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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 16th May 2019 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Ramsay set for US expansion following new investment: High-profile chef Gordon Ramsay is set to ramp up his presence in the US on the back of a new investment deal. Propel understands the chef is close to concluding a deal with Lion Capital, the private equity firm that formerly backed Wagamama and Loungers, which would provide the backing for him to open up to 100 sites in the US across several different concepts in the next six to seven years. Talks between Lion and Ramsay were reported to have opened last year. The private equity firm, which previously backed Weetabix, is thought to have proposed to back ramping up the high-profile chef’s operations in the US while underpinning his restaurant business in the UK. It’s understood the new investment would also see Ramsay work with a US-based operator/entrepreneur, which would aid expansion across the pond. Last year the chef registered a new trademark, prompting speculation he might launch a chain of burger restaurants. Ramsay registered trademarks for Great Burger in the EU and the US. Ramsay began working with advisors at BDO at the end of 2014 to explore the sale of a circa 50% stake in his restaurant business to help fund its expansion, which at the time operated more than 20 restaurants around the world, before securing new bank funding. The chef’s group currently has about 40 restaurants globally. Since arriving in the US in 2004, Ramsay has become a television phenomenon. His Hell’s Kitchen show launched in the US in May 2005 and has run for 17 series. He has opened 11 restaurants across the US. While at least three of the restaurants have shuttered, several remain open in cities including Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Baltimore, with the chef understood to be generating impressive sales especially through his concepts in Las Vegas such as Gordon Ramsay Steak and Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips.

Industry News:

Full speaker schedule revealed for Propel summer conference and party, two free places for operators: The full speaker schedule for the Propel Multi Club summer conference and party has been revealed. The event takes place on Thursday, 27 June at the Oxford Belfry, which is just off the M40. The speaker line-up is The NPD Group insights director Dominic Allport; Farmer J founder Jonathan Recanati; Ted Kennedy, owner of Pebble Hotels and veteran operator of pub assets; Three Joes co-founder Tim Hall; Las Iguanas chief executive Mos Shamel; Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna; Think Hospitality founder James Hacon; Mario C Bauer, AmRest brand ambassador, Curtice Brothers co-founder and WhiteSpace partner; The Glee Club founder Mark Tughan; Graffiti Spirits Group founder Matt Farrell and Crepeaffaire founder Daniel Spinath. The conference will be followed by the summer party, with an evening barbecue, the Big Fat Quiz and the legendary sounds of DJ Big Lee. Operators can claim up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at Rooms (bed and breakfast) are also available at £125 plus VAT and can be booked by emailing Anne.

Dan Houghton to explore battle for the future of food in next Premium opinion piece: Chilango co-founder Dan Houghton will explore the battle for the future of food – delivery aggregators, virtual brands and dark kitchens – as part of the latest opinion piece, which will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (17 May) at 5pm. 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, and regular video recordings of key speakers. They also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has now grown to 1,400 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email

More than one-quarter of UK diners use third-party websites when searching for restaurants: More than one-quarter (27%) of UK diners use third-party websites when deciding where to dine out, compared with one-fifth (20%) who use a restaurant’s own web page, according to new research by digital platform Yext. The Hungry Searcher report found one-fifth (20%) of customer journeys start with a restaurant’s own website, while half (50%) start with a search engine, followed by map apps (12%), review sites (7%) and delivery company sites (5%). More than half (51%) of consumers rely on searching by food type, for example “Italian food”, a 6% increase from 2017, while 13% search for specific food items such as “burger” or “pizza”. More than four-fifths (81%) of consumers search for terms such as “takes reservations”, “has outdoor seating”, “drive-thru” and “gluten-free options”. Regarding the timing of searches, 12% of respondents expect information at their fingertips one hour before they visit a restaurant or pick up an order. Jon Buss, Yext managing director UK, said: “Third-party services have enabled consumers to make more informed decisions on the go. This shift is having an impact on restaurants more than any other. An average restaurant may see more than ten times the amount of traffic happening across these new experiences compared with 2.7 times in other industries.” Lee Zucker, head of industry, food services and hospitality at Yext, added: “Restaurant chains have to start tackling some of the big questions when it comes to data architecture. It’s no longer enough to promote the brand on its own or simply list menu items on a page inside the restaurant’s website. Restaurants have to be able to publish the information customers want across the whole network of sites and apps they use daily. When this is done properly, there’s significant return on investment for restaurant brands across all segments.” The survey questioned 2,000 people in the UK who use a smartphone and had searched for a restaurant online in the past three months.

