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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 10th Jan 2017 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Wagamama to launch loyalty app that rewards customers based on how they prefer to dine: Wagamama will launch a loyalty app that rewards customers based on how they prefer to dine with the company. Rather than being based on frequency of visits, the Wagamamastars app will reward first-time and infrequent guests as well as loyal repeat customers. Visitors will receive one star each time they spend £10 by ordering via the app and, at the end of a meal, can choose to save their stars to redeem against their food and drink on a future visit or swap stars to try to win food, drink or a mystery prize. Consumers can also pay via the app, earn prizes and receive exclusive news. Andre Johnstone, head of digital and loyalty, told The Drum: “When we looked at what we wanted to do with loyalty [we saw that] lots of apps do the basic ‘earn some points and you can spend some points’ – and that is it. We also realised that with restaurant brands the frequency [or purchase] is quite low. You might visit [Wagamama] three or four times a year so it might take a while to earn enough points to spend anything. We’re helping the customer have a more engaging experience over a basic points scenario. We want to have a strong ongoing relationship, understand consumers a bit better and, in the future, give them more of what they need.”    

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference opens for bookings, Urban Pubs and Bars co-founder Nick Pring to present: The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2017 is now open for bookings. Nick Pring, co-founder of Urban Pubs and Bars, will talk about creating a unique market position in London suburbs, building a business the second time around, finding property and repositioning JD Wetherspoon pubs, creating a pizza concept, and opening a 12,000 square foot pop-up at Stratford Westfield. The full-day conference takes place on Thursday, 9 March at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, London. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places. Email Anne Steele on to book a place.

Itinerary unveiled for third Craft Beer Retail Study Tour: The itinerary has been unveiled for the third Propel and Thinking Drinkers Craft Beer Retail Study Tour. The event, which this year focuses on east London, takes place on Thursday, 26 January and will visit six of London’s leading craft beer retailers and a cider specialist during the seven-hour tour. It starts at Urban Pubs and Bars’ ping-pong concept Bat and Ball at Westfield Stratford. The tour will then visit Tap East in Stratford, the brewpub operated by Mike Hill and Richard Dinwoodie, the duo previously behind Utobeer. The next stop will be Mason & Company, a specialist craft beer bar and kitchen, run by Ed Mason, founder of Hackney’s Five Points Brewing Company, at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The tour will then head to brewery and pizza venue Crate Brewing and fresh tank beer venue Howling Hops, both based at Queen’s Yard. It will continue to artisan pizza and cider brand The Stable, which is 76% owned by Fuller’s, in Whitechapel before finishing at Dinerama in Great Eastern Street, the street food craft beer concept run by Henry Dimbleby and Jonathan Downey. The tour will again be led by Thinking Drinkers, award-winning beer writers Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham, who will provide the latest craft beer facts and figures, market segmentation and analysis, and spot up-and-coming trends. The day includes travel between venues by coach. Tickets are £345 plus VAT for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) members and £395 plus VAT for non-ALMR members. Email to book or for more details.

Finance Kitchen to launch crowdfunding platform specifically for food and drink industry, minimum investment £25,000:Bespoke finance house Finance Kitchen is to launch its own crowdfunding platform, specifically for the food and drink industry and with a minimum £25,000 investment. Director Ian Woodley said: “Crowdfunding has been extremely good for the sector having launched many exciting new concepts but it’s not for everyone so we think it’s important we spell out how our approach will be different. Our platform will be first and foremost a transactional vehicle – all our own investment business will be conducted through it whether a raise is for one or multiple investors. We will have a stipulated minimum investment of £25,000 so this focuses on sophisticated investors and high-net-worth individuals rather than an open market to the general public. This approach stands us apart from the mainstream platforms and angel investment networks we still intend to work with as a partner introducer if a raise is better suited to their investor base. Access will be via our existing website and all activities will be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Our objective remains to be the first choice of funding for new and early stage food and drink businesses in London – and this new development takes us closer to our goal.”

