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Tue 22nd Nov 2016 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Seedrs reports food and beverage largest sector for deals: Crowdfunding platform Seedrs, which is the largest platform in the UK by certain measures, has reported food and beverage deals have accounted for more than one in ten of its 375 successful fundings since it launched four years ago. It stated: “Roughly 45% of our deals have been for digital businesses, and 15% for non-digital. The remaining 40% have been hybrid digital/non-digital models. Nearly 55% of our deals have been for business-to-consumer businesses, with 30% for business-to-business ones and the remaining 15% for businesses with both business-to-consumer and business-to-business models. Of our 15 sectors, the three most popular in terms of number of funded deals have been food and beverage (11% of deals); home and personal (11%); and finance and payments (10%). The platform-wide internal rate of return (IRR), which means the annualised performance (net of fees) of a hypothetical portfolio that includes all 375 deals as of 30 September 2016 was 14.4% on a non-tax-adjusted basis. When the impacts of tax relief and liabilities are taken into account, this goes up to 49.1%. Investors who have built portfolios of ten or more investments have, on average, outperformed investors with smaller portfolios. They have achieved non-tax-adjusted IRRs in excess of 20%. The three best-performing sectors to date have been finance and payments, with a 38.6% non-tax-adjusted IRR (tax-adjusted: 72.8%); property, with a 35.8% non-tax-adjusted IRR (tax-adjusted: 62.4%); and cloud-based computer application services, with a 30.3% non-tax-adjusted IRR (tax-adjusted: 63.4%).”

Industry News:

Advanced Marketing and Insights Masterclass open for bookings: Propel is partnering with leading sector public relations and marketing expert James Hacon for the Advanced Marketing and Insights Masterclass, which is now open for bookings. The event takes place on Thursday, 12 January at One Moorgate Place in London. There will be a panel discussion led by Hacon with Maxwell’s marketing manager Anthony Wright, G1 Group marketing director Lyn Pearson and Drake & Morgan marketing and sales director Pooja Sharma Jones about where they see success, their plans for the future and other topics discussed throughout the day. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) members and £345 plus VAT for non-ALMR members and are available by emailing Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com

London-based startup backed by Just Eat that aims to help fill restaurants at quieter times launches £150,000 crowdfunding campaign: London-based startup CityMunch, which aims to help fill restaurants at quieter times of the day and has received investment from Just Eat, has launched a £150,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. The company, which was launched in February and includes more than 250 restaurant brands such as Busaba Eathai and Hummus Brothers, is offering a 14% equity stake in return for the investment. The pitch states: “CityMunch brings together restaurants and diners, solving a problem for each. For restaurants, our platform tackles underutilised capacity during quiet times of the day; for consumers, our mobile app is the simplest way to save money on dining out. Our platform allows restaurants to connect with diners in real time, attracting people when they need them most. They can use it to create and manage a weekly profile of offers that precisely target key times. The calendar interface makes this easy, and can be tweaked at a moment’s notice to respond to changes in demand. These offers are published in real time to our consumer mobile app, giving consumers a wide choice of deals around them. CityMunch vouchers are just flat percentage discounts off the food bill, keeping things simple for customers. Recently, as part of London Food Tech Week, we won a pitching competition to become the first of five startups on Just Eat’s inaugural Accelerator programme, and intend to draw on their expertise and network to reach our full potential. The funds will be used for expansion both in London and nationally with our strategy to build out from student-focused launches in key UK cities, including Bristol and Edinburgh. They will also be used to enable us to perfect the user experience of the app and we also intend to partner up with other services (eg tourist apps) to act as other distribution channels for our vouchers.”

