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Wed 28th Mar 2018 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Hakkasan Group and SBE merger officially off: A year after announcing plans to merge and create a billion-dollar nightlife and restaurant group, the proposed deal between SBE and Hakkasan Group is officially off. US-based hotel, restaurant and nightclub operator SBE announced in March 2017 it was in advanced talks to merge with UK-based nightclub and restaurant company Hakkasan Group, which would have created an operation with an equity value of about $1bn. In October, SBE founder and former chief executive Sam Nazarian told Restaurant Hospitality the merger was “in the hands of investors” in Abu Dhabi, where Hakkasan Group owner Alliance International Investments is based. SBE’s portfolio includes Los Angeles-based Disruptive Restaurant Group, which operates about 74 restaurants, including the Umami Burger chain, while Hakkasan operates almost 60 restaurants and nightclubs worldwide. The latest accounts available for Hakkasan Group at Companies House showed turnover for the year to 30 June 2016 was $338.9m, compared with the 18-month turnover of $396.2m previously ($264.1m pro rata for 12 months and an increase of 28%). UK revenue was up 14% to $60,572,000 driven mainly by Yauatcha in the City of London, which opened in June 2015. Turnover from US operations during the year was $262,508,000 and $15,850,000 from the rest of the world. Adjusted Ebitda for the year was $18.7m compared with $6.4m for the 18-month period, which on a pro rata basis would be $4.3m and therefore an increase of more than 300%. Neil Moffitt stepped down as chief executive in April 2017 after five years with the company but said at the time the merger had nothing to do with his decision. Last month, Hakkasan Group extended the Las Vegas residency of Scottish DJ and producer Calvin Harris for a reported £200m.

Industry News:

Host of companies sign up for Social Strategy In A Day Masterclass: A host of companies have signed up for the Social Strategy In A Day Masterclass. They include Fuller’s, YO! Sushi, The Deltic Group, Shepherd Neame, Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, Burning Night Group, Antic London, Drake & Morgan, McManus Pub Company, The Coaching Inn Group, UKHospitality, Eclectic Bars, Signature Pub Group, The Duck & Rice, McMullen, Timothy Taylor, Urban Pubs and Bars, Red Mist Leisure, Boxpark, Mosaic Pub & Dining, The Wright Brothers, Dishoom, Galvin Restaurants, Kerb Food, Noble Inns, Simmons Group, Dip & Flip, Apartment Group, Graffiti Spirits Group, William Grant & Sons, Hi-Spirits, Camino, Hop Stuff Brewery, True North Brew, Namco, Pizza Union, Big Chill, Pebble Hotels, Eighty Four, Rocco Forte Hotels, Occumen, Cask Liquid Marketing, Classeq and Winterhalter. The event, which is aimed at showing companies how to develop and hone their social media strategy, features all-new content and insights to allow companies to increase brand exposure and broaden their reach. Propel has partnered with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the one-day advanced workshop that will cover everything a marketing department should be thinking about when it comes to social strategy. The event takes place on Thursday, 26 April at One Moorgate Place in London. For full details, click here. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £345 plus VAT for non-members and can be booked by emailing

UKHospitality to launch commission promoting sector’s potential: UKHospitality, the new unified voice for the sector following the merger between the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers and the British Hospitality Association, is launching a workforce commission to promote understanding of the sector’s importance and potential. UKHospitality Commission 2030 will bring together a wide range of employers, all-party parliamentary groups, stakeholders, industry bodies and authorities to deliver an employment foundation for the sector. Leaders will provide evidence to identify and address the challenges and opportunities the sector faces, with an aim to launch a report in June and provide recommendations to the government to secure the future of the sector’s workforce. The commission will aim to provide guidance on issues such as promoting careers and ensuring retention in the sector, diversity of workforce, and education and skills. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The hospitality sector employs almost three million people in the UK, it produces £130bn in economic activity and generates £38bn in taxes. It is a vast, vibrant and constantly evolving sector delivering jobs in every constituency. But it is not immune to pressures or changing consumer habits and we need to plan for our futures to ensure it remains robust, relevant and to secure the workforce of the future. This is an opportunity for us to bring together sector leaders and policy-makers to promote the great work we do, change perceptions about our industry and ensure hospitality businesses are in the best position to succeed decades from now.” Submissions must be made by Friday, 11 May. Meanwhile, UKHospitality has welcomed the Migration Advisory Committee’s interim report and pledged its support through reform to support hospitality careers. Nicholls said: “The report highlights the perception of hospitality in other European countries as a first-choice career and the need for action in the UK to adopt the same approach. Hospitality offers a wide range of exciting career options and we need to be proactive in getting that message across to young workers looking to build a rewarding career. This change will need to come partly through support from the government in the shape of a sector deal that provides hospitality businesses with an opportunity to grow and offer more.”