Luke Johnson – 2017 will be a difficult year for the sector: Sector investor Luke Johnson has predicted 2017 will be a difficult year for the industry. He stated in City AM: “It’s a massive industry. It’s worth £70bn-plus in the UK, still highly fragmented in many categories. It’s been growing, I think, pretty steadily for 25 years or more so I’ve been very fortunate to alight in an industry that has consistently grown. (But) 2017 will be a tougher year because of costs. It may be that consumer spending slows sharply – I hope not. But I think what is a challenge for us now is the National Living Wage – that’s a big issue. The rates revaluation – that’s a big issue, especially for London operators, rents only ever go up – and, to a degree, imported inflation of ingredients, partly because a lot products like dairy, for example, have seen multi-year highs. And then you have the weakness of sterling.”

Eataly to open world’s first gourmet theme park, in September: International Italian food emporium Eataly will open the world’s first gourmet theme park, in September. FICO Eataly World will open at a 20-acre site near Bologna in Italy. Eataly hopes to attract six million visitors a year to a fusion of entertainment, education and food. There will be six main areas to explore – fish, meat and eggs, milk and dairy produce, cereals, fruit and vegetables, drinks and dressings, and desserts – while 40 workshops will showcase field-to-fork processes including oil and wine production. There will also be six virtual reality experiences, a beer factory and 25 restaurants, while visitors can traverse a 9,000 square foot food market via Bianchi tricycles. Chief executive Tiziana Primori said: “Our vision for FICO Eataly World is an immense and joyous place, where everyone can discover Italy’s great heritage. There will be no place in the world where you can see and explore this wide range of food processing and cooking in a single location.” Eataly was founded by Oscar Farinetti, opening his first eatery in Turin in 2007. The company now has 27 megastores around the world, while its market places have become tourist attractions.

Charitable foundation launched in name of Tim Bacon: A new charitable foundation has been launched in the name of the late Tim Bacon to recognise his achievements and continue his legacy. The first appeal by The Tim Bacon Foundation, which is overseen by Bacon’s business partner and close friend Jeremy Roberts, aims to raise £500,000 for its chosen cause during 2017. The appeal will support The Christie Hospital and University College London, which aims to raise funds for proton beam therapy centres in Manchester and London. It will also support Maggie’s Centres, which provides free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their families and friends and is a key partner to Christie Hospital’s clinical services. So far, Brasserie Blanc has pledged £25,000 while New World Trading Company, Hawksmoor, The Alchemist, Ego Restaurants, Gusto and Blackhouse Grill have pledged £10,000. Bacon, chairman and co-founder of Living Ventures, lost his fight against cancer last year. Roberts said: “Proton beam therapy is a specialist form of radiotherapy that can precisely target certain cancers, increasing success rates and reducing side-effects. Its introduction to the UK will bring treatment closer to patients, mostly children with brain tumours who are currently sent abroad for treatment, usually to the US or Switzerland. I think you will agree this is unacceptable and as such a fitting project with which to launch the foundation.” The foundation will host many events during 2017, including a multi-restaurant celebration dinner sponsored by the Living Ventures Group and held across its businesses in Manchester city centre. The dinner will be followed by the “Dream The Impossible” party at a secret venue in the city. For more details about the appeal, visit

Six major hospitality operators join HCRF: Six major operators have joined the Hospitality Carbon Reduction Forum (HCRF), which meets quarterly to share best practices on reducing energy, water and waste, improving profitability, and minimising environmental impact. French brasserie Cote; Patisserie Valerie, the company that has sector investor Luke Johnson as executive chairman; Benugo; Hix; champagne bar operator Searcy’s; and bakery business Greggs have joined 35 other operators including Marston’s, The Restaurant Group, Casual Dining Group and Nando’s representing 80% of the managed pub and restaurant estate. At the last forum meeting members reviewed a new approach to on-site food waste processing, best practice waste initiatives, and a collaboration on identifying energy waste using analytics to compare operators’ usage levels. The next HCRF meeting will take place in February to review results from the industry benchmarking that defines best practices from all forum members.