First cross-industry returners programme launches: The first cross-industry returners programme in hospitality, travel and leisure has been launched. Comeback To HTL – part of Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure 2020 (WiH2020) – is an industry-wide initiative that aims to rally hospitality, travel and leisure employers around the objectives of making the sector attractive to returners by fostering a culture of inclusivity and supporting more flexible working practices, resulting in greater diversity in leadership positions. Sector companies supporting the initiative include Casual Dining Group, Mitchells & Butlers and Revolution Bars Group. New analysis of gender diversity in the hospitality, travel and leisure sector published by WiH2020 showed the industry has made positive progress in the past year to address the number of women in senior positions. It said while improvements had been made, work was still required to meet the target set by the Hampton-Alexander review of 33% female representation on boards and executive committees by 2020. Comeback To HTL is one of the initiatives WiH2020 is launching this year to strengthen the talent pipeline across the sector and reduce the gender pay gap. WIH2020 chairman Tea Colaianni said: “Experienced talent adds a great deal of value to the workplace but we realise it’s not always easy to find the right opportunity after a career break. This programme aims to give returners the opportunity to receive advice from experts in their respective fields, network with peers and meet employers. We aim to make it easier for returners to integrate into a new role.”

OAPA calls for sector to support Fill A Flask campaign: Industry-led charity Only A Pavement Away (OAPA) is calling for sector backing as it launches its Fill A Flask campaign to keep the homeless hydrated this summer. The charity, which aims to help the homeless, ex-offenders and veterans find employment in the hospitality industry, is seeking funding to enable it to produce 8,000 thermal flasks, which will be branded with the OAPA logo and the logos of any sponsor companies. The aim is to raise £40,000, which would enable OAPA to give a flask to every person sleeping rough in major UK cities. If sufficient funds are raised in the next few weeks, distribution of the flasks will start in July. OAPA has called for people and companies in the hospitality industry to back the campaign. OAPA chief executive and founder Greg Mangham said: “The hospitality industry employs about 3.2 million people directly and 2.8 million indirectly. To achieve our target we’ll need about 1.1% of our directly employed colleagues in the UK’s hospitality industry to donate a minimum of £1 towards funding the campaign. In my mind, that should be achievable.” Companies can register to get involved by clicking here

Operators encouraged to make most of Beer Day Britain opportunity: Operators are being encouraged to take advantage of the business opportunities surrounding Beer Day Britain 2019, the UK’s annual national beer day, which takes place on 15 June. As the event falls on a Saturday this year, operators should expect to see increased custom via lunchtime, afternoon and evening opportunities. The event, in its fifth year, encourages people to visit a pub to celebrate Britain’s national drink by raising a glass at 7pm and using the hashtag #CheersToBeer on social media. Last year there were 8.25 million social media engagements. Pubs are being encouraged to host special events such as beer and food pairings and mini-beer festivals. Event founder Jane Peyton said: “Everyone in the hospitality industry should be able to take advantage of Beer Day Britain to encourage an uplift in footfall and sales.” For more information, click here

Company News:

Bewiched Coffee to open 11th site with plans for two more, all outlets in double-digit sales growth: Northampton-based cafe operator Bewiched Coffee is set to open its 11th site, in July, with plans to open another two sites this year along with what it hopes will be its debut drive-thru. Situated in Peterborough’s Fletton Quays, a 6.4 hectare riverfront development, the latest site will be the brand’s largest to date at 2,000 square feet and promote Bewiched’s formula of premium food to go and coffee. It will be Bewiched’s second site in Peterborough. Founder Matt Fountain, who launched the company in 2010, told Propel the Fletton Quays site would once again take it into direct competition with the big high-street players as it will be next door to food-to-go retailer Greggs. Fountain, who reported year-on-year double-digit sales growth in all Bewiched sites to date, said: “It is part of Peterborough City Council’s new headquarters and will be an interesting one for us to watch as we expect it to trade well Monday to Friday but we’ll have to see what happens over the weekends.” Fountain has been actively looking to open a drive-thru for some time but has become frustrated by a lack of suitable sites and continually losing out to the likes of Costa and Starbucks. However, he hopes to sign a deal for a Northamptonshire location soon. In October, Bewiched opened a central distribution hub to service its sites with freshly made food. However, Fountain said he was looking to trial a “more Pret A Manger-style food model” in the future, with fresh sandwiches prepared on-site at the two sites opening later this year to fully “drive the fresh food” message in-store. Fountain will discuss the future and what he sees as the challenges for independent operators at the Propel Coffee Conference on Tuesday, 11 June, when he’ll join Caravan’s Laura Harper-Hinton, Black Sheep’s Marco Reick and Press Coffee’s Andy Well on the panel debate “Where do we go from here?” Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers and £345 plus VAT for all others. To book, email or call 01444 817691.

Administrators’ investigations into Burning Night provide ‘foundation for action against third parties’: Administrators of bar company Burning Night Group have revealed their ongoing investigations have “provided the foundation for actions against third parties that could lead to recoveries for the benefit of the estate”. In their progress report Andrew Mackenzie and Julian Pitts, of Begbies Traynor, said the administration process was “complex”, while a “significant number of matters needed to be dealt with”. The report stated: “We have a duty to examine the conduct of the company and its directors to identify what assets are available to realise for the benefit of the creditors, including any actions against directors or other parties, such as challenging transactions at undervalue or preferences. Detailed forensic investigations have been carried out (and are ongoing) into the conduct of the company, its directors and other connected third parties. This has included examining the company’s books and records in our possession, both electronic and hard copy, information provided by third parties, creditors and the company’s advisors. Our in-house forensic team has carried out detailed investigations and forensic analysis of the company’s records, including bank statement analysis and forensic review of the company’s accounting systems. Considerable investigative work has been required to better understand the company’s structure, trading history and to assess the actions available to us as administrators. Our investigations are continuing and have provided the foundation for actions against third parties, which have been notified and could lead to recoveries for the benefit of the estate.” Burning Night Group went into administration in October owing £11.2m. Two-thirds of the debt (£7.5m) was money raised from 936 investors on crowdfunding platform Crowdstacker in summer 2017. The ongoing investigation means the outcome for creditors cannot yet be determined but, as previously reported, secured creditor Crowdstacker will suffer a “significant if not a full shortfall on its lending”. Unsecured creditor claims are estimated to total £2,259,439. Burning Night Group was subsequently acquired by a special purpose vehicle created by Leeds-based turnaround specialist Access Commercial Finance, which was a secured creditor of Burning Night Group. It now operates four Bierkeller sites – in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham – following the closure of its Leeds venue last month after its new owners were refused a permanent tenancy.