Exports of branded food and non-alcoholic drinks increase 13.7%: Exports of branded food and non-alcoholic drinks increased 13.7% in the third quarter of 2016, according to new figures from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). Sales to non-EU markets grew at twice the rate of the EU. However, the EU still remains the top destination for branded exports, buying two-thirds of the total. This represents the biggest quarterly export sales ever seen and builds on the second quarter, which was in turn the largest up to that point. The overall value of UK food and non-alcoholic drink exports rose to £3.4bn in the third quarter, up 12.1% on the same period in 2015. Latest year-to-date figures now show impressive double-digit growth, with total exports of £10.1bn during the first three quarters of 2016. The weaker pound since late 2015 and sharp falls seen post-referendum mean UK exports have become increasingly competitive in recent months. The three export markets that saw the greatest value growth in the year-to-date were Spain (up £158m), China (up £124m) and Germany (up £60m). Ireland, France and the Netherlands remain the top three destinations for branded UK food and non-alcoholic drink, buying 42% of total exports. The top three product categories were chocolate, salmon and cheese, with exports of wheat experiencing the largest value growth, up £147.4m (80.0%) year-to-date 2016, when compared with 2015. FDF director general Ian Wright said: “The growth of food and non-alcoholic drink exports we’ve seen in quarter three is very encouraging news for our industry. It is also a positive step towards highlighting the excellence of UK food and drink to the world. It is very pleasing to see non-EU exports performing beyond expectations, with UK firms taking advantage of increased competitiveness following the currency changes since the summer. As the UK leaves the European Union, a growth in exports is hugely important to our sector. We hope that with the determination of businesses, and the assistance of the government’s International Action Plan for Food and Drink, we can open more channels and provide support to new and existing food and drink exporters as they seek new markets overseas.”

Brazilian restaurant and bar Favelas to launch ‘bug’ food and drink menus in Manchester: Brazilian restaurant and bar Favelas will launch full cocktail and food “bug” menus at its venue in Manchester’s Northern Quarter on Friday (25 November). New dishes at the restaurant in Hilton Street will include tarantula burgers, mealworm fish cakes and cricket tacos. Favelas marketing team Oliver Taylor and Oliver Summerfield, who founded Northern Quarter cereal bar Black Milk, told the Manchester Evening News: “There are so many reasons we want to establish the insect market, not just for its unbelievable ecological benefits such as super low carbon footprint and the fact they hold more protein gram for gram than that of a cow, but because they taste great and we are passionate about changing social stigmas and views about food. It’s a delicacy in South America to eat tarantulas.”

Hospitality recruitment app closes crowdfunding campaign having raised almost £100,000 more than target: Placed App, which matches candidates with hospitality venues, has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs having raised almost £100,000 more than its target. The company, founded in July by Jennifer Johansson and Natalie Chasaay, was offering a 7.82% equity stake as it sought £85,000 to help develop the product. It has now closed the campaign having raised £182,777. The pitch stated: “The turnover of hospitality staff in junior to mid-level positions is staggeringly high, meaning venues are constantly recruiting new staff but with current methods being either expensive, ineffective or both. Placed aims to solve this issue and relieve these pain points by using advanced technology to immediately match suitable candidates to venues in one centralised, easy-to-use platform inclusive of interview scheduling, direct messaging, rating systems and shortlists. We have removed CVs by ensuring candidates create profiles, including previous positions held, as well as personality information, education and a profile picture. Having already proven the concept and signed up 131 venues, we now require funding to attract quality, eager jobseekers in creative and innovative ways. We also need to continuously improve our product and service to prepare for national and international scaling of the business. The proceeds from our Seedrs campaign will be used on marketing, developing the app and back office, and additional team members to grow the company accordingly.”

Saturday’s sporting action fails to lift pub beer sales: The sporting action on Saturday (19 November) failed to lift beer sales in pubs, which were down year-on-year, according to analysis by beer quality and insight expert Vianet. Data provided by Vianet’s iDraught cellar and bar management system gives a detailed analysis of pint per hour consumption at key times during sporting events. Sports pubs and non-sports focused venues both experienced a drop in consumption, with England’s comprehensive rugby union victory over Fiji at Twickenham and Premier League fixtures Manchester United against Arsenal, and Tottenham versus West Ham failing to pull in the punters. The poor weather may also have kept customers at home. Sports venues were down 1.44%, with non-sports pubs falling 1.1% year-on-year. The average sports pub beer volume was 280 pints on the day. The pre-match run rate was 12 pints per hour, during the match consumption was 22 pints per hour, and post-match was 24 pints per hour. Vianet said one in four pints was served via an unclean beer line. The sample comprised more than 1,700 sports pubs showing the matches, versus a “control” group of about 3,300 non-sports focused pubs.