UK needs to use opportunity of EU departure to cut hospitality VAT, says MP: The UK needs to take the opportunity arising from its departure from the European Union to reduce VAT in pubs and restaurants, Conservative MP Nigel Evans has said. The member for Ribble Valley said the government must ensure the sector is “taxed fairly and at levels that will ensure its continued prosperity after Brexit”. He said: “Pubs, bars and casual dining outlets are essential engines of economic growth and our departure from the EU means the government can impose reduced levels of VAT on the sector. The opportunity to reduce VAT in pubs and restaurants is more achievable as the UK leaves the EU, unconstrained by European Commission rules that currently prevent this. In Romania, for example, its hospitality sector is taxed at lower rates than in the UK. It seems blindingly obvious to me that we should do the same here. I am fully supportive of the work the VAT Campaign, supported by UKHospitality and the BBPA, have been doing to convince my ministerial colleagues of the need for a reduction. Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has been especially articulate in demonstrating how a VAT reduction will lead to increased employment in the sector as well as driving up tax take from the industry, which would be achieved by higher sales. The unique economic and social role of the pub and casual dining sectors has long been recognised and we must pledge to ensure the benefits of leaving the EU, including the reclamation of the UK government’s ability to levy taxes such as VAT at rates appropriate to the British economy, will be implemented in short order after 29 March 2019.”

Boxpark launches competition offering budding restaurateurs free rent for six months at Croydon site: Boxpark has launched a competition for budding restaurateurs to win one of its units at its Croydon site rent-free for six months. Chief executive and founder Roger Wade said: “From the outset, Boxpark has always been about championing new and independent street food traders and we’re excited to open this opportunity up to the wider community. We’re looking forward to offering a home to an innovative food concept at Boxpark Croydon.” Entrants have until next Friday (6 April) to enter, with the winner announced on Monday, 9 April on Boxpark Croydon’s social channels. Boxpark Croydon is home to more than 30 foodservice operators, including The Breakfast Club, Mexican brand Chilango and MeatLiquor.

Number of hotel rooms globally increases 17.7% in ten years: The number of hotel rooms globally has grown 17.7% in the past decade, according to new research. Data from STR revealed there are now 184,299 hotels comprising 16,966,280 million rooms around the world, compared with 170,047 hotels comprising 14,419,917 in 2008. “The hotel sector and its rate of return continue to attract real-estate investors – that is evident through the substantial growth in performance metrics and development we have seen over the past decade,” said Robin Rossmann, STR’s international managing director. “While the story is rarely the same for any two markets around the world, the industry as a whole continues to perform at robust levels and we expect continued growth over the coming years.” The data also showed the global hotel industry recorded an average occupancy level of 67.5% for the 12 months ending February 2018, which was a 1.6% increase from the previous 12 months. Average daily rate grew 2.6% during that 12-month period to $122.96.

Paul Waterson steps down as SLTA chief executive: Paul Waterson has stepped down as chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) after 16 years. Waterson, who joined the body in 1982, was succeeded by long-standing secretary Colin Wilkinson at the group’s annual general meeting. Waterson has led the association during a period of momentous change for the Scottish licensed trade, including the introduction of the smoking ban in 2006 and the overhaul of Scotland’s liquor licensing laws with the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, which came into effect in 2009. Waterson said the association’s most momentous achievements included its successful campaign to usher in a minimum unit price for alcohol in Scotland and the decision by the Scottish government to cap business rates rises for the first two years following the 2017 revaluation of non-domestic properties. Waterson will continue to carry out media work for the group, reports Herald Scotland. The SLTA is chaired by Jim Grierson, former sales director of drinks distributor Maxxium UK, with members including former Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill. Former Gleneagles chairman Peter Lederer is the group’s patron.