Steamin’ Billy reports profit boost, Allingham branches out with experiential venture with his children: Leicestershire-based Steamin’ Billy has reported a boost in profits, while boss Billy Allingham has branched out by launching an experiential-led venture with his children. Allingham told Propel Steamin’ Billy had seen a “steady 12 months”, with turnover for the year to 31 March 2019 down 2.2% to £5.7m but profit increasing 4.2% to £370,000. During the period, the 11-strong company returned The Paget in Loughborough to Leicestershire-based brewer and pub retailer Everards because Allingham felt the “student market had moved”. Allingham has also launched a venture with his children – Tabitha, Jessica and Kipp – to “capitalise on the rise of competitive socialising and experience-led drinking venues”. Crazy golf concept Caddyshackers, which opened in Leicester in November, has so far welcomed 36,000 golfers. A bowling alley called East Street Lanes will open above Caddyshackers in September, which will also feature a 200-capacity events space. It will offer pizza, burgers, craft beer and cocktails and is aimed at the 18 and over market. Allingham said there was space for a coffee shop and 1960s-style record store, which it hopes to introduce early next year. Steamin’ Billy will further tap into the experiential theme by launching Club 180 Darts at its Parcel Yard site in Leicester this week. Three interactive dartboards have been installed offering five games for up to 12 players per oche, alongside sharing food platters, cocktails and craft beer. Allingham said: “I am looking at Nottingham for a Caddyshackers. Meanwhile, there’s space at The White Bear in Hinckley where there could be potential for something similar to Club 180 for Steamin’ Billy. Dartboards have been in pubs for years but technology has revolutionised the experience – and we recognise this is where the market is going.”

BrewDog close to agreeing deal for first franchise site: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has revealed it is close to agreeing a deal for its first franchise site. The initiative, which was announced last year in its “new blueprint” document, aims to allow Equity for Punks shareholders to establish their own BrewDog bar in their home town. In an update six months on since the launch of its “manifesto” for the next ten years, BrewDog stated: “Our Equity for Punks franchise day held in Ellon in November went well and we are currently in late-stage negotiations to agree legals on our first Equity for Punks franchise site!” BrewDog hasn’t revealed the location of the site but has previously said it plans to trial the franchise programme in ten UK locations. In the update, BrewDog also revealed it has broken ground on its brewery in Brisbane, Australia, which will be operational by the end of the year – a “little later than outlined in the initial blueprint”. The company also admitted it needed to “do better” in terms of its commitment to cut payment terms to small breweries to seven days. It said: “Due to an under-resourced finance department (we are working on fixing this), we haven’t always managed to meet this commitment. We strive to do this where possible but, on some occasions, we aren’t keeping up with seven days due to volumes and delays in our internal processes – but we are working on improvements to meet this commitment every single time.”

Ecosse Inns opens sixth pub with Belhaven: Edinburgh-based operator Ecosse Inns has opened its latest pub in partnership with Belhaven Brewery, which is owned by Greene King. The Telford Arms in Telford Road has reopened as The Scottish Engineer following a joint £500,000 investment, creating 30 jobs. The pub is the sixth site Ecosse Inns has taken on with Belhaven and follows a £500,000 investment by the companies last year to turn Edinburgh’s Cameo Bar into The Barologist. Andrena Smith-Bowes, of Ecosse Inns, said: “The Scottish Engineer has 172 seats inside and 132 seats outside. It’s perfect timing for the summer and is a tribute to all the great engineers of Scotland such as Alexander Graham Bell and John Logie Baird. We’ve relandscaped the outside, put in raised decking, lights and a feature water wheel. It feels amazing to see my business growing and to me it’s all about the people.” Greene King Pub Partners managing director Wayne Shurvinton added: “The Scottish Engineer looks amazing. We’re always looking to support our pubs and we’re thrilled to have invested significantly to reinvent two brilliant pubs.” The other pubs in the partnership are The Elizabethan in Dunfermline and The Scottie, The Terrace and The Clermiston Inn, all in Edinburgh.

Reading-based chicken shop hit by Nando’s legal action forced to change name for second time in a year: Reading-based independent chicken shop Fernandez has been forced to rebrand less than a year after it was forced to change its name by Nando’s. Owner Asam Aziz changed his town centre store’s name from Fernando’s in July 2018 after Nando’s claimed Aziz had copied its branding and trademarks. Now Aziz has been forced to rebrand again after claims he took his shop’s new name, Fernandez, and its branding designs from Fernandez Grillhouse in Leicestershire. Aziz told Get Reading: “We went back to the drawing board but completed due diligence this time to make sure there’s nothing of the sort again. We decided to call it Manzano’s Peri Peri.” The new brand features a rooster inside a manzano pepper. The business has been forced to foot the bill for the rebrands, with the first costing £8,500 and the latest £6,000. Aziz said: “It has been tough because all these things are very expensive for an independent.”