Work starts on new food hub at Swindon shopping centre: Work has started on the creation of a new food hub at The Brunel Shopping Centre in Swindon, Wiltshire. The development, to be known as The Crossing, will provide 16,000 square feet of foodservice space on the first floor of the upper mall and has been designed to create a new heart for the complex. FI Real Estate Management, which owns and manages The Brunel, has been in discussion with restaurants and food outlets interested in opening in the new hub, which is expected to launch in the spring. The Brunel general manager Kevin Gwilliam told Insider Media: “Protecting the crucial Christmas shopping period is paramount for us and the development programme has been designed in phases to ensure Christmas trading is not affected. In the first phase, we relocated affected retailers to other areas of the shopping centre. Now this second phase has started, some existing shopfronts in the empty units will be replaced with hoardings.”

Company News:

Tasty continues Wildwood expansion with Bournemouth opening, first Dorset site: Tasty has continued the expansion of its Wildwood brand by opening a restaurant in Bournemouth. It is the chain’s first venue in Dorset, with the closest branch in Salisbury, Wiltshire. The 200-cover restaurant is at Bristol and West House in Richmond Hill following the conversion of two empty shops. Wildwood specialises in pizzas, pasta, burgers and steaks and also offers a selection of cocktails. As with a number of its restaurants, the Bournemouth venue features a deli selling freshly baked pastries and bread, artisan products such as olive oil, and salads and sandwiches to take away. Earlier this month, Tasty raised £9m to fund Wildwood expansion after making a conditional placing of 6,210,000 new ordinary shares at a price of 145 pence per share. The new shares represent about 11.6% of the current issued share capital of the company. The proceeds from the placing will be used by the company to fund the continued expansion of its restaurant estate. The brand’s next openings are due in York, Northwich and Edinburgh, which will be its first site in Scotland. It has also been given permission to open a site in Skipton, North Yorkshire.

New World Trading Company launches 11th Botanist site, in York city centre: New World Trading Company, the Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group, has opened its latest site for The Botanist, this time in York city centre. The new venue, which has opened in Stonegate, is the brand’s 11th and has created 60 jobs. Part of the Mulberry Hall building, the pub and restaurant covers 5,000 square feet, with 100 covers across the ground floor. Dishes include deli-inspired boards and a changing lunch and dinner menu focusing on rotisserie and barbecue-style dishes. The Botanist York offers a wide range of botanical cocktails, including a cinnamon and oregano old fashioned, alongside beer, ale and wine. There is also a selection of gins, all locally sourced and hand-picked. General manager Ciara Appleton told The Business Desk: “After lots of hard work over the past few months it was a very proud moment to officially open the doors in York. The opening follows The Botanist Sheffield launch last month, which has already been a huge hit so far with some really positive feedback. I hope York is just as successful.” Established in 2012, The Botanist’s other sites are in Manchester, Chester, Alderley Edge, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Marlow, Farnham, Knutsford and Sheffield.

Wright & Bell launches ‘department store of dining’ concept The Kitty Hawk in Finsbury Square: Fledgling restaurant and bar company Wright & Bell, which is backed by the Imbiba Partnership, has launched its ‘department store of dining’ concept The Kitty Hawk in Finsbury Square, central London. The company, led by managing director Jayne Baker, who worked for Mitchells & Butlers for 22 years where she helped to develop its Miller & Carter steakhouse brand, has opened the site in South Place. The Kitty Hawk is open from 7am until midnight and is split into five “departments”. The bar and kitchen offers small, tapas-style plates at the counter or in the lounge, while the below street-level steak restaurant offers West Country beef, sustainably sourced seafood, and cocktails. The coffee bar and patisserie offers soups, salads and sandwiches to eat in or take away, alongside daily specials, cakes and pastries. In the evening, the space turns into a cocktail bar, which also offers Kitty Hawk cask wine, while there is also a 12-cover private dining room. The name Wright & Bell is an amalgamation of inventor Sir Alexander Graham Bell and aircraft pioneers the Wright Brothers. Talking to the Imbiba Partnership Investor Conference earlier this year, Baker said design of a second site was being worked on, while the company was potentially looking at a third site with a pipeline of openings. She said the sites being sought were in excess of 10,000 square feet and 400 covers. She said: “We are already going at quite a pace. I’m going to deliver you an amazing dream – my dream.”

