Story of the Day:
Luke Johnson – London is crying out for New York-style artisan super-sites: Sector investor Luke Johnson has told Propel that London is ‘crying out’ for its own version of the three giant restaurant and artisan foodservice super-sites that have sprung up in New York. The city now boasts three different versions of the super-site – Eataly offers 60,000 square feet of space devoted to Italian cuisine, Chelsea Market has 44 different artisan food operators in an historic Chelsea building and now the smaller Gotham West Market has opened in the Hell’s Kitchen area of the city offering six artisan restaurants, two bars, a coffee shop and cookware and grocery shop in the same building alongside a trendy bike shop and table tennis tables. Gotham West Market has been developed to enhance the appeal of a new 1,238-apartment building above. Johnson, who has returned from a five-day New York visit, told Propel: “At Chelsea Market, you have 40 or 50 food and drink operators all with mini-restaurants or concessions in a fabulous building in Chelsea. There’s a brand new one that’s opened on the far West side, on 11th Avenue, which is a very Shoreditch-type place, which is somewhat smaller, called Gotham West Market that’s got a tapas place, a craft beer place, an artisan coffee place. It’s all exceptionally cool and it’s heaving. I think London is crying out for something like this. I used to dream of the idea of turning Whiteleys in Bayswater into this sort of development but it’s been bought now to be turned into housing. This is the great problem – competing against £1,500 to £2,000 per square foot value for residential property in London is a nightmare. If you could find 30,000 to 50,000 square feet, you wouldn’t want chains in the development, you’d want independents or people with a couple of sites – premium and artisan. These are super-cool places and there isn’t anything like this in Britain – it would work really well even on the fringes of London.”
Alain Ducasse hints at two more London openings: The Michelin three-star chef Alain Ducasse has hinted that he plans to open two more restaurants in London. He currently runs Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester. Rivea London is scheduled to open later this year at The Bulgari Hotel, serving French and Italian cuisine in an informal setting. “There is nothing I can tell you about the second one,” he told Bloomberg, although there has been speculation that he might be taking over the Grill at the Dorchester. Of London’s restaurant scene, he said: “I love the diversity. It’s not just the food, but also the atmosphere. It’s unique in London, and maybe New York. Paris has fine dining, bistro and contemporary French today. London has much greater diversity, a rich diversity in terms of design, in terms of atmosphere as well as cuisine.”
BBC documentary sends restaurants’ booking lines into meltdown: The BBC Two documentary Restaurant Wars, about the opening of Manchester House and The French, which aired on Monday night, sent booking lines at both sites into meltdown the next day, according to The Manchester Evening News. The documentary follows chefs Simon Rogan and Aiden Byrne as they both attempt to bring back Michelin-star dining to the city. Manchester House reported its online booking system crashed because of demand from customers. The venue took to Twitter to offer bookers an email address for reservations while it worked to relaunch the system. At The French, there was a 500% increase in bookings.
EU threatens mandatory charge for Environmental Health inspections: The European Parliament this week began debating changes to EU regulations that would make it a mandatory requirement for local authorities to recoup the costs of Environmental Health inspections from those who are being inspected at all levels of the food supply chain. The debate is over amending EU Regulation 882/2004, which deals with compliance with food law, health and welfare. The final text is not expected to be agreed until 2015, with the changes being implemented sometime between 2016 and 2020. Clare Eames of the licensing law practice Poppleston Allen said: “The proposals are very much in their infancy and at this stage the detail and any possible exemptions are still being considered.”
US teenagers prefer to hang out at restaurants and mall trips fade in popularity: A survey has found that US teenagers prefer to hang out at restaurants rather than shopping malls. Teen mall traffic is down by 30% over the last ten years, according to Piper Jaffray’s 27th semi-annual study into teen behavior. In 2014, teens on average logged 29 trips each to the mall, compared to 38 visits in 2007. And for the first time since the study started, teens are spending more money on food and events than clothing. “Restaurants have become a gathering place and teens are increasingly suggesting they prefer dining out to other forms of status brand spending,” the report said. “We see restaurants as the next generation hang out for teens.”