Plans submitted for £3.5m Manchester food hall: Plans have been submitted for a new-build food hall in Urmston, Greater Manchester, in a bid to lead a food-led resurgence of the area. The M41 market hall would comprise 12 food and drink operators positioned around an informal central seating area of between 160 and 180 covers. Operating partners would have a strong focus on independents from across the region. Developer McGoff Group hopes to start construction in August ahead of a launch in spring next year. Outline planning consent has already been approved, with the company pledging to invest £3.5m in the project. McGoff Group director Chris McGoff told Insider Media: “Anticipation is already mounting in Urmston for the new food market hall, with lots of interest from locals in terms of timings and enquiries from potential operators, which is great to see so early on. We want M41 to reflect Urmston’s vibrancy and increasing desirability as a great place to live, work and play. We have worked closely with the local community to establish their views and understand their feedback regarding the concept, building design and product offering.”

Company News:

SSP to open debut UK airport Bottega Prosecco Bar, at Birmingham airport: UK transport hub foodservice specialist SSP Group has partnered with Italian drinks brand Bottega for its debut UK airport site. The first Bottega Prosecco Bar will open at Birmingham airport this week. Deeply rooted in the Italian tradition of fine wine and food, Bottega Prosecco Bar will offer a selection of wine along with traditional finger food and specialities. The bar at Birmingham will feature a selection of dishes popular with airport passengers and an Italian breakfast menu. SSP UK and Ireland chief executive Simon Smith said: “We are delighted to be working with Bottega, which is a wonderful premium brand and a great addition to our portfolio. This is definitely prosecco’s time, and this new bar is completely on trend.” Sandro Bottega, owner and managing director of Bottega, added: “This concept, which aims to promote and enhance the reputation of our country, reflects the core values of Bottega. We also believe in the pairing of food and drink, which is why we have created our own food and wine combinations. I am particularly delighted to partner with SSP, whose knowledge and experience in the airport market and knowledge of the travelling consumer will, I’m sure, help to ensure the success of this new venture.” Richard Gill, acting commercial director of Birmingham airport, said: “We are delighted to have worked with the SSP and Bottega teams to open the first Bottega Prosecco Bar in a UK airport. This brings something very different to the choice of food and beverage within the airport and will further ensure our passengers have a great experience while travelling through Birmingham airport.” The bar is the 11th Bottega has opened worldwide. The Bottega Prosecco Bar made its debut on board Viking Line cruise ship Cinderella in 2014 and has since opened variations of the concept ar Resorts World in Birmingham, in the Seychelles, Abu Dhabi and Milan among others.

Michel and Alain Roux to open restaurant at Edinburgh hotel: Michel Roux and his son Alain are set to open a restaurant in Edinburgh, at The Balmoral hotel in May. Alain will take up the role of signature chef at the new brasserie and bar that will replace Hadrian’s Brasserie and The Balmoral Bar as part of a £3m renovation that launched at the start of the year. He currently retains three Michelin stars at The Waterside Inn, the only restaurant in the world outside France to have upheld this accolade for more than 30 years. The new space, which will cater for 210 covers across the restaurant and bar, will offer classic French dishes inspired by Scottish ingredients. Alain Roux told Boutique Hotelier: “This new brasserie will be defined by a seasonally changing menu rooted in French bistro dishes in the classic modern style. It will be an exciting menu, informed by my French heritage but totally inspired by Scotland.” Michel Roux added: “We are thrilled to be opening in Edinburgh, the epicentre of Scottish culture and a thoroughly modern city. It is a formidable synergy, an exciting new venture and we can’t wait to welcome our first customers.”