Red’s True Barbecue opens £1.2m Newcastle restaurant, eighth site: American smokehouse chain Red’s True Barbecue has opened its £1.2m restaurant in Newcastle city centre, creating 80 jobs. The brand’s eighth UK restaurant is at Intu Eldon Square’s new Grey’s Quarter. Decor at the 165-cover venue includes reclaimed wood, corrugated iron panels, large graphics and unfussy wooden tables and chairs. Chefs have undergone specialist training to become pit masters, with two in charge of each smoker. Marketing director James Newman told Chronicle Live: “We’re spending around £1.2m and a lot of that cost goes into the kitchen. Each of our smokers is imported from America and costs £30,000 and, because we cook ‘low and slow’, it means it can take 14 hours to smoke the meat, so the kitchen is open 24 hours – there is always someone on site. In any other restaurant you look to take on head chefs, line chefs but we also need pit masters – but there are none in the UK. We have to train them up. In Newcastle we’ll have our first female pit master, Kate Potter.” Red’s True Barbecue launched in Leeds in 2012 and now has authentic smokehouses in Manchester, Nottingham, Shoreditch, Liverpool, Headingley and Sheffield.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen opens first Somerset site: Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which was acquired by South African fast food group Famous Brands in September, has opened its first site in Somerset. The company has opened a 162-cover, 4,500 square foot restaurant at Clarks Village designer shopping outlet in Street after signing a deal with Hermes Investment Management. Located in the outlet’s restaurant terrace, Gourmet Burger Kitchen sits alongside Prezzo, Pret A Manger and The Restaurant Group-owned Frankie & Benny’s. Realm acted for Hermes Investment Management, while Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which operates 78 sites in the UK, represented itself. Clarks Village was the first outlet centre in the UK and attracts more than four million visitors a year. The 200,000 square foot outlet features 82 stores, as well as ten cafes and restaurants.

Ribble Valley Inns gets go-ahead for pub and restaurant scheme in Cheshire: Ribble Valley Inns, the food-led pub brand owned by Northcote Leisure Group, has been given the go-ahead to redevelop a site on the outskirts of Alderley Edge, Cheshire. The company, which acquired The Stag’s Head in Great Warford in 2014, intends to alter the pub as well as convert and extend an adjacent barn to form a 90-cover restaurant and four hotel rooms. The scheme also includes building an annexe to create an additional ten hotel bedrooms and increasing the number of parking spaces from 24 to 50, reports alderleyedge.com. The Stag’s Head will be the sixth Ribble Valley Inn and the second in Cheshire, with the group having opened The Nag’s Head pub in Haughton in 2014. Northcote Leisure Group was co-founded by celebrity chef Nigel Haworth and wine expert Craig Bancroft. It also operates the Northcote Hotel, a 26-bedroom luxury hotel and Michelin star-winning restaurant in Langho, Lancashire, Northcote at the Rovers, a hospitality, conferencing and banqueting business at Championship outfit Blackburn Rovers’ home Ewood Park, and a cafe-restaurant in Blackburn’s new £34m Cathedral Quarter. Ribble Valley Inns also has sites in Lancashire, Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

Gloucestershire-based pub operators acquire second site: Gloucestershire-based pub operators Paul and Jessica Sugden and Debbie Rogan have acquired their second site. The trio, who own and run The Black Horse in nearby Amberley, have bought The Village Inn in Nailsworth in a deal brokered by agent Christie & Co. The new owners said they were keen to continue the traditions of the pub in offering a range of real ales. They also plan to brew their own beer via the micro-brewery downstairs and develop the food offering. Christie & Co director Nicholas Calfe, who handled the sale, said: “The Village Inn is one of those rare proper village pubs where people come to drink and sample the local brews, as well as enjoy the local banter. We are confident this tradition will continue under the new owners and wish them the best of luck in their latest venture.”

New organic-inspired restaurant concept to open in Belsize Park on Saturday: A new organic-inspired restaurant concept will open in north west London on Saturday (26 November). Andy Kent is launching Juniper Tree in Belsize Park, which will have a focus on simple British cooking with organic ingredients. Kent took his inspiration for the restaurant after observing how the rise of the organic movement had come together with a reborn pride in British agriculture and British cooking. He aims to create a “restaurant inspired by small, humble, passionate kitchens that can be found all over the country, and their love for the best British ingredients”. The restaurant in Belsize Lane will seat about 60 diners and is situated on two floors. The ground floor will feature oak-coloured floors and bar, light grey paint and exposed brickwork and colourful art, while the basement will be more intimate with dark oak colours on the floor and the kitchen pass, kitchen seating and an illuminated wine cage in antique brass. The menu will focus on organic British culinary classics with starters such as game terrine with pear and saffron chutney and toasted sourdough, and West Mersea native oysters with a shallot cabernet sauvignon dressing. Mains will include roast chicken breast with pork, sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes, chard baby jam and braised peas; and wild mushroom risotto with Parmesan crisps. Desserts will feature medjool date sticky toffee pudding and chocolate fondant.

