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Mon 25th Mar 2019 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Mr & Mrs Smith co-founder seeks investment for premium delivery concept: Andrew Grahame, the co-founder of Mr & Mrs Smith, the boutique hotels specialist, is seeking to raise £1m through an Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) to back The Cook & The Thief, his delivery concept for high-end restaurants, including those with Michelin stars. The business, in which Grahame has invested more than £300,000 of his own money and spent the past four years working on, aims to serve the premium end of the burgeoning food delivery market. It will initially focus on London but then aims to roll out to other cities and countries. The food will be delivered by uniformed drivers on scooters and will be transported using soon-to-be-patented technology developed by the company so it arrives in restaurant condition. The business has a pre-money valuation of £2.95m. According to the company, the technology stops the food being “sloshed around and there is a heater to ensure it is at the right temperature”. The company is seeking to raise £1m under EIS to fund staffing, marketing and packaging costs to launch its service, initially with a soft launch this summer followed by a live launch in the autumn. To date, £1.2m has been raised to develop the company’s intellectual property. Its proprietary scooter-based technology is centred around a suspended “housing” device that stabilises food during transport – “a box within the box” on the back of a delivery scooter. This allows the food to be better isolated and protected from movements caused by the vehicle on the road. The technology has been tested and approved by Michelin-starred chef Ollie Dabbous, with more than 55 dishes tested from the kitchen of his restaurant. It has also developed its own high-end tableware, made of fully compostable bagasse, which allows chefs to serve and present dishes in the same manner as in-restaurant. The company said market reception from restaurants has been strong – more than 40 have been engaged, including Hawksmoor, The Cinnamon Club, Barrafina, Yauatcha, The Wolseley and Ceviche. Revenues are expected to be derived from commission on each order paid by the restaurant partners. This is a similar model employed by other larger players in the market. The Cook & The Thief’s commissions will be set at a higher level, a minimum of 30%, to reflect the premium nature of the service.

Industry News: 

Propel Premium subscribers to receive updated multi-site companies list and Duncan Garrood video: Subscribers to Propel Premium will receive an updated version of the database of multi-site companies on Wednesday, 3 April. Another 100 businesses have been added to the list, taking the total to 1,400. Meanwhile, subscribers will receive a 30-minute video on Friday (29 March) of Ten Entertainment Group chief executive Duncan Garrood giving his views on leadership and the customer experience. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences, and regular columns from insights editor Mark Wingett. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

CGA – delivery boosting sales but a risk to reputation: The soaring popularity of delivery is helping many restaurants to grow their sales, but it might be compromising consumers’ perception of their brands, according to findings from the 2019 Business Leaders’ Survey from CGA and CPL Online. The report reveals half (52%) of businesses now offer a third-party delivery service – a number that has rocketed in the past few years. The poll of circa 175 industry bosses indicated delivery is boosting sales and to a lesser extent loyalty. Nearly three quarters (73%) said it has a positive impact on sales, compared with just 4% who think it has a negative impact. The report also found fewer bosses (33%) believe delivery is benefiting loyalty, but it is still a net positive score, with just 8% thinking it is harming return business. But the survey also highlighted the risk that delivery can damage the reputation of a brand, especially if it is executed badly. Only one in five leaders (19%) said delivery has a positive impact on consumers’ brand perception – lower than those who think it has a negative (20%) or neutral (61%) impact. More than four in five leaders (83%) think consumers’ frequency of ordering through third party delivery platforms will increase. In contrast, only one in ten (10%) thinks the frequency of visits to their restaurants, pubs or bars will increase. CGA director Karl Chessell said: “The rise of third-party delivery platforms such as Deliveroo and UberEats is having a seismic impact on many restaurants’ business models. But our survey makes clear that it is a double-edged sword. Operators are having to weigh up the positive short-term impact on sales with the danger of compromising their brand and reducing restaurant footfall in the long run. Leaders will be watching delivery sales patterns with great care in 2019, and it will be fascinating to see where this crucial trend goes next.”