McDonald’s franchisees in US forecast small rise in sales, dislike free coffee promotion: McDonald’s franchisees operating around 200 sites in the United States surveyed by Janney Capital Markets projected like-for-like sales to grow slightly in March and April, Nation’s Restaurant News has reported. The survey found, though, that operators’ view of the relationship with McDonald’s had improved little from a similar survey three months ago. Several of the franchisees reported anonymously that McDonald’s most recent two-week breakfast promotion to give away free McCafe coffees, a response to the threat posed by Taco Bell’s introduction of breakfast, was another in a long line of ideas that failed to drive sales. Other comments reprised familiar themes from the other recent operator surveys from Janney, such as a menu that has become too complex for both employees and customers, causing major delays for service times.
ALMR warns against shift towards unsupervised drinking habits: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has warned that the shift towards alcohol consumption at home and away from the on-trade risks compromising government alcohol policy objectives. Figures released yesterday show that consumption fell 2.1% in 2013 to 7.7 litres of alcohol per head, 18% lower than a decade ago. Consumption in licensed premises has fallen disproportionately faster since 2001, when equal proportions of alcohol were consumed in, and away from, licensed premises. The ALMR’s chief executive, David McHattie, said: “The figures show that alcohol consumption is falling but the costs to society are not. We have seen a shift in trends, with nearly 70% of drinks consumed away from licensed premises. Pubs, clubs and restaurants remain the safest places to enjoy a drink but we are unable to compete with pocket-money prices in the off trade. The government and local authorities seem convinced that punitive measures such as increased fees and Early Morning Restriction Orders are the way to curb alcohol-related harms, but pushing people away from a safe, supervised and secure environment will only serve to exacerbate health harms. We don’t want to see a continued shift towards unsupervised drinking in the home, facilitated by inexpensive alcohol bought at scandalously low, subsidised prices in shops and supermarkets.”
Anglian Country Inns to open new site in May: Anglian Country Inns, the award-winning gastro-pub operator led by James Nye, is to open its fifth site, the 100-cover Water Lane in Bishops Stortford on 9 May. Head chef Will Ingarfill said: “The menu will appeal to all tastes with a choice of seafood, meats and sharing boards and my special ‘flats’ (flatbreads). It’s a fresh food offer breaking down the barriers of traditional dining by offering lots of local seasonal produce.” The cellar bar features a wide range of real ales and craft lagers, an eclectic selection of well-chosen wines, a quality spirit range and Water Lane cocktails.
Oakman Inns and Restaurant to launch Orderella across estate: Oakman Inns and Restaurants is to launch Orderella, the leading mobile ordering app which allows its customers to order and pay for drinks and food with their phone, across the pub and restaurant sites in estate just in time for Easter. Dennis Collet, Orderella chief executive, said: “Bank Holiday weekends are hugely important sources of revenue for operators, so it is vital that their service is as efficient as possible to maximise sales and keep customers happy.” Peter Borg Neal, chief executive of Oakman Inns, added: “We’re incredibly excited to launch Orderella across all of our sites, and think the Bank Holiday weekend will be the perfect time to kick it off. We want our guests to enjoy themselves and relax, without worrying about queuing for their next drink.”
Beefeater launches spring menu: Whitbread’s Beefeater brand has added a host of new menu items to its spring menu. The menu adds five new burgers (double steak burger, double bacon and cheese steak burger, Western chicken burger, veg-out burger and a chargrilled salmon burger), a 6oz flat iron steak and a 20oz T-bone. Also new are flat iron steak skewers, a grilled halloumi salad and crispy salt and pepper prawns. The dessert menu has seen the largest number of changes. Beefeater has added four new sundaes to the existing two (strawberry, popcorn and caramel, chocolate and honeycomb and banoffee) as well as apple and gooseberry crumble, banana fritters and a white chocolate and berry roulade.