Zonal reports operating profit boost as turnover increases 20.5%: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal Retail Data Systems has reported turnover increased 20.5% to £54.3m for the year ending 30 June 2017, compared with £45.1m the previous year. Operating profit before tax rose to £4.0m, compared with £3.5m the year before. The company said profits and both gross and operating margin were up despite significant increase in investment in new product development fully included in operating expenses. Its Software As A Service sales revenue increased 62% year-on-year while investment in research and development increased 27% to £4.9m, compared with £3.8m the year before. During the period, Zonal continued to enjoy strong sales and the rapid expansion of its customer base, with installations at more than 1,800 new locations. This growth is continuing into the new financial year, with the company recently securing several new contracts within the wider hospitality environment and a significant future sales pipeline. Zonal said its investment in Cardiff-based High Level Software, the management solution provider for the hotel sector, was also reaping benefits as the company continued to deploy its technology in hotels and sectors of hospitality beyond pubs, bars and restaurants. Zonal also launched its Marketing Technologies division, specialising in online marketing services and mobile app technology. Chief executive Stuart McLean said: “We remain focused on research and development with plans to launch innovative products during 2018, which will secure our position as the market leader of technology solutions to the hospitality industry. It’s an exciting time for the industry as technology becomes a key part of the consumer out-of-home experience, with the growth in pre-order, mobile ordering and food delivery. We will continue to extend our integrated product offer to meet these trends and broaden our customer reach through further strategic acquisitions.”  

Popular Manchester bars to reopen after innovative deal: Three Manchester bars that went into liquidation in January are set to reopen, thanks to an innovative deal that will see new operators take over the premises. Odd bar and The Blue Pig in the Northern Quarter, along with Oddest bar in Chorlton, all closed suddenly in early January. Duff & Phelps were appointed as liquidators. The venues are now set to reopen after Charterfields, the valuations specialist appointed to dispose of the assets, persuaded the landlords of all three buildings to co-operate while new tenants could be found – therefore retaining value in the stock and assets. A deal has been struck with two established bar operators to acquire the assets and take over the properties. Odd and Oddest have been taken over by Matt Nickson, founder of Northern Quarter music venue Matt & Phred’s, with business partner Adam Regan, while the Blue Pig has been taken over by Mark Andrew Developments (MAD), which operates a portfolio of sites in the city. All three venues are set to reopen soon. Ian Maycock, director at Charterfields, said: “Normally when a bar fails, either the landlords or the liquidators immediately remove and sell the assets. However, we recognised in this case, it would be better for all concerned to keep the bars’ assets together rather than selling them piecemeal – particularly given the location and high-profile nature of these venues. Fortunately, the landlords immediately saw the benefits of our suggestion and agreed to co-operate with us. It has taken us just eight weeks to complete negotiations and hand the keys over to the new operators.” Jimmy Saunders, of Duff & Phelps, added: “We are pleased that in difficult circumstances, Charterfields’ collaborative approach has helped to secure the future of these three popular venues. It should be a model for others to follow.”

McDonald’s forms council to improve chicken welfare: McDonald’s has formed a council dedicated to helping the company meet its chicken welfare and sustainability goals. The newly formed Chicken Sustainability Advisory Council is made up of a consortium of experts including key suppliers, genetics experts, sustainability advisors and academics. The council will advise McDonald’s on how to source chickens raised humanely while also ensuring suppliers carry out sustainable practices. One of its commitments will be to “require chickens to be raised in housing environments that promote natural behaviours” by 2024, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. Nicola Robinson, a veterinary surgeon and senior manager for global sustainability at McDonald’s, said the creation of the council was a significant milestone in the company’s efforts to create a sustainable food system for its 37,000 restaurants. McDonald’s will begin eliminating chicken that has been treated with antibiotics, which has been defined as a high priority by the World Health Organisation, in a bid to eliminate that supply by 2027. The chicken sustainability initiative is part of McDonald’s Scale For Good project to tackle global climate change. As part of the movement, McDonald’s recently announced a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 36% by 2030. In January, the company vowed to source all its packaging products from renewable and recycled sources by 2025. The company also plans to phase out foam packaging by the end of the year.

Dutton Cuisine to open third Lake District restaurant in early summer: Lake District-based Dutton Cuisine is to open its third site in the region in the early summer. The company, led by Ian Dutton, purchased the Lighthouse Restaurant in the centre of Windermere village in July for £1.65m. The three-storey venue will reopen as Brown Sugar once its extensive refurbishment has been completed. The company has also launched a website to bring all Dutton Cuisine’s business interests under one platform. Dutton said: “2017 was a tremendously positive and award-winning year for us and we’re building on that success with the opening of Brown Sugar and the launch of the new website. We are experiencing tremendous growth and success. These are exciting times for us and, indeed, for the local community with the upcoming relaunch of an iconic Windermere business.” Dutton Cuisine’s other restaurants are The Pig in Windermere and the Village Bar & Grill in Bowness.