European hotel industry reports 2% revpar growth in February: The European hotel industry saw year-on-year rises in revpar, average daily rate and occupancy in February, according to the latest data from STR. Revpar rose 2.0% year-on-year to €65.34, while average daily rate increased 1.9% to €100.60. Occupancy was up 0.1% to 65.0%, compared with February 2018. Data this month focused on two cities – Edinburgh and St Petersburg. In Edinburgh, revpar fell 12.3% to £52.18 while average daily rate dropped 10.7% to £74.40. Occupancy was down 1.8% to 70.1%. STR analysts noted that although performance was down year-on-year, the absolute levels in the metrics were well above February averages for the market. Supply, which was up 6.2%, outgrew demand, which was up 4.2%, and pressured occupancy and average daily rate alike. Meanwhile, St Petersburg saw revpar in the month rise 9.5% to a record February level of RUB1,877.22, while average daily rate was up 2.6% to RUB4,128.27 and occupancy rose 6.7% to 45.5%. Strong demand growth of 6.5% against a slight fall in supply of 0.2% helped the overall performance. 
 
Job of the week: COREcruitment is seeking a “specialist with a strong finance background” to oversee an international hospitality group with a turnover of more than £150m. The position involves managing a team of more than 50 across head office and remote sites with responsibility for budgeting, forecasting, strategy, and the day-to-day elements of the business. The position offers a salary of circa £130,000 and is flexible in terms of location, with an immediate start. For more details and a confidential chat, email hollie@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Grind targets £3.5m as crowdfunding campaign nears £3m mark: Coffee and cocktail brand Grind is aiming to raise £3.5m in its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as the campaign closes in on the £3m mark. The company smashed its initial target of £1,350,000 within 24 hours of the campaign going public, with Grind offering 6.12% of its equity for the investment, giving the firm a £34m pre-money valuation. So far, 1,353 investors have pledged £2,988,670. Although the campaign still has 17 days to run, Grind chief executive and founder David Abrahamovitch said it would close early – at £3.5m of funds raised or at midnight on Sunday, 31 March, whichever came soonest. He said: “Now well over double our initial target, the raise has exceeded our expectations. This means there is less than £600,000 of investment left in Grind in what is likely to be our last round of crowdfunding. With all the plans we have for the next 18 months, we want everyone who would like to invest in Grind and earn rewards to be able to.” Grind’s 2018 annual sales were £9.4m, with site Ebitda of £1.6m and Ebitda of £300,000. It had 19% like-for-like sale growth in 2018. It has just launched Grind Pods for Nespresso machine, selling 60,000 already. Grind is looking to grow to 36 sites by 2022 through a mixture of equity raised from its crowdfunding campaign, free cash flow and debt. About 15 of the proposed venues will be franchise sites. Grind is beginning its next phase of expansion with six central London openings in the next 18 months – taking its portfolio to 16 – plus a new coffee-roasting facility. The company is understood to expect turnover to hit £11m this April and £17m by April 2020. The pitch states: “We ended 2018 with about £1m in the bank but the changing high street means we’re being offered more properties in prime locations than ever before, so we’re raising funds to capitalise on these opportunities.”
 
Mcelroy steps down from Whitbread Restaurants: Richard Mcelroy has stepped down as national operations director at Whitbread Restaurants, after ten years with the circa 415-strong business, Propel has learned. Mcelroy joined the business from Costa Coffee at the start of 2009, and as national operations director was accountable for the operational and commercial performance of brands including Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Bar and Block, Table Table and Whitbread Inns. He was also a member of the Premier Inn and Restaurants executive team. Propel understands HR director Paul Mitford, who has been with Whitbread for more than six and a half years, has also left the company. Mitford, who joined Whitbread from JJB Sports, was responsible for HR across more than 600 Premier Inn hotels and 400 restaurants. Earlier this month, Propel revealed the departure of Premier Inn acquisitions manager Joanna Moon as part of a number of changes to the company’s management team. The changes involve streamlining of roles following the sale of Costa Coffee to Coca-Cola. Alex Flach has an expanded role, UK development director, which includes property acquisitions and construction. Mark Anderson will continue to run the overall property and international function within Whitbread, while acquisition work in the UK and Ireland will be driven by Derek Griffin, who is head of London and south east England, and Kevin Murray, who is head of north and Ireland.