Company News:

Anglian Country Inns reports turnover and like-for-like site Ebitda increase: Anglian Country Inns, the award-winning operator of gastro-pubs and restaurants led by James Nye, has reported an increase in turnover and like-for-like site Ebitda. The company saw turnover increase 19% to £8,723,315 for the year ending 31 March 2016, compared with £7,347,162 the year before. Like-for-like site Ebitda, excluding head office costs, grew 33% to £1.6m, compared with £1.2m the previous year, and is 17.5% of sales (16.1% in 2015). Pre-tax profit increased to £336,045 compared with £140,254 the year before. The company stated: “Revenue in 2016 grew to £8.7m (£7.3m in 2015) an increase of £1.4m (19%). The full-year trading at The Cricketers accounted for £0.5m, with underlying like-for-like sales increasing by a healthy £0.9m (12%). Gross profit margin improved slightly to 70.4% (70.1% in 2015) as we continue to benefit from being able to focus more closely on our margins through our food-costing and till management information systems. Administrative expenses, including site labour costs, increased to £5.7m (£4.8m in 2015) an increase of 19%. The Cricketers was £0.4m with underlying like-for-like administrative expenses up £0.5m (11%) – £0.1m of this increase is due to investment in a stronger head office support team to assist sites with marketing, training and staff and menu development. Like-for-like site Ebitda, excluding head office costs, continued to grow strongly from £1.2m to £1.6m, an increase of £0.4m (33%) and is 17.5% of sales (16.1% in 2014). This strong performance is just reward for the efforts of our staff in sites and our central support operation in running our business more effectively. Operating profit for the year was £418,000, equivalent to 4.8% of sales, representing a significant increase on the 2015 figure of £225,000 (3.1% of sales).”

Mint Group reports turnover and Ebitda boost: London bar and nightclub operator Mint Group has reported a turnover and group Ebitda boost. Turnover increased by 7.7% to £9,990,115 for the year ended 31 March 2016, compared with £9,278,530 the previous year. Group Ebitda was £1,525,020, compared with £1,492,434 in 2015. Pre-tax loss was £343,662, compared with £239,614 in the prior year. Since the year end, the group has disposed of its Mary Janes site in the City of London, which it sold to CG Restaurants & Bars to turn into its ninth Dirty Martini venue. Mint Group’s directors said the company would “continue to look for opportunities” to expand its Mommi concept, which launched in Clapham in July 2015, and also “develop new offerings”. Mommi “blends two diverse culinary cultures to offer a menu that focuses on naturally nutritious raw and Robata-grilled dishes”. Mint Group, led by Oliver Bengough, also owns and operates multi-media live music venue Koko in Camden, Elk Bar in Fulham, and the Bison and Bird bar and Infernos live venue and nightclub in Clapham.

3Sixty Restaurants acquires seventh pub for Ego brand after Punch lease deal: 3Sixty Restaurants, led by James Horler and backed by Luke Johnson, has acquired the seventh pub for its Ego brand. The company has secured The Bulls Head in Horbury, West Yorkshire, on a free-of-tie long lease with Punch and will reopen the site in April. It takes the Ego brand to a total of 15 sites and the group now has long pub leases with five different partners. The development is being funded out of existing cash resources. The group has also recruited James Coldrey-Mobbs to the new position as head of marketing for Ego. Horler said: “I am delighted that we have secured another location for Ego. Ego at The Bulls Head in Horbury will open in early April after a significant refurbishment. The performance of our pubs has been very encouraging and we are keen to open more sites throughout 2017. I am also delighted that we have appointed James to our senior team as head of marketing for Ego.” 