Vegan fast food concept The Vurger Co opens permanent site following Crowdcube’s fastest restaurant fund-raise: Vegan fast food concept The Vurger Co has opened its debut permanent site following Crowdcube’s fastest restaurant fund-raise. In July, founders Rachel Hugh and Neil Potts offered a 23.08% equity stake on the crowdfunding platform as it looked to raise £180,000 to open its first bricks-and-mortar site following a series of pop-ups and appearances at markets and festivals. It hit that target within 30 hours of launch and closed the campaign having reached its overfunding target of £300,000 from 284 investors in only 77 hours – 66% more than the brand’s target. The 30-cover restaurant has launched in Richmix Square, Shoreditch, offering four varieties of vegan burger, mac ‘n’ cheese and milkshakes alongside Canyon Coffee, beer, wine and soft drinks. Following the fund-raise, Hugh and Potts said: “We just love that everyone has got behind our mission, believed in us and our team, and understood how much of an impact our concept can have on the future of food.”

Revere to reopen historic Godstone pub in May: Marston’s Revere Pub Company is to reopen the White Hart in Godstone, Surrey, in May following an extensive refurbishment. Marston’s acquired the pub from Whitbread, which was operating the venue as a Beefeater, last summer and will reopen it as The White Hart On Godstone Green on Friday, 4 May. The 16th century former coaching inn will now feature a restaurant and bar, a central decked courtyard, a terrace and two private dining rooms. The restaurant will offer Josper-grilled steak, wood-fired pizza and Sunday roast alongside cocktails, mocktails, wine, craft beer and local ale. Period fireplaces have been retained to sit alongside teal banquettes, copper accents, Edison bulbs and glass-cage lighting.

The Cat’s Pyjamas to open third site, in York: Indian kitchen and craft beer concept The Cat’s Pyjamas is to open its third site, this time in York. Owner and managing director Alison White will open her latest venue in Cumberland Street on the site of the former Nazar Turkish restaurant, reports York Mix. The concept’s inspiration is taken from carts and street-side vendors found across India. The site will see White work with agency Mystery for the first time, “looking to move the brand forward before launching our fourth and fifth sites later this year”. The menu has been developed in collaboration with a number of established Indian chefs. The Cat’s Pyjamas currently operates two sites in Leeds.

Starbucks evolves Happy Hour promotion: Starbucks is evolving its Happy Hour promotion for the first time since it was introduced in 2010. The initiative, available in the US and Canada, will be extended beyond frappuccino to include deals and offers on selected drinks such as espresso and iced tea. The invitation-only offers are also being extended throughout the year. Events and offers will vary so customers will be notified of upcoming activities through the Starbucks mobile app or via email. Starbucks said the evolution was part of the company’s strategy to strengthen digitally-enabled customer relationships beyond its Starbucks Rewards loyalty programme, which currently has almost 15 million active users. “With nearly 100 million customers in our stores every week, we’re looking for more opportunities to engage directly and personally, providing them with special benefits and offers that are meaningful,” said Matt Ryan, executive vice-president and chief strategy officer for Starbucks. “This shift in Happy Hour is just one example of how we can further establish, strengthen and develop digital relationships with our customers.” Earlier this week, the company extended its mobile order-and-pay facility to all mobile app users, a feature previously available only to Starbucks Rewards members.

Slim’s Healthy Kitchen to open third Northern Ireland site: Slim’s Healthy Kitchen, which was founded by Gary McIldowney in 2013 and operates two sites in Belfast, is to open a third venue in Northern Ireland. Brothers Conor and Ryan McGlone, whose family operates Secrets Nightclub and Dorman’s and Mary’s bars in Northern Ireland, have signed a franchise deal with Slim’s Healthy Kitchen to open a site in their home town of Magherafelt in County Londonderry. The 70-cover, 2,800 square foot restaurant will open in Market Street this spring, creating 20 jobs. Conor McGlone told Insider Media: “We have been looking for the right business opportunity for a while. We always eat at Slim’s when we are in Belfast so it was a perfect fit to bring our favourite restaurant closer to home.” McIldowney added: “With Ryan and Conor’s experience and the drive and commitment from my team, we are confident of building a viable and profitable lasting relationship.” In February 2017, Slim’s Healthy Kitchen closed six of its eight sites in Northern Ireland in a reorganisation of its business, leaving only the two current Belfast venues open.

