickserve made a pre-tax loss of £265,000 in the year to 31 December 2015 on turnover of £35,474,000. The year before it made a profit of £1,152,000 on turnover of £35,093,000.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen bids to launch Leicester site: Gourmet Burger Kitchen has applied to open its first restaurant in Leicester. The company has submitted an application to Leicester City Council to install a timber-framed, glazed shopfront to a unit in Highcross shopping centre that was formerly occupied by Laura Ashley. The 122-cover restaurant would be set over two floors with an open kitchen. Gourmet Burger Kitchen hopes to open the new venue in the summer. Gourmet Burger Kitchen marketing manager Laura Pettingale told the Leicester Mercury: “This new restaurant will give burger-lovers in the city a place to relax and enjoy GBK favourites such as the Major Tom or avocado bacon burger after a long day of shopping or before catching the latest film.” She added that the company chose Highcross for its first Leicester restaurant as it had been “massively developed” over recent years and offered a “great retail experience”. Gourmet Burger Kitchen operates almost 80 sites across the UK, with openings planned for Oldham and Bristol. The nearest site to Leicester is in Nottingham.

Farmstand eyes London expansion: Farmstand, the fast-casual concept led by US entrepreneur Steven Novick, is planning to increase its brand awareness in the capital through the launch of further standalone sites, virtual Farmstands, stands, mini-stands and an online stand. The concept, which launched its flagship Farmstand restaurant in Drury Lane, Covent Garden, earlier this year, currently operates four virtual Farmstand restaurants, as well as one mini-stand. It is also set to embark on a new partnership with Planet Organic, which will see its Mini Stands housed in the chain’s seven sites across London. The concept, which is backed by a number of high-profile investors, has plans to eventually open five flagship Farmstand restaurants, ten stands, 50 mini-stands, and an online stand subscription service in London, before assessing global expansion targets. The company sells healthy, sustainably-sourced food in a fast casual aspirational environment or the food is delivered to where a customer needs it. It plans to launch its corporate-focused subscription service by quarter two 2017, leveraging its existing offline presence, with a goal to have up to 50% of its revenue originate online. Stands are pop-up restaurants that reside in a corporate canteen one day a week, while mini-stands operate five days a week and sit inside a corporate canteen, supermarket, gym, yoga, cycling or fitness studio. Virtual Farmstand restaurants operate from 11.30am to 3pm five days a week, where customers can order a limited selection of food from Deliveroo. Founder Novick has extensive business and startup experience during his 25-year career. The concept takes its name from US roadside stalls known as ‘farmstands’, which sell locally grown fresh fruit, vegetables and other produce, and which are common in Novick’s home town, Milwaukee.

London-based Pure Waffle secures Knightsbridge site: London-based waffle house Pure Waffle is opening a restaurant and tea room in Knightsbridge in the new year. The company has secured a 3,500 square foot unit, covering three floors, in a deal brokered by agent Restaurant Property. The site, which will serve waffles with savoury or sweet toppings, plus sandwiches, cakes, pastries, shakes and coffee, is expected to open in January. The rent for the new site is £145,000 per annum and the lease runs for a term of 25 years. Pure Waffle co-founder Arash Anvar said: “Due to the success the brand has enjoyed over the past decade through its flagship store in Duke Street, Mayfair, Pure Waffle is now undertaking an expansion plan in London and the Home Counties. In 2005, the UK food and beverage industry had only a handful of waffle outlets – Pure Waffle has been responsible for helping to educate the UK market in its recognition of waffles. The influence of the Pure Waffle brand hasn’t just stopped at these shores, negotiations are currently taking place for the opening of stores across the Middle East. Pure Waffle is privately funded by its co-founders and will remain as such for the foreseeable future.” 

Intertain’s training app leads to rise in employee engagement and helps streamline recruitment strategy: Intertain has said Pulse, its app designed to help staff train, communicate and share best practice with each other, has led to higher employee engagement and helped streamline its recruitment strategy. The company launched Pulse in July, which was developed by CPL Online, provider of e-learning courses and online business system solutions for the licensed retail hospitality sector. In an engagement survey carried out by Intertain, 87% of employees said the app had increased their engagement in training. Since the launch, CPL has already recorded more than 12,600 log-ins into Pulse. The app also alleviates staff supply challenges by encouraging movement of employees between venues and has allowed Intertain to move common HR functionalities, such as rotas, appraisals and inductions, online. Within the app, “Mojos” (managers on job observation) are created by general managers to carry out a comprehensive review of employees’ training progress. The other bespoke feature – “Chunks” – is designed to deliver bite-sized e-learning sessions for site staff. There is also a financial dashboard, which highlights where Intertain can make substantial cost-savings. Intertain head of HR Nina Marshall said: “As well as improving the accessibility of training, Pulse is making staff more engaged in their learning. Thanks to CPL, we have a bespoke app that connects with our staff and embodies our company culture. In the long-term, it will help us attain high standards of efficiency and business management.” CPL account director Andrew Rannard added: “Nina played a crucial role in the development, especially with the concepts of Mojos and Chunks. It’s a fresh approach to learning and development that enthuses employees to push on and improve. Not only that but combined with our big data system, it’s helping Intertain save time and money.”