Albert Roux plans restaurant in Brentwood: Albert Roux, regarded by many as the godfather of British gastronomy, is seeking planning permission to open a fine dining restaurant in Brentwood, Essex. Roux, 78, wants to convert the old Post Office in Brentwood High Street into the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Essex. A planning statement submitted to Brentwood Council for change of use of the premises, said the planned restaurant “would be Albert’s first in Essex and the only one of its kind. It would offer a rare fine-dining experience with full-service, exquisite decor, highly trained staff, fine wines and very high quality food. It would provide a huge boost to the image of Brentwood and the local economy.” Roux told The Brentwood Gazette newspaper that Brentford was “a beautiful town, with a lot of extremely wealthy people who have an acquired taste for food over the years. You are in the country and the old Post Office property is absolutely superb.” If permission is granted, the restaurant in Brentwood could open in spring next year, employing 32 staff, most of whom would be highly skilled kitchen, bar and serving staff. The intended opening hours would be from noon to 2am and it is estimated the restaurant would attract an average of 180 customers a day.
Stonegate introduces craft beer and new look at pub with microbrewery: Stonegate is re-opening its Inferno site in Bournemouth, which has its own in-house brewery, today (Thursday, 17 April) after a refurbishment which will create 13 new jobs. The venue’s microbrewery is run on site by Salisbury Brewery, which produces the popular 4.4% abv chestnut ale Dorset Screamer. The Inferno brewery will supply the venue as well as other Stonegate pubs in the Bournemouth area including Yates’s, Slug and Lettuce, Litten Tree and The Horns Inn in Ferndown. The site will also offer super-fast broadband, while a complimentary Wi-Fi-linked printer will be on hand for printing off documents. Plugs and USB ports are available for phone and computer charging. A choice of four regularly rotating craft beers will now be on tap and customers can try three at once with third-pint taster trays or alternatively share a two or three-pint flagon with friends. The pub will also offer three additional cask ales and one cider on rotation.
Cirrus Inns pub shut for three months by floods reopens: The Old House Inn in Copthorne, West Sussex, owned by Cirrus Inns, has finally reopened three and a half months after floods over Christmas and the new year forced it to close. The Old House Inn, on Effingham Road, shut on December 23 when torrential rain poured into its bar, kitchen and guest bedrooms. Landlord Tim Brown said: “We were flooded catastrophically. Then we flooded twice more after that. The culvert that goes under the road near us had been blocked. Once the water went down we pulled out a large root-ball [the base of a shrub] that had caused the blockage.” The Old House Inn had been preparing to serve 80 people Christmas dinner and the pub also lost its Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve custom. A massive renovation was needed, the cost of which will be covered by insurance, while at the same time Brown has taken the opportunity to make alterations. He said: “It was a negative situation but I think positives have come from that. I didn’t think that the bar worked before – so we changed the layout. We have completely changed the menu and put in some fantastic features in the snug, and I think it works. It’s a much nicer layout to come and have a drink in.” The pub has also redesigned its garden. Cirrus Inns, co-founded by 333 Holdings founder Alex Langlands Pearse and Mark Askew, former executive head chef at Gordon Ramsay Holdings, now runs ten pubs and inns in London, Sussex, Berkshire and Gloucestershire.
Microbrewer hands Project William pub back to Everards: The Warwickshire microbrewery Tunnel will not be renewing the lease on Everard’s Horseshoes pub in Nuneaton after failing to make it pay. The pub was leased to Tunnel three years ago as part of the Leicester-based brewer and pub owner Everard’s Project William, which sees it lease struggling or closed businesses to local microbrewers, with a relaxed tie on cask conditioned ales. More than £310,000 was spent on The Horseshoes before it was handed over to Tunnel’s Bob Yates and Michael Walsh in April 2011. It was selling ten cask ales, including four from Tunnel. Project William started in 2007, and is now up to 29 sites. The Tunnel Brewery, now in Ansley, Warwickshire, began brewing in 2005 and relocated to its present premises in 2011.
Lancashire businessman adds pub to growing empire: Lancashire businessman Simon Rigby has added a village pub to his growing hospitality empire. Rigby already runs The Villa Hotel, in Wrea Green, Fylde, a former 19th century gentleman’s residence with 31 rooms and will open a new Lake District venue, The Villa Levens, in the summer. In January he bought a former Premier Inn in Kirkham, Fylde, which has become the Villa Express. Now Rigby has acquired The Fairfield Arms at Kirkham, next door to the hotel, which he intends turning into a restaurant, The Villa Italian, in the summer. Later this month, The Leaf or Bean cafe will open on the site.