Le Pain Quotidien to give entire service charge to staff: Belgian restaurant and boulangerie brand Le Pain Quotidien is ending its practice of pocketing some of the service charge left by customers for its staff. Currently, all bills have a 12.5% service charge added as standard – but 40p in every £1 of this is kept by the company. That rate was cut from 60p in the £1 in November. From next month, the whole service charge will be distributed in a “fair” way among staff in Le Pain Quotidien’s 30 UK sites in and around London. The government has promised to pass laws to end the practice of restaurants keeping tips – but these have yet to materialise. Dave Turnbull, Unite regional officer, told The Mail on Sunday: “It’s good [Le Pain Quotidien] has at last woken up to the need to be fair and transparent on tips and service charge. We very much hope other companies will follow Le Pain Quotidien’s lead.” A Le Pain Quotidien spokeswoman said: “We have been working with an independent management company to distribute the service charge in total in a fair and equitable way for all participants.”

Young joins Wadworth as operations director: Nick Young, who stepped down as chief operating officer of better burger brand Byron last year, has joined Wiltshire-based brewer and retailer Wadworth as its new operations director, Propel has learned. Young, who has also become a board member at the Chris Welham-led business, joined Byron in the summer of 2017 from Aubaine, the all-day French restaurant and bakery business, where as chief executive he oversaw the transformation of the business. Young’s career includes a spell as commercial director at Moto Hospitality and managing director of O’Brien’s Sandwich Bars. He joined PizzaExpress in 2006 and as operations director played a key part in driving the strategic development of the business and leading the operations team through a period of accelerated growth. Young then spent five years as operations director for the 775-strong managed pub estate at Spirit Pub Company, where he was part of the management team that transformed the business, culminating with a record-breaking year in 2015. At the end of last year, Wadworth appointed Alison Skedd as its new finance director. She replaced Graeme Percy, who left the company after ten years. Wadworth announced last year it would focus on its core brewing and pub business following a restructure.

Chik’n founders to open second site having reinvigorated concept after ‘almost failing’: Chik’n, the fried chicken fast food concept, will open its second site, in Soho in May, having been reinvigorated by its founders after “almost failing”. Chik’n, which was launched in July 2017 with the backing of Active Partners, has secured the BRGR site in Wardour Street. The “2.0 version” of Chik’n will feature new Chik’n chops and “samurai” sauces as well as craft beer and soda. The Straight Up chicken sandwich has been “honed to within an inch of its life”, while the flavours have been “dialled up” to reflect the brand’s DNA. Carl Clarke, who founded Chik’n with David Wolanski, said: “Let’s be honest, in the beginning we were pretty rubbish – we got a fair bit of it wrong. It was as if Specsavers did fried chicken. We didn’t know what we were doing as Chik’n was totally different to the traditional restaurant model we knew. It’s been an emotional journey, but now we know better. This is fast food not rushed food. This is future fast food.” Clarke admitted the brand almost failed in the beginning, located in a site surrounded by major quick service competitors and struggling with a young workforce the company trained from scratch. He added: “The brand didn’t really feel like ours but we’ve worked hard to create a menu and a brand identity packed with personality, attitude, big flavours, and good sourcing. We’re still here today thriving among the giants.” Wolanski said of the opening: “Being a born and bred Londoner, Soho has always been a part of my personal and professional life. Carl lost most of the 1990s in Soho joints, once stage-diving in Madame Jojo’s and landing on none other than Elton John. We’re delighted to be back. It’s going to be fantastic to be so central and in a place that teems with life.” The debut Chik’n site is in Baker Street and is the sister concept of Chick ‘n’ Sours, which operates three sites in the capital.