Merseyside-based operator Mikhail Investments opens third site: Merseyside-based operator Mikhail Investments has opened its third site. The company has launched Irish-themed pub Punch Tarmeys in Southport. It has converted the former Mulligan’s bar on the corner of Lord Street and Union Street into a “classically designed pub”, with a heritage throwback to company owner Andrew Mikhail’s Irish great-grandfather Michael Tarmey, who was a champion boxer in the early 1900s. Mikhail told The Champion: “I am very excited to be opening Punch Tarmey’s as part of my portfolio. It means a lot to me to be able to integrate my family history and such an interesting story of my great-grandfather into an amazing pub. Punch Tarmey’s will take the best of old pub culture and integrate it with the trends of today. It marks an important step in the future of pub experiences in the Southport area.” Mikhail Investments also operates The Bold Hotel in Southport and the Eccleston Arms Hotel in St Helen’s.

Northern Creative Group rebrands Manchester bistro as Mexican-inspired restaurant: Manchester-based multi-site operator Northern Creative Group has turned its Ancoats bistro The Cutting Room into a Mexican-inspired restaurant. The new restaurant and bar – Mexica – offers a fiery menu of burritos, tacos and nachos alongside a wide range of beers, cocktails and a selection of mezcal and tequila. Northern Creative Group co-director Sophie Jarvis told Manchester Evening News: “Cutting Room was a daytime, early morning-led establishment. We felt this area would benefit from being evening led.” Northern Creative Group is also working on another Manchester venture – the Goose Fat And Wild Garlic restaurant – that will open in the spring. It has also taken over former Northern Quarter nightclub Cuba Café to house music bar and restaurant Stage And Radio. The venue in Port Street is open but not yet complete as the team is putting the finishing touches to its top-floor New York-style pizzeria.

Leela Palaces launches first Jamavar restaurant outside India, in Mayfair: Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts has launched its first site for signature restaurant Jamavar outside India, in London. The new venue has opened in Mount Street, Mayfair, and is the groupʼs sixth Jamavar restaurant in total. The kitchen at Jamavar London is headed by executive chef Rohit Ghai, who has led several Michelin-starred kitchens, including Gymkhana, Trishna and Benares. While Jamavar London reflects the essence of its Indian siblings, Ghai and his team has ensured the concept is adapted to suit London diners, with smaller sharing plates an exclusive addition alongside signature dishes such as lobster neeruli, sindhi gosht and coconut payasam. The restaurant is set across two floors, with the decor designed by Fabled Studio and taking inspiration from the Viceroy’s house in New Delhi. Jamavar is named after the 16th century shawls of Kashmir, and Chaturanga dining tables are combined with vibrant colours, rainforest emperador marble, dark timber panelling, and a mirror-embellished bar. The two dining rooms draw inspiration from India’s sacred temples. There is also a private dining area for eight, with a personal wine vitrine and views of a private garden.

Gastro-pub owner to transform Enterprise site in Tonbridge into tapas restaurant: Dan Ward, who owns fine dining gastro-pub The Ivy House in Tonbridge High Street, is set to launch a tapas restaurant at an Enterprise Inns site in the town centre. Ward has taken over the lease of Mojo’s Bar in Barden Road and will turn it into The Clockhouse restaurant and bar. Work is set to begin to extend the kitchen and redecorate inside and outside. It is expected the restaurant will seat about 80 diners and offer authentic and classic tapas dishes, craft beer and Mediterranean lager, wine and premium spirits. Ward launched The Ivy in 2009 with wife Polly and help from Michelin-starred chef John Burton-Race. Ward told Kent Live: “This has been a pivotal decision for us and we are keen to make the most of it. I am confident we can make the new restaurant a real success.” An Enterprise Inns spokesman added: “Mojo’s will be transformed from a late-night bar into a food-led venue. We are certain the new concept will be well received and successful and will bring a new dimension to the social scene in the area. We wish our partners all the best in their new venture.” Ward plans to open The Clockhouse before the end of February.

Herefordshire-based cafe operators open second site: Herefordshire-based cafe operators Cindy Thomas and Glen Baker have started expanding their portfolio by opening their second site. The siblings, who run Caffe No 21 in Ledbury, have launched The Little Bridge Kitchen and Bar in Hereford. They have converted an empty shop in Bridge Street into the venue. Thomas told the Hereford Times: “We do a lot of Mediterranean food but we do a mixed menu. We are pitching ourselves mid-market. We focus on seasonal, quality local produce.”

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