Manchester-based burrito bar Changos to start expansion by opening Liverpool site: Manchester-based burrito bar Changos is set to start expansion by opening its second site, this time in Liverpool. Founder Roger Taylor has applied to the city council to convert the former Sayers bakery shop in Dale Street. The existing frontage will be retained and refurbished, while the interior will be rebuilt to feature an extended mezzanine floor and new staircase. Changos is also planning an outdoor seating area, reports the Liverpool Echo. The Changos website stated: “Changos is the result of a hungry hombre’s travels to Mexico in the hope of bringing back a tasty, healthy, fast food recipe book to the north of England. Packaged sandwiches and factory-butchered ready meals are no longer the way forward. Our aim is to serve homemade, flavoursome and nutritious Mexican cuisine at a great price.” The company opened its first site in Oxford Street, Manchester, in 2013.

Smiths of Smithfield opens Cannon Street site: Iconic London restaurant Smiths of Smithfield has opened a second site in the capital, this time in Cannon Street. As with its flagship site in Farringdon, the new venue offers rarebreed steaks with all meat ethically produced by farmers in the UK and butchered in-house. The kitchen is headed by Henry Omereye, who has produced dishes such as grilled halibut with lobster mash, spinach and parsley sauce. Launched in 2000, Smiths of Smithfield’s Farringdon site is opposite Smithfields Market and is spread over four floors, with a cafe bar on the ground floor, craft beer bar and private dining space on the first floor, an open plan restaurant upstairs from that, and a rooftop dining terrace.

Flour & Ash owner to launch bakery and cafe concept at Westbury-on-Trym site: Steve Gale, owner of award-winning pizzeria Flour & Ash, is converting the brand’s second Bristol site into a new bakery and cafe concept. Earlier this year, Gale started expansion of Flour & Ash by opening the site in the suburb of Westbury-on-Trym at premises previously occupied by Michelin-starred restaurant Casamia, which relocated to the city’s Harbourside area. Now, Flour & Ash co-founder Joe Wilkin and former Harvey Nichols chef Merryn Williams will head up the daytime concept when the site in High Street reopens on Wednesday, 7 December. It will offer artisan bread and pastries baked in the wood-fired pizza oven, plus new breakfast and brunch dishes. The lunch menu will include Exmouth mussels with chorizo butter, cider and sourdough, and Gloucester Old Spot pork chop with roast butternut and braised red cabbage. There will also be a range of sandwiches, salads, savoury bakes and cakes, while pizzas will still be served from 4pm onwards. Gale told the Bristol Post: “With this new concept we hope to make Flour & Ash a social hub for the community – somewhere to pick up a loaf and a takeaway coffee, meet friends and family, work, hang out or just have a blow-out lunch.” Gale and Wilkin launched Flour & Ash in 2014, opening their debut site in Cheltenham Road.

Jason Atherton’s The Social Company opens Temple & Sons in the City: Jason Atherton’s The Social Company has launched Temple & Sons, a grill restaurant and all-day deli and cocktail bar in the City of London. The new venue in Broad Street is Atherton’s second partnership with Restaurant Associates and offers a more casual approach than its neighbouring sister site City Social. Temple & Sons features a 66-cover grill restaurant on one floor and a 30-cover all-day deli and bar on the other. Menus and interiors have been inspired by a traditional British grocery store, complete with artisan snacks and sandwiches, including game sausage roll, creamy mash and HP gravy, alongside a range of British cured meats from Cannon & Cannon. At night the deli transforms into a cocktail bar, with carbonated cocktails canned on site. Cocktails are served in card milk cartons and cans, while The Social Company’s own signature bottled English lager, The Subtle Fox, will also be available. Executive chef Paul Walsh, who also heads up City Social, is overseeing the kitchen alongside Atherton. The kitchen operates entirely from a custom-built grill using wood, charcoal and hay. Many dishes are designed for family-style dining, with grilled fish and meat served whole or in large cuts, with a selection of sides to share. Restaurant Associates managing director James Boyle said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Jason and his team again. The work we have done together at City Social has been outstanding and we hope to mirror some of this success at Temple & Sons. There is an appetite for a more casual style of dining in the City of London, and we are thrilled to be part of its growing food scene.” Atherton added: “Temple & Sons is my tribute to our great British produce and dining traditions. Following the success of our partnership with Restaurant Associates on City Social, I’m very happy to be working with them again.”