Fuller’s joins Refill campaign: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has registered its 397 pubs as Refill stations on the Refill campaign app. Started by Bristol-based City to Sea in 2015, Refill is a national tap water campaign that aims to make refilling water bottles as convenient as possible, by introducing Refill stations. Refill stations can be any business and will show on the Refill app, to notify passers-by they can fill their water bottles with tap water for free. It’s an incentive to reduce the number of plastic bottles used and subsequently thrown away. Jonathon Swaine, managing director of Fuller’s Inns, said: “This is a fantastic initiative and a great cause. I am thrilled we are the first pub company to be working with the team at Refill and I am keen to help it spread the word of this campaign.”

London-based chefs open Finsbury Park sandwich shop: London-based chefs Ian Macintosh and Michael Spurgeon, who own the Heirloom restaurant and Nickel bar respectively in Crouch End, have partnered to open a sandwich shop in Finsbury Park. They have launched The Black Hamburg in Stroud Green Road. It offers a simple menu of two hot sandwiches – the Smokey beef shin with house-made kimchi, fermented chilli and Ogleshield cheese; and the vegetarian double-grilled Ogleshield cheese with Keen’s cheddar, kimchi and hot sauce, fermented in-house alongside a rotating cast of specials. The menu will change frequently based on seasonal ingredients. The venue’s black and stripped back interiors reflect the concept’s simple menu. Macintosh said: “Ask any chef and they will tell you – no matter how high-end the cuisine you are cooking, we all love fast food!”

Former Soho House chef launches neighbourhood wine bar and restaurant in Camberwell: Former Soho House chef Paul Williamson has launched wine bar and restaurant Good Neighbour in Camberwell for his first solo venture. The venue has opened in Camberwell Church Street at a site formerly occupied by Cannon & Cannon’s bar bottle shop and British deli concept Nape. Williamson has changed the layout of the space, converting the cellar into a private dining room and a further dining area that offers room for almost twice as many customers as before. The core of the menu focuses on cheese, charcuterie and pizzettes such as chorizo picante with burrata, and wild mushroom with truffle, green olive and rocket, Hot Dinners reports. There are also larger sharing plates such as chicken, pancetta and pistachio meatballs in tomato sauce. Wine is another focus, with five picked out on a specials section alongside craft beer and cocktails.

Drake & Morgan extends vegetarian options as part of new spring/summer menu: Drake & Morgan, the London-based bar and restaurant group backed by Bowmark Capital, has launched a new all-day spring/summer menu that includes a range of salads, created in collaboration with London-based Kiwi chef, restaurateur and food writer Peter Gordon. Gordon has created five salads exclusively for the 22-strong group, which has venues in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. Drake & Morgan has also introduced more vegan and vegetarian options on its all-day and breakfast menus with new dishes including a flat mushroom burger with smoked vegan mozzarella, tomato and beetroot hummus. The cocktail list has also had an extensive, botanical makeover for spring. Drake & Morgan managing director and founder Jillian MacLean said: “Our aim is to constantly evolve and provide new and exciting choices for our lovely customers who are the backbone of our business. We wanted to show that salads need not be boring and Peter’s inventive approach to food made him the perfect partner for us – it’s been a real pleasure working with him.”

Former Novikov head chef launches gyoza bar in Mayfair: Jeff Tyler, who was head chef of renowned London restaurant Novikov for five years, has launched gyoza bar concept Titu in Mayfair’s Shepherd Market. To suit its 15-cover space, Titu offers a pared-back menu with gyoza such as wagyu beef and black pepper and spicy prawn that will change according to the season. Other dishes include crispy chicken wings, soft shell crab salad and tonka bean beignet for dessert, Hot Dinners reports. Every dish at the all-day restaurant is available to take away, while there is a separate breakfast offering on weekdays featuring dishes such as green tea pancakes and egg with asparagus soldiers and watercress.