Andrea Reitano to open two Italian restaurants in London next month as portfolio hits six: Italian entrepreneur Andrea Reitano is to open two restaurants in London next month, doubling his portfolio in the capital. Reitano, who also operates venues in Milan and Miami, will launch seafood restaurant Santo Mare in Marylebone specialising in produce sourced from Mediterranean dayboats. The 100-cover restaurant will open in George Street on Thursday, 4 April inspired by the style of an Italian pescheria, with a palette of jade, gold, and cherry wood and a 25-cover summer terrace. Signature dishes will include whole salt-crusted sea bass and homemade gnocchi with red prawns. Wine will come from Italy and France. Reitano will then launch Osteria Napoletana in Notting Hill on Thursday, 11 April. The venue will be a sister site to Osteria Romana in Knightsbridge but will focus on humble dishes from Italy’s Campania region rather than Rome. The 32-cover restaurant in Kensington Park Road will champion the farmers of Naples, with native pasta dishes and pizza. Fish will be sourced from Neapolitan dayboats, while desserts will include a ricotta cheesecake alongside a fully Italian wine list. Reitano said he plans to expand his osteria concept across London focusing on various food regions of Italy through his new company, Reinvest. His other London restaurant is Caffè Rei in Mayfair. Naples-born Reitano, 25, recently launched Panta Rei, which produces Tuscan olive oil, prosecco and limoncello, and owns marketing company Social Ask.

Burger King backer takes slice of Domino’s Pizza: A US fund that sits on the board of the company behind Burger King is building a stake in Domino’s Pizza as the chain hopes to break the deadlock in a spat with franchisees. Representatives from Asteya Partners, whose co-founder Ali Hedayat is on the board of Restaurant Brands ­International (RBI), have met with Domino’s management to discuss the situation, reports The Sunday Telegraph. The fund is building up a stake in Domino’s with the aim of becoming a substantial institutional backer of the £1bn chain. Hedayat has sat on the board of RBI, the $29bn (£22bn) company that also owns Tim Hortons and Popeyes, since 2016. Last week Domino’s “strongly refuted” claims it had been misleading investors over relations with some of the franchisees that run the company’s 1,100 stores in the UK. Chief executive David Wild said earlier this month franchisee relations were “definitely better”. But such statements were reported to have enraged members of the Domino’s Franchisee Association, which claimed Wild and the company’s board were “at total odds” with them. A Domino’s spokesman said: “We welcome feedback and insight from all shareholders. US-based shareholders have significant experience of franchise businesses and are willing to provide advice on franchisee engagement.”
 
Bread Ahead to use new Wembley site as blueprint as it looks to open bigger venues: Matthew Jones, owner of independent bakery and baking school Bread Ahead, has told Propel its new site at Wembley will be the blueprint as it looks to open larger venues in the capital. Jones will launch the 12,000 square foot venue at Quintain’s new £3bn urban development in the autumn. It will feature a 220-cover restaurant, deli, baking school and wholesale bakery. The move marks a major step up in size for the company, which launched in Borough Market in 2013 and has since added branches in Chelsea and Soho. Jones said: “It is amazing to secure such a big space in that part of London. It means we can do so much more in terms of the bakery school and events as well as the restaurant. We're definitely going to go for bigger sites in future. I go to the States quite a lot and seeing what some of those bakery companies are doing is inspiring.” Jones said the company expects to turn over between £5m and £6m for the year to 31 March 2019 but believes that figure could be circa £10m next year with the addition of the Wembley site. He added the immediate focus was on the new venue but the company would look to add to its estate in 2020 and 2021, with another central London site among his targets. Jones also revealed the company had received approaches regarding outside investment but they were of “no interest”. He added: “That would take us in a direction we don’t want to go – I like my independence. We’ve also had approaches to go abroad but I’ve said no to that too – at least for now!”