Eric’s Fish & Chips to open two sites: Eric Snaith, executive chef and owner of Eric’s Fish & Chips in Thornham, Norfolk, is to open two sites next month. Snaith will open an outlet in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, on Saturday, 1 June, followed by a venue in Holt in Norfolk on Thursday, 20 June. Located in Abbey Retail Park in Harrison Way, Eric’s Fish & Chips St Ives will feature a 66-cover restaurant and takeaway and 24-cover terrace. The menu will offer traditional British fish and chips with modern European influences inspired by Snaith’s three-AA Rosette restaurant Titchwell Manor, near Brancaster. In keeping with the signature tiled walls and subtle maritime theme of the Thornham restaurant, the 1,875 square foot site will feature exposed brick, stripped-back lighting and blue leather banquette seating. Signature dishes will include classic cod and chips fried in Greene King IPA batter and traditional beef dripping, a Japanese-style fish burger, and gruyere and spinach arancini, all accompanied by homemade sauces. The restaurant will also feature an ice cream station, serving gelatos and sorbets. Drinks will include beer, wine and champagne alongside homemade soft drinks and batch cocktails. Snaith said: “We are excited to open our newest restaurant in Cambridgeshire’s most iconic market town. The St Ives site will have its own look and feel while continuing the tradition of serving the highest-quality sustainably sourced fish.”

Coqfighter to open first table-service restaurant, in Soho next week: Chicken and beer concept Coqfighter is to open its first table-service restaurant, in Soho next week. The concept, which is the brainchild of Troy Sawyer, Deacon Rose and Tristan Clough, will open in the former Ma Plucker site in Beak Street on Wednesday, 22 May. The 40-cover restaurant’s menu will include vodka-battered wings, panko-fried whole chicken leg burgers, and fried chicken bao with Szechuan mayo, pickled daikon, coriander and Korean hot sauce. There will be old and new world wine to match the dishes as well as cocktails and beer. Originally from Melbourne in Australia, Sawyer, Rose and Clough moved to London in 2013 and launched Coqfighter in 2015 as a pop-up in The Star By Hackney Downs. From there they moved on to pop-ups and residencies in pubs across London. Coqfighter opened its first semi-permanent site in Boxpark Croydon, followed by further sites in Boxpark Shoreditch and Incipio Group’s The Prince in West Brompton. Rose said: “Soho has something really special about it – we knew early doors we had to open a restaurant in the area. It was our dream and to be able to do it within a few years of starting out in pop-ups has been an amazingly spicy ride.”

Leon launches first outlet in Ireland: Healthy fast-food chain Leon has opened its first Irish outlet, in Dublin. The venue has opened at a site in Temple Bar that was formerly occupied by Eager Beaver vintage clothing store and covers 1,600 square feet across two floors. The venue has been launched by Cibus Concepts, a franchise partnership established by Waterford accountant Stuart Fitzgerald and business partner Brian McIntyre. The group is backed by high-net-worth equity investors and plans to grow its estate to 20 sites by 2023. Leon plans to expand swiftly in the Republic of Ireland, with a second site earmarked for Dundrum town centre. Fitzgerald told The Irish Times: “The need for an offering like Leon is so evident, somewhere that will offer vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options at a reasonable price.” Last week, Leon reported like-for-like sales were up 15.2% for the year ending 31 December 2018. Sales increased 24.5% to £95m, compared with £76.3m the previous year. It was the fifth year of unbroken revenue growth. International sales for the year were up 102% and now account for 10.6% of group revenue. The company opened nine restaurants during the year, taking its portfolio to 63 sites, 54 of them in the UK. Leon also accelerated its international expansion, opening its first restaurants in the US, Norway and Spain.