Red Hot World Buffet launches mascot for flagship site: Red Hot World Buffet, the company acquired by sector investor Luke Johnson last summer, has launched a mascot for its flagship Nottingham Cornerhouse site, which has 500 seats. “Red the Explorer” aims to encourage young diners to try new cuisines. General manager Kieron Bailey said: “We offer so many different dishes from around the world, it gives youngsters the chance to try something a little bit more unusual, and with Red on board, he’s helping them explore tastes they’ve probably never experienced before. Red will be out and about throughout Easter greeting families and helping them enjoy the whole experience on offer at Red Hot World Buffet, from our fantastic ice cream station to our authentic street cooking.”
Surrey police call for Guildford nightclub licence review: Surrey police have called for a review of a Guildford nightclub’s licence after a series of incidents of violent behaviour at the venue, including a man being hit on the head with a broken bottle. The force has cited 19 incidents since August last year of antisocial behaviour, affray, theft, actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm at the Legion on Millbrook. The review has been applied for under grounds of crime and disorder, with the most recent assaults happening within a week of each other.
Wetherspoon sets July opening date for Cleethorpes site: A July date has been set for the opening of Cleethorpes’ first JD Wetherspoon pub. The company has been granted planning permission to convert the old Amishi nightclub on the Lincolnshire resort’s High Street into a family restaurant. Wetherspoon has said the pub will be called the Coliseum Picture Theatre, its name when it first opened as a cinema in 1914. It is due to open for business on Tuesday, 22 July. Planned alterations include replacing the front windows with summer folding doors. The new venue is expected to create up to 50 jobs.
Greene King applies for Hungry Horse near Chorley: Greene King has applied to build a Hungry Horse pub-restaurant in the village of Buckshaw, near Chorley in Lancashire. In will be competing against a Marston’s outlet, The Bobbin Mill, which is the only other pub in the village. Plans submitted to Chorley Council by Greene King Developments and Gough Family Partnership are for a two-storey building which will include a restaurant, residential accommodation and an outdoor children’s play area. A spokesperson for Greene King said: “We have applied to build a family-friendly Hungry Horse in Buckshaw which would create 70 full and part-time local jobs. We hope to start building work during the summer to be open in time for Christmas.” Mark Perks, ward councillor for Astley and Buckshaw, said: “The plans are a huge positive for Buckshaw Village. Currently The Bobbin Mill is at the top end of the village closer to South Ribble. So people at the bottom of the village have quite a lengthy walk.”
Restaurant pair plan pizzeria and bar in former Darwen bank: Plans have been submitted to Blackburn Council to change the use of the former HSBC bank branch in Darwen, Lancashire to a restaurant and drinking establishment. Shaz and Keyvan Fani, who run the Godfather takeaway and Amalfi Lounge restaurant and cocktail bar in Duckworth Street, Darwen, want to use the former bank as a pizzeria serving fresh handmade pizzas and pastas, which will also have a bar. Their application states: “It is not anticipated that the proposal would lead to an increase in disturbance from additional customers as the building is nestled within existing commercial buildings within a busy town centre. The proposed opening hours are 9am to midnight Sunday to Thursday and 9am to 3am Friday and Saturday.”
Dunkin’ Donuts opens in Cambridge: The latest Dunkin’ Donuts outlet opened in Fitzroy Street, Cambridge yesterday (Wednesday) with special offers and goodie bags for the first 100 customers through the doors from 7am, a performance from pop rockers and former X Factor contestants Next of Kin, three brothers who reached Gary Barlow’s bootcamp stage last year in the talent show, and competitions and special offers over the first three days, with 75 customers winning free donuts or coffee for a year. The store is run by local franchisee Court Group, which opened its first Dunkin’ Donuts in Chelmsford, Essex on Valentine’s Day. Aziz Tejpar of Court Group said: “We’ve created more than 15 new jobs, and they are busy training in how to make Dunkin’s signature donuts, as well as our breakfast and all day sandwiches, frozen and hot drinks.”