Oodles Chinese aims for ten more sites by 2020 as it prepares to open seventh, in Nottingham: Indo-Chinese concept Oodles Chinese is aiming to open another ten sites by 2020 as it prepares to launch its seventh, in Nottingham. The company is opening the 30-seater venue in Mansfield Road on Saturday (30 March). Oodles serves Indo-Chinese dishes such as Malaysian chicken, chilli chicken, Chinese lamb curry, chilli prawns, teriyaki chicken, Schezuan beef stir fry and crispy prawns. Side options include vegetable spring rolls, Chinese fried wings and prawn crackers. The brand is certificated halal and also offers vegetarian options. Director Mohammed Umar told Nottinghamshire Live: “We are delighted to open our first store in Nottingham, which is well overdue and definitely due to demand. Our aim now going forward is to really drive our expansion and want this Mansfield Road store to be the first of a long chain in the region, creating jobs for the locality." Oodles Chinese has two sites in Leicester and one in each of Birmingham, Bolton, Derby and Luton
 
BrewDog to open three bars on Friday: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog will strengthen its UK and international bar estate by opening three sites on the same day. The company will open venues on Friday (29 March) in Dalston, east London, Paris and Peterhead in Scotland. BrewDog Le Marais will be the company’s debut venue in the French capital. The bar will offer 22 taps of craft beer and stone-baked pizza. On the same day, BrewDog will open its long-awaited site in Dalston. The venue in Stoke Newington Road will feature 24 taps from two bars on separate levels as well as its menu of burgers, wings, salads and pizza. Meanwhile, BrewDog Peterhead will also open on Friday. The bar in Marischal Street will feature 18 draught lines and a deli fridge offering takeaway craft beer.
 
KFC takes on imitators in new campaign: KFC has taken a swipe at the “fried chicken pretenders” with a new campaign designed to remind chicken-lovers there is only one place to get the Colonel’s original recipe chicken. The TV advert shows Colonel Sanders hitting the streets to size up imitators who try to match the name and draw inspiration from its logo. However, the Colonel is clear this legion of imitators will never be able to match the “iconic taste of KFC”. For the out-of-home and press element of the campaign, KFC will feature images of the imitator chicken shop brands with the line: “Guys, we’re flattered.” The advert will also run across cinema, social and digital. Meghan Farren, KFC UK and Ireland chief marketing officer, told Marketing Week: “It is flattering to have this entire legion of imitators and we wish every chicken shop out there the best of luck but there’s nowhere else you can get the Colonel’s original recipe. We invest time, effort and skill into freshly hand-breading Kentucky Fried Chicken in our kitchens – all day, every day – and that’s why you can only get KFC at KFC.”

Steak of the Art down to two as it shuts Southampton site: Steak of the Art has reduced its portfolio to two sites after shutting its Southampton restaurant. The company has closed the 170-cover venue in Admiral’s Quay, Ocean Village, reports the Daily Echo. A statement on the company's website said: "It is with an incredibly heavy heart to announce we have stopped trading (in Southampton). We have tried but alas there just wasn’t enough of you to make it work.” The company said its restaurants in Bristol and Cardiff were still trading as normal. Steak of the Art opened in Southampton in February 2016, with the concept based around food being served within a gallery showcasing quality affordable art. The concept had previously proved a success in Cardiff and Bristol and on launch the restaurant had up to 30 pieces of art from the Southampton Arts Society hanging in the venue.

Liverpool-based multi-siters to shut remaining Mr Miyagi sites for new concepts: Liverpool-based multi-siters Ryan McMahon and Alex Hannah are to close the remaining two sites for their Japanese and soul food brand Mr Miyagi to make way for new concepts. McMahon and Hannah will shut the venues in Allerton and Ormskirk, which both launched in 2016, on Sunday, April 7, reports the Liverpool Echo. It comes after the duo shut the debut Mr Miyagi site, in Bold Street in Liverpool in September 2017, which was replaced with Día + Noche – a joint venture with Liverpool DJ Anton Powers and local entrepreneur Mike Welch. A Facebook post on the Mr Miyagi page said: “It is with great sadness Mr M will be closing his doors permanently. We are very proud of all we have created along Mr M's journey. Both Allerton and Ormskirk will be evolving separately, with exciting new concepts.” Mr Miyagi describes itself as “Japanese soul food that meets ghetto Asian with Asian comfort food served to a Motown soundtrack”. It offers Japanese-style food with buns, skewers, fried chicken, small plates and ramen, alongside bespoke cocktails. McMahon and Hannah also operate Mexican restaurant Lucha Libre, and bars Berry & Rye, Jenny’s Bar and Aloha, all in Liverpool.