Camm & Hooper to launch events space in Wright & Bell’s The Kitty Hawk bar: Imbiba-backed events and hospitality group Camm & Hooper is to launch South Place Society within Wright & Bell’s The Kitty Hawk bar in the City of London, Propel has learned. The Kitty Hawk’s lower floor will operate as South Place Society from next month owing to an “increased demand for events and experiences”. The space will be dedicated solely to events, with sales and enquiries managed through Camm & Hooper’s sales team and booking engine. Wright & Bell managing director Sarah Clark said: “The Kitty Hawk will continue to extend its all-day and late-night offering and is enjoying continued growth along with sister companies Whyte & Brown in Kingly Court and Lino, which opened earlier this year at St Barts in the City.” Wright & Bell, which is also backed by Imbiba, launched The Kitty Hawk in South Place in 2016.

Craft Beer Co opens Hammersmith site: The Craft Beer Co has opened a site in Hammersmith, west London. The company, founded in 2011 by Martin Hayes and Peter Slezak, has opened the venue at The Broadway, opposite the Apollo Theatre. Hayes said: “This new project follows a very busy 2018, where we purchased our first freehold properties and carried out three substantial refurbishment projects of our pubs. This is a very significant moment for us. It’s the first time a landlord has approached us to partner with them and it’s also bringing our offer into a former big pub company site in a transport hub for the first time. This project excited us as it gives us the opportunity to partner with a motivated landlord and anchor a regeneration project of a struggling part of The Broadway complex. We are very proud of our ten-year journey and remain debt free and 100% privately owned.” Craft Beer Co operates seven other sites across London as well as a site in Brighton.

Adventure Leisure to open mini-golf venue at former Deltic site in Basildon this summer: Adventure Leisure will open a site for its adventure golf brand Mr Mulligan’s Lost World Golf at a former Deltic Group venue in Basildon, Essex, this summer. Adventure Leisure has secured a deal for the former Chicago’s at Festival Leisure Park with landlord Aviva Investors. Adventure Leisure has agreed a new 25-year lease on the 9,973 square foot unit. Julia Robertson, associate in the leisure team at Savills, which brokered the deal, said: “The indoor mini-golf industry has really taken off in the past couple of years, bringing with it a fresh and quirky approach to the classic pastime. Mr Mulligans Adventure Golf is leading the way within the family-friendly sector, which makes it a fantastic addition to the leisure line-up at Festival Leisure Park.” Adventure Leisure operates eight Mr Mulligan’s Lost World Golf sites, including in Cheltenham and Milton Keynes. Deltic Group closed Chicago’s in January.

Derby restaurateurs sell three-strong estate to set up catering and events business: Mother and daughter restaurateurs Sarah and Olivia Pritchard have sold their three sites in Derby to launch a catering and events company. The Pritchards have sold Hide, Rask and Bean Caffe in the city centre. The new catering business, Gather & Grace, will offer corporate catering and event planning as well an events space at its premises in Friar Gate. Sarah Pritchard, who set up the first business, Bean Caffe, in 2009 after being made redundant, told The Business Desk: “We want to bring a change to Derby’s catering scene with fresh menus that will excite the corporate world and some interesting twists on the everyday sandwich.” Launching in early July, Gather & Grace will offer catering for corporate events as well as weddings and private functions.

Burton-based pub operator takes on second site: Burton-based operator Sandra Russell has taken on her second pub in the Staffordshire town. Russell is now running Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars’ the Olde Royal Oak in Market Place. The property had been closed since early January, reports Derbyshire Live. Russell also operates The Victoria Inn in Horninglow Road.