Supermarkets target two more Harrogate pubs for conversions: Supermarket giants have earmarked two Harrogate pubs to convert into mini-supermarkets, taking advantage of a planning loophole which allows them to open without planning permission. Tesco has confirmed it is planning to convert the Skipton pub in Bilton into a Tesco Express and Morrisons will open an M-Local store in the former Harrow pub on Knaresborough Road in May. Two pubs in the district have already been converted to supermarkets in the past few years, the Mile Post on Leeds Road in Harrogate, which was converted to a Sainsbury’s in 2012, and the Old Star in Collingham, which was converted to a Tesco Express last year. The Campaign for Real Ale has called on the government to amend the law that allows pubs to be converted to stores without owners needing to apply for a change of use.
Starbucks steps up India expansion: Starbucks is expanding aggressively in India, with seven opening in six weeks. Tata Starbucks Ltd, a 50:50 joint venture between the US coffee chain and Tata Global Beverages, added seven stores in the past one-and-half months, four in New Delhi, two in Bangalore and one in Pune, taking the total number of stores in the country to 43. Tata Starbucks, which entered India in October 2012, said at the time of the launch that it plans to invest $80m to begin with to roll out dozens of Starbucks branded cafes in India. Starbucks is eyeing a big slice of India’s $300m cafe chains market, which is growing annually by 20% and is currently dominated by the local chain Cafe Coffee Day, which operates more than 1,000 outlets nationwide. Meanwhile, the Dubai-based Landmark Group is seeking to terminate its seven-year-old franchisee agreement with Australia’s Gloria Jean’s Coffees amid heavy losses due to high rentals and competition from rivals, a person aware of the development said, while Costa Coffee may end its exclusive franchisee agreement with the New Delhi-based Devyani International as the Indian firm is not ready to invest further capital into a business that is yet to turn profitable after nine years of operations.
Tasty lines up Wildwood opening in Wantage: Tasty has applied for planning permission to open a Wildwood in Wantage, Oxfordshire, occupying the Shoe Zone shoe shop and the former Blockbuster Video store, which closed in 2012. Tasty wants to combine the two units to create one large restaurant, serving grilled dishes, pizza, pasta and burgers. It would see a £750,000 investment in the town, employ about 40 staff and the company has said it would “rely heavily on locally-grown produce” in its meals. Michael Dale, chairman of Wantage chamber of commerce, said: “This would be a vote of confidence in the town.”
Training provider to open first restaurant: Businessman Chris Longmate, who turned the training firm Positive Outcomes into a £25m turnover business, is to open his first restaurant, the Chalk Bar and Grill in Didsbury, Manchester next month in partnership with Dominic Gottelier, the former general manager at the Wizard in Nether, Alderley Edge, Cheshire. Longmate said: “I’ve lived in Didsbury for several years and regularly socialise there, and I definitely saw a gap in the market in town. Chalk is our unique vision to combine the finest elements of the sector in one stylish and atmospheric venue, bringing the best possible team together to run it. That’s where my business expertise has come into play.” The £350,000 refurbishment of three adjoining units will create around 3,700 sq ft of space, with zoned dining and bar areas, as well as outdoor seating. The new business fought off competition from several major national chains to secure the site.
Langham Hospitality Group lines up Dubai site: Langham Hospitality Group will open its first property in the Middle East in 2015 with a 323-room resort on the crescent of Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. The company has come to an agreement with DAS Real Estate to manage the Langham, Palm Jumeirah resort. The resort will have 53 one and two-bedroom suites ranging from 63 to 236 square metres; 22 will feature individual plunge pools. Langham Hospitality Group’s chief executive, Robert Warman, said: “We are very much looking forward to introducing the Langham’s rich heritage and impeccable service values to Dubai.” The hotel will include a wide variety of restaurants and bars, most of them with al fresco waterside dining. The flagship F&B outlet will be Palm Court, a lounge modelled after its namesake at the Langham in Central London, the first grand hotel to serve the traditional afternoon tea in 1865.