Pesto to open ninth restaurant, appoints PR firm as portfolio expands: Pesto, the Italian restaurant brand led by Neil Gatt and Sara Edwards, is set to open its ninth site. The company will launch Pesto at Davenport Arms in Marton, near Macclesfield, Cheshire, next month following a £600,000 refurbishment. To provide support for its growing portfolio, Pesto has also appointed MediaCityUK-based agency Rule 5 to deliver its PR and marketing communications strategy. Pesto co-owner Sara Edwards told Prolific North: “This is the first time we have looked to employ an agency. Rule 5 has a very good reputation in the industry and we’re confident it will contribute significantly to the future success of Pesto. We are excited to start the new year with a new opening and a new partnership.” Pesto’s other restaurants are in the north west and Midlands – in Manchester, Sutton Coldfield, Tarporley, Widnes, Wirral, Wolvey, Appley Bridge and Desford.

Veeno to double up in Chester next month: Italian wine cafe Veeno will continue its plans to double up in cities in which it already has a presence by opening a second site in Chester. The company opened its second site in Leeds last month. The new venue in Northgate Street will join the company’s network of 11 cafes and forms part of a national growth strategy to reach 80 sites by the end of 2020. Veeno co-founder Andrea Zecchino told BDaily: “We were fascinated by a fantastic location next to the cathedral. It will be the perfect spot to promote our concept of the aperitivo and keep growing our brand.” Zecchino founded the company with Nino Caruso in 2013, who added: “We regularly have customers travelling from Chester to our wine cafes in Manchester and Liverpool so I’m excited to be bringing the concept closer to them!” Veeno’s other sites are in Bristol, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Leicester Nottingham and York, while it has also been given the go-ahead for a cafe in Warrington, Cheshire.

Know Hospitality closes £1m District House in Liverpool six months after opening: Liverpool-based Know Hospitality, founded by Steven Hesketh, has closed its £1m bar, restaurant and event space District House six months after opening. The company confirmed it had ended its management of the Water Street venue but was unable to confirm whether it would reopen. Director Andy Duckworth told Your Move: “We have had to make the decision to end our management of District House. We have had a great run and regret we have had to take this action. As the management contract between ourselves and the leaseholders for District House has come to an end we cannot say whether the restaurant will be reopening in 2017. We have informed customers who are affected by the decision and are working with our friends in the hospitality industry to find suitable alternative venues.” District House, which is based at the former home of Newz Bar and Amanzi, opened in July last year.

Bitters n’ Twisted to open fourth Bodega Cantina, in Derby: Birmingham-based multiple operator Bitters n’ Twisted is to continue the expansion of its Bodega Cantina brand with a site in Derby. The company is investing £150,000 in the venue in Sadler Gate, which is set to open in March. It will be the fourth Bodega Cantina – a South American-themed bar and restaurant – following its launch in Birmingham six years ago and subsequent openings in Leicester and Worcester. The interior will feature South American imagery, including sugar skulls, Mexican wrestlers and football, to create a “fun, informal and distinctive environment”. The menu will include street food favourites such as burritos, nachos and tacos, as well as a range of Peruvian and Ecuadorian-inspired main dishes. There will also be a range of South American-inspired hand-made cocktails. Bitters n’ Twisted founder Matt Scriven said: “Bodega has been such a hit with our customers across three cities in the Midlands we know the demand is there for genuine and fresh South American food in playful and quirky surroundings. We are proudly independent and, while we have Bodega venues elsewhere, our ethos is all about making it right for the city. We’re really excited to be opening our first restaurant in Derby – the city, and Sadler Gate in particular, has an exciting and emerging food scene and we hope to be a popular addition.” Bitters n’ Twisted has ten other bars and restaurants in the Midlands.

Greene King continues Hungry Horse expansion with Dudley site: Greene King has continued the expansion of its Hungry Horse brand with a site in Dudley, West Midlands. The company has launched the Castle View at the Castlegate development, creating 30 jobs. The new pub restaurant took six months to complete and can accommodate up to 160 diners, reports The Business Desk. It features a bright, modern colour scheme, booth seating with televisions and children’s entertainment, as well as a children’s activity zone, baby feeding station, a patio with outside play area and a big screen broadcasting live sport.