Park Leisure appoints Harper as new chief executive: York-based luxury holiday park operator Park Leisure 2000 has appointed Mark Harper as its new chief executive. Harper brings more than 30 years’ experience in hospitality and leisure to the role, gained in positions as joint managing director at Bourne Leisure for Haven Caravan Parks and more recently as chief operating officer at Parkdean Resorts. He is also a non-executive director of the South West-based restaurant chain Hubbox. Park Leisure 2000 operates a 12-strong portfolio of luxury holiday parks, with locations in Cornwall, Wales, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Herefordshire and Northumberland. The business recently expanded with the launch of a holiday offering to complement its ownership product, owing to demand from the growing UK staycation market. Harper succeeds outgoing chief executive and co-founder Miles Dewhurst, who stepped down in February following 20 years at the helm, but will remain as an active investor in the business. Harper said: “This is an exciting time to be part of a growing business. As a brand, we offer a real antidote to the intensity of many of our competitors – a more personalised experience with all practicalities taken care of. I have been hugely impressed with the standards on the parks. I am enthused by the clear goals our general managers and our park teams have and I can see there are lots of opportunities for 2019. My job now is to make sure these teams have the right support to achieve these goals.”
 
Micro-brewer Brew Monster closes crowdfunding target to expand portfolio after doubling target: South Wales-based micro-brewer Brew Monster has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to “grow its team, increase capacity and open more venues” after doubling its target. The company was offering 4.54% equity as it sought £50,000 giving the company a pre-money valuation of £1.1m. It has now closed the campaign with 330 investors pledging £100,740. The pitch stated: “Established in 2017, we primarily serve South Wales but have increasingly gained traction nationally, with customers springing up in all the major cities across the UK. In the 16 months since we started brewing, we have grown our group quarterly turnover to more than £70,000 in the last quarter (October to December 2018) generating Ebitda of minus £13,950 in the same period. Due to increasing demand for our products resulting from new customer listings and our own venues, we recently upgraded our brewhouse to a capacity of 3,000 hectolitres per annum and, with our experienced brew team, we plan to continue our growth in 2019. We recently opened a cask-focused micro-pub in Barry in partnership with the manager. The micro-pub has achieved cumulative profitability since opening (net profit of £893, August 2018 to January 2019). We also recently opened a taproom above the brewery, which has achieved cumulative profitability (net profit of £1,330, October 2018 to January 2019). Investment will allow us to appoint a full-time sales manager, increase brewing capacity and open additional venues.”
 
Lussmanns becomes first chain to launch 100% certificated MSC menu: Lussmanns Fish & Grill, the independent brasserie group backed by investor Luke Johnson, has created a fish menu that is 100% certificated by the Marine Conservation Society (MSC). The menu offers nine dishes including the first MSC-certificated monkfish and ling dishes in the foodservice sector. Others to feature include plaice, Manx kipper, cod cheeks and hake. The move means five-strong Lussmanns is the first restaurant chain in the UK to be entirely MSC-friendly. Managing director Andrei Lussmann said: “It has always been a personal mission to have a 100% MSC fish menu by 2019 and I’ve been edging ever closer with each year. I’m delighted we can now offer this to our customers and spreading the sustainable word the Lussmanns way.” MSC partnership manager Loren Miller added: “From the BBC’s Blue Planet to sustainable fish and chip suppers, there is clear interest in our small island in protecting the seas. Lussmanns has worked tirelessly to ensure it’s a market leader in sustainable fish and seafood by using the ‘blue tick’ eco-label on all its dishes.” Hertfordshire-based Lussmanns operates five restaurants in the county – in St Albans, Harpenden, Hertford, Tring and Hitchin. The company is a founding member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and winner of the Food Made Good Awards 2018.
 