Wellington Pizza Pub shuts Hull site: Leeds-based Wellington Pizza Pub has closed its site in Hull. The company has shut the outlet in Humber Street, which opened in November 2017 as part of the £80m Fruit Market development. The lease has been reassigned to an unnamed local operator. The venue was initially known as Buca Di Pizza but changed its name to Wellington Pizza Pub to avoid an “unaffordable legal battle with a rival company”. A Fruit Market spokesman told Hull Live: “The owners of Wellington Pizza Pub have decided to close their unit in the Fruit Market. Wellington Pizza Pub is reassigning its lease to a locally based operator, which will reopen the building soon. Details of the new restaurant and bar will be revealed shortly.” Wellington Pizza Pub now operates two sites, in Leeds and Beverley.

Yeo Valley opens first cafe, in London: Yeo Valley, the family-owned, organic dairy business based in Somerset, has opened its first cafe, in London. Yeo Valley Café has launched at 20 Queensway and offers breakfast dishes such as warm scotch pancakes with Greek yogurt and seasonal fruit compote; kedgeree with smoked haddock and organic eggs; and a Coombe Farm bacon butty on fresh farmhouse bread. The regularly changing lunch menu includes sandwiches, risotto, curry and salads. The organic menu has been created by Yeo Valley food ambassador Paul Collins, who has worked at The Dorchester and country house hotels Cliveden and Lucknam Park. Sarah Mead, of Yeo Valley, said: “It is important we extend our Somerset welcome to friends in London and those visiting from outside the city.”

Cheshire-based operator sells Sandbach wine bar and restaurant to focus on remaining two sites: Cheshire-based operator James Hughes has sold his wine bar and restaurant in Sandbach to focus on his two remaining sites. Hughes has sold the site, which formerly traded as Piste Wine Bar, off an asking price of £475,000 through agent Christie & Co. The property comprises two floors, with the ground floor featuring a lounge and wine bar with seating for 50 and a restaurant upstairs with seating for a further 30 diners. Hughes also operates Piste Wine Bar in nearby Tarporley and The Nags Head in Haughton. He said: “We enjoyed our time in Sandbach but made the decision to focus on our other sites.”

Bleecker confirmed for Westfield London: Bleecker, the burger concept founded by Zan Kaufman in 2012, has confirmed it will open its next site in Westfield London. Bleecker has three restaurants – at Bloomberg Arcade, Victoria and Spitalfields – and will join the line-up at the scheme’s new food and drinks space, The Café Court. Nick Garston, of Bruce Gillingham Pollard, who advised Bleecker on the deal, said: “Burgers always seemed to be a glaring omission from the Westfield food court and we’re delighted Bleecker will be serving its incredible burgers to fill the gap.” Bleecker will open at the scheme alongside Pizza Pilgrims, which will launch a slimmed-down version of its concept; Laura Sheffield-led Corazon, which will open Tacos Corazon; Master Bao, a concept by the team behind Daddy Bao in Peckham; and Pascal Aussignac’s fish restaurant Catch Me. The Café Court will also house units from operators currently based at Westfield London such as Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho; Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed restaurant group; Comptoir Libanais, the Lebanese canteen specialising in fresh Middle Eastern dishes; and Indian street food brand Indigo. DCL is understood to be acting for Westfield on The Café Court.

Berkmann Wine Cellars secures £14m funding package to support expansion plans: Berkmann Wine Cellars has secured a more than £14m tailored funding package from HSBC UK to support its ambitious expansion plans. The family-run company said it had seen up to 8% year-on-year growth and would use the funding to provide “more flexibility and scope to grow sales from a solid financial platform”. Berkmann Wine Cellars said it would use its strengthened position to establish a presence in international markets, where the wine industry is “growing fast”. It said the financial backing would also support its ambitions to “respond to the needs of larger retailers”. Director Rupert Berkmann said: “We want to continue our focus on adding value by selling recognised brands and delivering exceptional service. This deal means we are now in a strong financial position to do so.” Robert Mitton, relationship director for HSBC UK, said: “Berkmann Wine Cellars is a long-established and successful business with an excellent reputation and a consistently strong financial performance. We’re delighted to have the opportunity to work with the business to help Rupert build on the business’ strong foundations.”

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