Vapiano to close flagship restaurant for £2m refurbishment: Vapiano, the Italian restaurant brand where guests have hand-made pasta cooked in front of them by chefs in an open kitchen, will close its flagship restaurant in Great Portland Street, Marylebone, on Monday, 16 January for a £2m refurbishment. The 420-cover restaurant is spread over two floors, covering about 11,000 square feet. It serves about 15,000 guests a week, making it the busiest Vapiano restaurant in the world out of 175 sites. Managing director Phil Sermon said: “When you run a successful restaurant like Vapiano, it’s worth the investment to keep it in order for the benefit of staff and guests. This refurb will bring our busiest restaurant not only a fresh new design but additional pasta stations, pizza ovens, a refitted bar and extra covers.” The restaurant will reopen in early March.

Leon to open Manchester site in spring: Natural fast food brand Leon is set to open its first site in Manchester. The restaurant is “coming soon” to a ground-floor unit at the Intu Trafford Centre. A Leon spokeswoman told the Manchester Evening News: “We’re super excited to be coming to Manchester – it’s a fantastic city. We expect to be there in spring.” Leon secured £19m funding in the summer to fund its regional expansion. The team opened restaurants in Brighton and Oxford – its 41st and 42nd sites – in the autumn. Other Leon sites in the “coming soon” category are in London – in Bankside, Paddington, Richmond and the West End. Chief executive John Vincent co-founded Leon with Henry Dimbleby in 2004. Vincent’s “free-from” cookbook Fast & Free, co-written with Jane Baxter, will be published on Thursday (12 January).

Tom’s Kitchen partners with London restaurant app Cake: Tom’s Kitchen, the group of restaurants and delis founded by chef Tom Aikens, has partnered with Cake, the mobile payment app for restaurants and bars in London. Customers can book tables, split their bill and pay, plus earn credit back instantaneously. They can also leave reviews while in the restaurant, so that feedback is readily available for staff in real-time. Aikens said: “It’s becoming increasingly apparent that people are leading busy lifestyles with little time left for leisure. In some of our sites, in particular Canary Wharf, weekday lunch for our corporate guests needs to be speedy, Cake helps us to speed up the process even further. Online review sites are always productive however sometimes it’s too late to rectify an issue that could have been sorted on the spot. It’s great to take our brand more digital. We have just launched a new website where we have taken a more modern approach and I think Cake helps us to boost this.”

Leeds super casino to open this month: The multimillion-pound Victoria Gate Casino will open in Leeds on Thursday, 26 January. The 1,400-capacity venue, operated by Global Gaming Ventures, will be the third-largest casino in the UK and feature a 100-player poker room, 24 live gaming tables, 140 slot machines and 75 electronic gaming terminals. The 50,000 square foot venue will also feature Live Bar, which will serve as the hub of the casino with wall-to-wall screens displaying the latest sports; cocktail, champagne and craft beer bar Curve; and informal brasserie V Restaurant. Venue director Patrick Noakes told BDaily: “We can’t wait for people to step through the doors and see the spectacular space for themselves. It’s a game-changer – not just for casino fans but for the city as a whole and will provide so much more than just gaming. Our three distinct venues – Live Bar, Curve and V Restaurant – will play a pivotal role in that. Live Bar and Curve have attracted partnerships with Molson Coors and Moët and Chandon to provide a top-quality drinks menu, while V Restaurant will put the best regional produce at the heart of its offering.”

Fork & Blade fires up Firedog concept in Fitzrovia: Fork & Blade Group, the company behind The Black Penny Coffee House in Covent Garden, has launched Greek and Turkish dining concept Firedog in Fitzrovia. The concept offers Mediterranean-style breakfast and meze options, while the lunch menu includes dishes such as grilled halloumi with charred fennel, beetroot-marinated peppers, spiced walnuts and fresh herbs. The venue in Newman Street is currently open from 8am to 5pm but an evening menu is set to launch in March. The venue’s website states: “Firedog takes its name from the stone fire dogs that were used in the earliest form of grilled cooking found in Santorini, dating to the 17th century BC. Firedog reinvents this ancient style of cooking using an olive woodchip-fired grill and fresh, rich ingredients.” Fork & Blade also operates Islington fish restaurant Trawler Trash and boutique hotel brand Green Walnut. 