Fledgling hotel operator targets five-strong estate by end of year after securing debut site: Fledgling hotel operator The Property Supplier is targeting a five-strong estate by the end of the year after securing its debut site. The company has bought The Lion Hotel in Builth Wells in Powys, Wales. The 18-bedroom hotel in Broad Street overlooks the River Wye. Andrew Whelan, of Fleurets, brokered the deal for the hotel, which was marketed on behalf of a private individual off a guide price of £475,000. The final price was undisclosed. The Property Supplier managing director Shaun O’Neil said: “Having bought The Lion Hotel we want to develop trade to the next level and will engage the community in this process.” The Property Supplier said it was looking to buy a further four hotels throughout the remainder of 2019.
 
MasterChef: The Professionals finalist and former Michel Roux Jr head chef to open debut restaurant: MasterChef: The Professionals finalist and former Michel Roux Jr head chef Oliver Boon is to open his debut restaurant. Boon will launch Italian restaurant Benoli in Norwich this summer. The restaurant will open in Orford Street at a site currently occupied by Italian cafe Presto, which is shutting following owner Robert Cimelli’s decision to retire. Boon told the Norwich Evening News: “I don’t want the restaurant to be seen as fine dining as it is meant to be simple, rustic Italian food with a focus on quality ingredients.” Boon, who has also worked at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze in London, took part in the 2012 series of MasterChef: The Professionals, in which he got to the final alongside Anton Piotrowski, who won the show, and Keri Moss. Following the programme, chef and judge Michel Roux Jr asked Boon to work for him and he went on to become head chef of Roux at The Landau in London’s Regent Street.
 
Lake District-based coffee shop and restaurant to diversify into evenings with second site: Lake District-based coffee shop and restaurant Fellpack is to diversify into evenings with its second site. Fellpack has secured the Pillar House premises in Keswick in a deal brokered by agents Christie & Co. The property, which is set across two floors in Main Street, has seating for 79 customers, with a further 57 accommodated on a large terrace to the rear. Fellpack plans to introduce evening meals and alcoholic drinks alongside the regular daytime food menu. The company has operated a coffee shop and restaurant in nearby Lake Road since 2017.
 
Inamo unveils new menu: London-based futuristic restaurant brand Inamo has unveiled a new menu. It features more than 40 “fresh and reinvented dishes”, including more than 20 vegetarian and 15 vegan items. Dishes include red miso lamb tenderloin, mushroom toban yaki, and black pepper fillet of beef. The yakitori selection includes teriyaki salmon, halloumi and red chilli, and field mushroom with herb butter. The menu is available at its three sites, in Camden, Covent Garden and Soho, from Tuesday (26 March).
  
Great British Menu finalist shuts Cumbrian restaurant and hotel after going into liquidation: Great British Menu finalist Craig Sherrington has shut his Cumbrian restaurant and hotel after it went into liquidation. Sherrington, who appeared on the BBC2 show last year, has closed Virginia House in Ulverston, which is also home to restaurant Craig’s Kitchen. He has owned the venue in Queen Street with wife Louise for three-and-a-half years, reports the North West Evening Mail. The restaurant featured in the Good Food Guide and possessed two AA rosettes. A statement on Facebook said: “With great sadness and a heavy heart we must inform you Virginia House has ceased to trade with immediate effect. We have unfortunately succumbed to the current financial climate.”
 
I am Doner scoops sustainability award: I am Doner, the better takeaway kebab brand that is backed by Think Hospitality, has won the sustainability category at the British Kebab Awards. The brand, which has two sites in Yorkshire, went plastic free with its takeaway packaging and drinks range last year and was recognised in parliament for its work. Since then it has worked with suppliers to reduce incoming plastics and has reduced the percentage of its waste going to landfill by more than 90%.

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