Brighton-based vegan pizzeria Purezza starts expansion with Camden launch: Brighton-based vegan pizzeria Purezza has started expansion by opening a second site, in Camden, north west London. Stefania Evangelisti and Tim Barclay launched the concept in St James’s Street, Brighton, in 2015, claiming to be the UK’s first vegan pizzeria. The company has signed a new 20-year lease for its site in Camden’s Parkway, which was formerly occupied by Market restaurant. It offers 100 covers set across two floors. Purezza’s entirely vegan menu includes wholegrain sourdough pizza, pasta, and raw and gluten-free dishes. Evangelisti said: “A London-based Purezza has always been an ambition of ours. We are delighted to have acquired the Camden site, bringing our pioneering food into the capital.” Earlier this year, Purezza said it had “aggressive expansion plans” and was seeking investment to grow into other cities around the UK.

Hook Norton Brewery appoints Michelin-starred chef to head Chipping Norton kitchen: Hook Norton Brewery has appointed Michelin-starred chef Matt Weedon as head chef at The Fox in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. Weedon, who earned Michelin stars at two of the restaurants he headed, plans a series of new menus and dishes including steak and Hooky Ale shortcrust pastry pie, arancini risotto balls and Old Hooky beer bread with marmite butter. Weedon said: “I’m excited to be joining the team at The Fox and looking forward to driving the food and service forward using the very best of local, quality suppliers to produce a menu fitting for our location in the Cotswolds.” Hook Norton Brewery operations manager Gerard Winder added: “We have always strived to offer high-quality, honest, locally sourced food and with Matt now on board we can really drive this up a level. We have exciting plans with new menus and more beer and food matching.”

Former JD Wetherspoon pub in Norwich reopens as boutique bowling alley and restaurant: A former JD Wetherspoon pub in Norwich has reopened as a boutique bowling alley and restaurant. Fledgling company Bowling House has transformed the venue in Dereham Road to feature five bowling lanes, a restaurant and a bar offering wine, beer, spirits and cocktails. Bowling House managing director Jack Thompson told the Eastern Daily Press: “We’re so excited to be bringing something unique to Norwich. The building has been transformed. We’ve assembled a great team. It’s been a really quick turnaround, work started in January so they’ve done a really good job. It’s a really nice building, it just needed some TLC.” The venue was last occupied by all-you-can-eat Asian buffet Merge, which closed in November 2016. Originally the Regal cinema, the building housed a bingo hall and casino before becoming derelict. JD Wetherspoon took over the venue and opened it as the City Gates in 1999.

Big Moose Coffee Co launches debut cafe to help the homeless, in Cardiff: Charity initiative Big Moose Coffee Co has launched its first cafe, at St David’s leisure complex in Cardiff. The 65-cover, 1,552 square foot venue has been launched in conjunction with leisure complex owner St David’s Partnership. Employees include those affected by homelessness who are supported by Welsh charity Llamau. A seven-day kick-starter campaign raised more than £30,000 in donations. Founded by father and daughter Jeff and Chloe Smith, Big Moose Coffee Co helps homeless and other disadvantaged people get back into work. Jeff Smith said: “We are passionate about supporting these people and setting them up to get a new start in life. The St David’s cafe will be a great location for our baristas to learn new skills and gain experience interacting with customers in a busy commercial centre.”

Michael O’Hare to relaunch The Rabbit In The Moon on Thursday: Chef Michael O’Hare is to relaunch his Manchester restaurant The Rabbit In The Moon on Thursday (29 March) featuring a “stronger and bolder menu”. The restaurant, which is in the Urbis Building in Corporation Street, will feature a new Asian-inspired tasting menu that will “encapsulate intense flavours that come through in each serving”. Set dishes will include langoustine toast, soy and ginger-glazed pork cheek, and fillet of beef with salt and pepper prawn. Desserts will include peppercorn eclair. The wine list will feature a mix of popular bins alongside unusual bottles from England, China and Japan. The interiors have been enhanced to add “elegant and sophisticated elements that combine to create a highly intimate dining space”. O’Hare, who also operates Michelin-starred restaurant The Man Behind The Curtain in Leeds, will lead the relaunched kitchen himself. The Rabbit In The Moon is part of GG Hospitality, co-owned by former Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, for which O’Hare is creative director. The team is collaborating on two further restaurants that are due to open in Manchester – The Man Who Fell To Earth and Are Friends Electric.

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