Wok&Go opens in Wolverhampton: UK noodle bar brand Wok&Go has opened a site in Wolverhampton. The company has opened the venue at the i10 office and retail development in the city. Wok & Go has joined Greene King’s pub restaurant brand Hungry Horse and dessert parlour Kaspa’s at the complex. The multimillion-pound scheme, next to the train station, was completed in December 2015 and forms part of the city’s £132m Interchange plans. Wok&Go managing director Des Pheby told The Business Desk: “The location of i10 is ideal for us and being next to the bus and train stations will provide good footfall. A lot of investment is being made in Wolverhampton and it seems like a good time to open a branch there. We have opened in similar places up and down the country, such as Hull, and feel the concept will go down well in the city, particularly with the thousands of students.” Wok&Go has 26 sites in the UK.

Cote opens Bristol and Worcester sites: French brasserie Cote has opened its first site in Worcestershire and a second venue in Bristol. The company has invested £1m to convert the former Edwards Bar and Kitchen in Worcester High Street into a 160-cover restaurant, creating 50 jobs. Cote chief executive Alex Scrimgeour told the Worcester News: “We are thrilled to be opening right in the centre of Worcester, bringing our friendly, professional service and great-value food to this thriving town. It’s a wonderful way for Cote to begin 2017.” Meanwhile, the company has also opened a site in Quaker’s Walk, a piazza in Bristol’s new Cabot Circus shopping centre jointly owned and operated by Hammerson on behalf of the Bristol Alliance. Cote joins other restaurant brands including Carluccio’s and the first UK site for Austria-based pasta-pizza concept L’Osteria. They will be joined by Handmade Burger Co and Brazilian rodizio concept Casa Brasil. Cote currently has more than 80 sites in the UK, with the next openings due in Hale, Cheshire, later this month and Weybridge, Surrey, in February.

Scottish multi-site operators acquire historic Carbeth Inn: Brothers Stuart and David Fraser, whose family owns The Oak Tree Inn at Loch Lomond and the St Mocha coffee shop and ice cream parlour brand, which has outlets in Balmaha and Luss, have bought the historic Carbeth Inn from Greene King. The brothers said they expect to roll-out much of the St Mocha concept at the pub in Blanefield, which closed in October after 200 years of trading. Stuart Fraser said they expect to spend up to £1m on purchasing and altering the pub, adding that Scotland’s stricter drink-drive laws meant the Carbeth Inn no longer had a future as a traditional pub. He told The Herald: “The days of pubs on roads are over – that’s one of the reasons Greene King put it up for sale, because it just doesn’t work as it is, not with the recent drink-driving changes.” Plans under consideration include introducing a speciality coffee shop, pop-up restaurant and eco lodges in the grounds. He said part of the pub could reopen as a coffee shop drive-thru, offering food and hot drinks to commuters making their way to Glasgow, as well as cyclists and hill-walkers. The brothers hope to employ up to 30 staff at the site. The Carbeth Inn was name checked in the Sir Walter Scott novel Rob Roy.

James’ Places reports December like-for-likes up 10%: Lancashire-based hospitality group James’ Places has reported December like-for-likes were up 10% year-on-year across the estate, with trade at its Holmes Mill venue exceeding all predictions. Operations director Carol Sleet said: “Performance at the Beer Hall, part of Holmes Mill in Clitheroe and new for 2016, was outstanding and outstripped all expectations. Already trading strongly up to December, we saw a 40% increase in revenue over the Christmas period. This is justification that the people who influenced the planning outcomes for the redevelopment of Holmes Mill are still supporting us.” Holmes Mill is also home to Bowland Brewery, which also had a successful Christmas. Sleet said: “In December, cask sales were up 173% by volume like-for-like and bottle sales up by 168% by volume. This closes an exceptional year that sees net sales up 151% year on year. The brewery’s investment in new kit, which saw brewing capacity grow four-fold, was implemented in August 2016 and puts the business in a strong position to start 2017.” The continued development of Holmes Mill during 2017 will see the opening of a hotel, bar and grill plus a food hall. As well as Holmes Mill, James’ Places has The Emporium in Clitheroe and other Ribble Valley venues the Waddington Arms in Waddington; Mitton Hall in Mitton; Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green; and Eaves Hall in West Bradford. It also counts Falcon Manor in Settle, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, and The Royal Hotel in Kirkby Lonsdale among its portfolio.