Oxford-based Italian restaurant Mamma Mia eyes third site in city: Oxford-based Italian restaurant Mamma Mia is eyeing its third site in the city. Owner Jon Ellse has revealed plans to add to the company’s Summertown and Jericho restaurants in 2017 having celebrated its 35th anniversary this year. He told the Oxford Mail: “There are plans for a third Mamma Mia. We want to grow and branch out to a different part of the city. But we are not a corporate chain, we know Oxford very well, we love it here.”

Krispy Kreme launches Glasgow airport site: Krispy Kreme has opened a site at Glasgow airport. The box store is open daily from 4am until last flight. Doughnuts will be delivered to the venue from the company’s Hotlight site at Intu Braehead, its largest UK outlet, which opened in Glasgow late last year. Krispy Kreme chief marketing officer Judith Denby told Glasgow Live: “There has been such a fantastic buzz and it is lovely to see guests getting their first experience of Krispy Kreme.” Denise Gilmour, head of retail at Glasgow airport, added: “Krispy Kreme’s world famous and delicious doughnuts are already proving extremely popular with passengers and staff.” Last month, Krispy Kreme UK confirmed the sale of 100% of share capital to Krispy Kreme Group, its US-based brand owner. The company said it would continue its strategy of “delivering profitable growth through the opening of new retail stores and self-serve cabinets across the UK and Republic of Ireland and driving core sales growth across the existing estate”. Krispy Kreme UK operates more than 70 stores across Britain.

Mobile payment and location app for London’s independent coffee shops closes: DripApp, a mobile payment and location app for London’s independent coffee shops to help them compete against global chains, has shut. An email to users said: “We arrived at a crossroads in DripApp’s future and had to make a major decision. The last few months have been really difficult, and we have decided to stop running DripApp as a coffee provider. The reality is that running an app is not simple; it needs supporting staff and funds. We are a very small team and it recently became quite complicated to run the app properly with our existing funding and team. Today we are facing a lot of bugs and issues in the app that we can’t get fixed.” The app, which had about 30,000 users and encouraged them to shun chains such as Costa and Starbucks, allowed people to buy drinks plans they could use to get discounted coffee at more than 150 independent coffee shops across London. People who had credit left within the app will be reimbursed within 15 days, reports Business Insider. DripApp raised £100,000 from investors little more than a year ago and the two founders, Ruben Grigri and Jeremy Cortial, put in £10,000 each.

Experienced operators return to UK to take over Michelin-rated East Devon pub: Experienced operators Gary and Graciela Tubb have acquired a Michelin-rated 16th century pub in the East Devon village of Clyst Hydon. They have bought the grade II-listed Five Bells Inn from Paul Parnell and Chris Charles, who run The Jack In The Green nearby. The Tubbs, who have returned from Australia, are experienced operators having previously run the Puffing Billy in Exton and The White Hart Hotel in Moretonhampstead. They have retained the existing team, which includes former Gidleigh Park head chef Ian Webber. Gary Tubb told the Plymouth Herald: “We’re very excited to return to the industry and to the UK after living and working in Australia for several years. It’s also great to come back to a quality operation such as The Five Bells where the standards are already so high.” Since 2013, The Five Bells has received numerous accolades, including a Michelin Bib Gourmand inclusion in the Good Food Guide. The sale was handled by agent Stonesmith.

Leon to launch Christmas menu: Natural fast food brand Leon will launch its Christmas menu on Friday (25 November). The company will bring back its festive classic The Christmas Wrap and unveil its new dishes made in collaboration with chef and food writer Gizzi Erskine. The Christmas Wrap, which is back for its fourth year, consists of British turkey wrapped with pork, sage-and-onion stuffing balls, ham hock, fresh spinach, tarragon mayo and cranberry and port sauce. Leon will also introduce three new Christmas dishes with Erskine, using recipes adapted from her latest cookbook Season’s Eatings. They are the Leon x Gizzi Turkey Curry, consisting of carrots and parsnips in a creamy curry sauce and spiced with garam masala, cumin and coriander topped with a sprinkling of crispy onions; the Leon x Gizzi Pomegranate and Pistachio Sprout Salad, which is shredded Brussels sprout with mint and dill in a pomegranate dressing and topped with pomegranate seeds and pistachios; and the Leon x Gizzi Earl Grey Mince Pie, which is a wheat-free pastry infused with orange zest and earl grey, filled with a mixture of fruit and spices. 