Costa franchisee defends branding at new park outlet: A Costa Coffee franchisee has defended the branding of his latest outlet, in Higginson Park, Marlow, Bucks, after attacks by local conservationists. Paul Messenger, who runs 20 Costa stores under his franchise Coffee Snobs, including one on West Street, Marlow, said: “Costa is a brand and undoubtedly some people have a problem with brands. But the other side of it is, we’re a small, growing company and we’re trying to build it up and employ local people in our two cafes in town.” Cafe in the Park, the former independent leaseholder of the site, approached Coffee Snobs to offer it a takeover on the remainder of the ten-year-lease. Carly Trisk-Grove, who runs a successful cafe in Rickmansworth, told the Marlow Free Press that high rents and problems with the shelter-like building meant only a national chain with spending power could make the venture a real success. Coffee Snobs has gutted the park building and intends to install air conditioning to overcome the problems of heating the shelter. Costa signage has already been installed under “deemed consent” rules for advertising, with the firm seeking planning permission for changes to the shopfront. However, the Marlow Society, which campaigns for the preservation and sensitive development of Marlow, has objected to the plans.
Micropub to open in former Lichfield interiors shop: A micropub is due to open shortly in a former Country Styles interiors shop in Tamworth Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire. The new pub, the Whippet, set up by local cask ale enthusiasts Paul Hudson and Deborah Henderson, will offer only ales, real ciders and fruit wines. Around four cask ales will be offered, focusing on both established and emerging microbreweries. Planning permission for change of use was granted by Lichfield Council in January. Ben Nicholson, agency surveyor at Burley Browne, which arranged the letting, said: “We are really excited about concluding this letting and hope that this new concept proves to be extremely popular, particularly as it offers an alternative for the real ale drinkers of Lichfield.”
Searcys promotes staffer Chris Maddison to top job: The catering company Searcys has promoted Chris Maddison as its new managing director in the wake of the departure of its chief executive, Doug Tetley. Tetley, who spent four years as chief executive of Searcys, is to become managing director of Delaware North UK. Maddison, formerly sales and marketing director at Searcys, will now take the top job after four years of heading the company’s growth in both the contract and retail sides of the business. Searcys’ chairman, Richard Tear, said: “In recent years Chris has built very good relationships with our clients and has played a key role in ensuring that Searcys has lived up to their expectations, so his appointment has been very well received.”
Deep Blue Restaurants reports losses in 2013: Deep Blue Restaurants, the Reigate-based business which runs 18 Deep Blue-brand restaurants and takeaways, has reported a drop in turnover and losses for the year to 24 September 2013. Turnover was £5.14m, down from £5.41m the year before after two sites were sold. The company made a profit of £81,000 before interest of £549,000, which produced a loss of £468,000 for the year. Deep Blue reported it had bought a mobile catering unit in June 2013, which was successfully operating at major sporting venues including The Oval and Twickenham.
Spirit’s Wacky Warehouse brand mark two decades with giveaway: Spirit’s 75-strong Wacky Warehouse brand has marked its 20th anniversary this year by rewarding 20 children with a lifetime of free play. Wacky Warehouse, which describes itself as the UK’s largest soft play provider, has created exclusive one-off Wacky Platinum Cards, worth more than £1,000, to mark the anniversary. Fans of Wacky Warehouse’s Facebook page were asked to upload nostalgic photos from Wacky parties that have occurred in the past 20 years, with the best 20 photos each winning a Platinum card. Carol Rhead, brand manager for Wacky Warehouse, said: “We wanted to commemorate our special anniversary by reminiscing on all the birthday parties we’ve hosted over the past two decades. The Wacky Platinum Card is a one-off for our 20th birthday celebrations, so our winners have got something very special and we hope they enjoy years of wacky fun with it.”
Five brands occupy new Kingston leisure destination: Five restaurant brands have now taken space at the new Bishops Palace House site in Kingston upon Thames. A second part of the master plan is due to be completed in 2019. Bill’s, Comptoir Libanais, Busaba Eathai, CAU and Cote Brasserie have taken space and there is a new area of six independent “pocket” units, all carved out from the original carpark. The next phase will see major works at the upper levels to create more than 3,500 sq metres of new retail and restaurant space, including a new rooftop bar and terrace with panoramic views across the Thames towards Hampton Court.
McDonald’s in Germany adds curry sandwiches to the value menu: McDonald’s in Germany has added two curry sandwiches, Curry Beef and Curry Chicken, to its value menu. The company previously debuted curry sandwiches in Japan and Hong Kong. McDonald’s Germany is charging one euro (82p) for its curry sandwiches.