Former Ottolenghi chef launches Tel Aviv-inspired concept Bala Baya in Southwark: Former Ottolenghi chef Eran Tibi has launched Tel Aviv-inspired restaurant concept Bala Baya in Southwark. The restaurant – based in one of the arches in Union Street – is the first stand-alone project by Israeli-born Tibi, who has also worked at Made in Camden and Zest@JW3. He met co-founder Sammy Shonn through a mutual fascination with Tel Aviv, and the downstairs venue is reminiscent of the Israeli city’s cafe culture, with grab-and-go options featuring freshly made pita or daily seasonal salad with a choice of salmon, beef or chicken. The 76-cover restaurant upstairs features a “more refined dinner menu”, with tables seating up to 16 alongside London’s first “gazoz bar” – a traditional sparkling drink. Ali Reynolds, 2015 Diageo Reserve World Class UK Bartender of the Year, has curated the cocktail list. Bala Baya’s website states: “We are a bakery in the morning, a fast-paced pita kiosk with a sit-down restaurant at lunch, and a buzzy street-level restaurant at night. Inspired by the Bauhaus architecture of Tel Aviv, award-winning Afroditi Krassa has designed a kaleidoscopic space that allows you to experience Tel Aviv and its sun-kissed youthfulness.”

Wafflemeister signs franchise agreement with former NHS surgeon for eight stores in south London: Wafflemeister, the Belgian waffle operator, has signed an area development agreement with former NHS surgeon Eric Chemla for eight stores in south London. Founder and chief executive Alexander Troullier said: “Our UK franchisees come from different backgrounds, some of them are veterans of food franchising operating estates with major brands. Others come from different sectors but share with us not only the passion for our incredible food but also the understanding that systems, processes and commercially numbers-based decision-making is important. Eric and his wife Pascale fit the bill and we look forward to working with them as a successful long-term partnership.” Chemla added: “My wife and I have been thinking of launching our own business in the food and beverage industry. When we came across Wafflemeister we immediately knew it would be perfect for us – its experience and processes would help us hit the ground running.” Seeds consulting director Matteo Frigeri, who engineered the franchise partnership, said: “Since the start of the UK franchise programme in March 2016, several qualified franchisees like Eric Chemla have joined Wafflemeister, which leads to a strong pipeline of openings for the brand in 2017. Its excellent track record and experience in training and supporting franchisees makes it an ideal investment for selective business people wishing to partner with a sound franchise proposition.”

Marco Pierre White to open Steakhouse Bar & Grill in Plymouth: Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White is set to open a Steakhouse Bar & Grill restaurant in Plymouth. The new venue will open in March on the top floor of the Holiday Inn, part of a major refurbishment of the hotel, which is being rebranded to a Crowne Plaza. The restaurant will be the 17th Steakhouse Bar & Grill in the UK. A spokesman for the celebrity chef’s Black and White Hospitality company told The Herald: “The restaurant will be a destination with a difference, taking a prestigious space with stunning sea views over the Hoe and to Cornwall. Marco’s will be a contemporary and glamorous restaurant where you feel welcome and relaxed and you can enjoy a great menu, amazing steaks and fantastic service in a superb setting.” Other restaurants in the Black and White Hospitality portfolio include Mr White’s English Chophouse, and Bardolino Pizzeria, Bellini & Espresso Bar. The company will also open a “restaurant with rooms” in Singapore – The Old English House – in June.

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