Former soap star launches restaurant and bar concept Muse in Oldham: Former Hollyoaks heart-throb Rob Norbury has put acting on hold to launch restaurant and bar concept Muse in the village of Uppermill, near Oldham. Norbury, who spent three years on the Channel 4 soap, has opened his 100-cover restaurant and cocktail bar after extensive redevelopment of a building in High Street. Norbury and his family snapped up the neighbouring Muse cafe as an existing business 18 months ago but when the large empty building next door went up for sale, Norbury seized the chance to create his own restaurant. The new Muse has a stylish warehouse feel with a bright and airy glass canopy room featuring neon lights and retro posters. The menu includes the venue’s twist on classic dishes and vegetarian options such as blue cheese gnocchi. Norbury told the Manchester Evening News: “The idea is to bring something with a city centre feel to the suburbs. Everything we do here is about making people smile. We don’t want to be one of those places where people sit, spend £100 but look miserable. If you’re spending your hard-earned money you want to come out and enjoy it.” Last month, Norbury’s former Hollyoaks co-star Ashley Taylor-Dawson also stepped into the hospitality business, launching Symposium bar in Wilmslow, Cheshire.

G1 Group gives pupils valuable work experience via council’s culinary excellence programme: Scotland’s biggest independent managed operator G1 Group, led by Stefan King, has been giving pupils valuable work experience as part of Glasgow City Council’s culinary excellence programme. A total of 18 students from 15 schools have gained practical experience working at G1 venues Arta, The Corinthian and The Bothy. The 12-week programme is in its 20th year and offers continuous development and clear pathways between schools, further education and employment. Students have been working in the kitchen and front of house to support their Level 5 qualification in hospitality, culminating in preparing and hosting a three-course lunch for family and friends at G1’s flagship venue The Corinthian. G1 Group HR director Paul Bailey said: “It’s important we show the full potential working in our industry has for students looking for long-term careers. Working with pupils still in full-time education also supports our industry’s future skills shortage and improves knowledge of what working in hospitality is really like.” G1 Group’s portfolio consists of more than 50 venues, including restaurants, bars, hotels, nightclubs and cinemas.

Michelin-starred Bristol restaurant Casamia opens new tapas bar concept: Michelin-starred Bristol restaurant Casamia, owned by multi-site operator Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, has opened its new tapas bar concept. Paco Tapas has launched at the former Bristol General Hospital building alongside Casamia, which relocated to the site in January after 19 years in Westbury-on-Trym. Paco Tapas, named after Sanchez-Iglesias’ father, has traditional mosaic tiles, sherry barrels and high stools at the bar looking into the open kitchen. Sanchez-Iglesias has taken inspiration from family visits to Andalusian tapas bars and the menu is an authentic range of classic Spanish dishes. There are Spanish wines and beers but the main focus is the range of Tio Pepe sherries, served on draught and from the bottle, reports the Bristol Post. The building is also home to Casamia’s other concept Pi Shop, which reflects the origins of the restaurant that started out serving a range of authentic Italian pizzas.

Premier League goalkeeper to open Greek restaurant in Middlesbrough: Middlesbrough Football Club goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopolous will open a Greek restaurant in the town centre this week. The new venue, called Great, will occupy a 200 square metre unit in Linthorpe Road. Konstantopolous, who is launching the project with business partner Nikos Pitsoulis, told Gazette Live: “I had a look around the Teesside area and thought there was a gap in the market. People always say they love Greek food, they come back from holiday having tried lots of specialities but they struggle to find them on menus over here. We will have a varied menu, there will be a takeaway option and we will be open during the day for people who want to grab a quick lunch. The interior is decorated in Greek style and I have had everything shipped over from Greece. It is important to me that the whole environment is authentic. The design and concept was born in Greece, the head chef is Greek, as are the waiting staff. I want people to come here and think they are eating in Greece. I’ll see what I can do about the weather.”

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