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Wed 15th Feb 2017 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

PizzaExpress paid nearly £5m for Firezza, newly filed accounts reveal: PizzaExpress paid nearly £5m to acquire gourmet pizza delivery company Firezza, newly filed accounts have revealed. PizzaExpress bought the entire share capital of Firezza and its subsidiary companies for a total consideration of £4,761,549. Accounts filed at Companies House for the year ending 29 February 2016 showed the trade and assets of London Bridge Pizza and Crouch End Pizza were hived into Firezza in June 2015 at book value and the companies were sold back to the original owners for £1 each as part of the PizzaExpress sale. The documents also showed the Firezza brand was valued at £2,370,970, with the figure reached using a discounted cash flow forecast taken over the life of the asset. Firezza reported turnover increased 5% to £7,776,988 compared with £7,429,096 the previous year. It made a pre-tax loss of £576,736 compared with a profit of £143,666 the year before following a change in its operational structure. The company stated: “Turnover during the period increased by 5% from £7,429,096 to £7,776,988. This increase represents growth achieved from existing sites and from opening new sites. The group implemented a change in its operational structure during the year, and the related costs of this have led to an operating loss of £529,842 for the year (2015: £176,812 profit). The results show a loss before taxation of £576,736 (2015: £143,666 profit). The directors are satisfied with this performance, especially given that the casual dining and delivery market continues to be highly competitive. The directors will continue to review the operation of the business to ensure it is operating effectively and efficiently. On 22 February 2016, PizzaExpress acquired the entire share capital of Firezza Holdings and its subsidiaries for a total consideration of £4,761,549. The trade and assets of London Bridge Pizza and Crouch End Pizza were hived up into Firezza in June 2015 at book value. The companies were sold back to the original owners for £1 each as part of the sale to PizzaExpress on 22 February 2016. During the year the group incurred exceptional profit of £128,305 (2015: £34,854 loss) relating to the disposal of the London Bridge Pizza and Crouch End Pizza businesses (2015 relating to acquisition costs for the London Bridge Pizza and Crouch End Pizza businesses). As at the end of the year, the group had net assets of £2,978,745 (2015: £3,238,318). The group will continue with its strategy to grow in the UK through a combination of opening new sites and increasing like-for-like sales.”

Industry News:

Advanced Social Media Masterclass opens for bookings: Propel is partnering with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the second Advanced Social Media Masterclass, which will feature all-new content. The event, now open for bookings, takes place on Friday, 7 April at One Moorgate Place in London and will provide a comprehensive overview of how to make the best use of social media. Digital Blonde founder Karen Fewell will share the latest insights, including a look at the role of artificial intelligence and social media as well as the psychology of marketing to give a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour. The day will also include advice on how to build effective social media campaigns as well as using the power of PR to boost social media success and working together to get audiences engaged and involved. There will also be sessions on the best way to work with social media influencers to boost your business, using analytics to help form strategies, amplifying your message through advertising, using social media to attract families, and recruiting and retaining talent. Tickets are £295 for Propel Premium members and £345 for non-members and can be booked by emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com

London has most hotel rooms under construction in Europe: London had the most hotel rooms under construction in Europe in January, a new report has revealed. The capital had 6,203 rooms in 34 hotels under construction, according to STR’s January pipeline study. Four other cities reported more than 2,000 rooms in construction – Istanbul (4,357 rooms in 22 projects), Moscow (3,460 rooms in 15 projects), Amsterdam (2,808 rooms in 13 projects) and Munich (2,524 rooms in 11 projects). The report showed there were 163,648 rooms in 1,038 hotels in Europe under contract – a 2.2% decrease on the previous year. Meanwhile, there were 71,365 rooms in 441 hotels in construction – up 14.7% on the year before. Under contract data includes projects in the “in construction”, “final planning” and “planning” stages but does not include projects in the “unconfirmed” stage.

Wagamama investor backs £10.2m management buyout of specialist outsourcer to luxury restaurants and hotels: Wagamama investor Connection Capital has backed the £10.2m management buyout of Associated Continuity Teams (ACT Clean), the specialist outsourcer to luxury restaurants and hotels. Founded in 2006, ACT Clean, which outsources kitchen porters, night cleaning and housekeeping services, has grown swiftly alongside the expansion of upmarket hotels and restaurants in London. The deal was structured by Connection Capital, a specialist syndicator of investment funds from private investors into direct private equity and commercial property deals and alternative asset funds. It currently has £180m of funds under management across a diverse portfolio, including investments in Virgin Wines and Wagamama, and property tenanted by Travis Perkins and Whitbread-owned Premier Inn. ACT Clean chief executive John Stevenson said: “We have always been, and continue to be, committed to providing an exceptional service, every day – offering the highest standards of outsourced cleaning to the hospitality industry. This new investment and partnership is an exciting opportunity for myself and our fantastic management team to consolidate and nurture our existing long-term client relationships as well as attract and develop new clients.” Connection Capital partner Miles Otway, who led the transaction, said: “ACT Clean’s leading position in its niche luxury market, experienced and proven management team, prestigious client base and strong growth prospects make it a highly attractive investment proposition. We look forward to working with the senior management team of John Stevenson, Gillian Thomson and David Murray to take the business on to its next stage of growth.”

HIT Training executive chairman awarded CBE: John Hyde, executive chairman of HIT Training, the national apprenticeship provider to the hospitality industry, has been awarded a CBE for his services to apprenticeships in the hospitality and care sectors. Hyde, who has more than 30 years’ experience in work-based learning in the hospitality industry, received the award at Buckingham Palace. Hyde was instrumental in founding the Association of Employment and Learning Providers and establishing HIT Training. Since the company was co-founded in 2006 by Hyde and managing director Jill Whittaker, it has steadily grown and supported more than 100,000 learners and apprentices at more than 22,000 employer sites.

UK becoming nation of cocktail connoisseurs as quality of drinks and experience shape night out: The UK is fast becoming a nation of cocktail connoisseurs, with quality of drinks and experience the key drivers for consumers when choosing a venue for a night out, according to new research. Cocktail bar brand Be At One revealed key trends in its annual guest survey, which showed premiumisation is leading the way, with consumers consistently ranking quality of drinks of higher importance than quantity during social occasions. Be At One guests are spending the same amount of money or more when out, with 77% happy to pay more for a better quality cocktail. Six in ten (58%) guests said they can tell the difference between different spirits brands. The survey also revealed male drinkers are increasingly developing a taste for cocktails, with almost a third (29%) drinking a cocktail every time they go out. The capital’s drinkers are prepared to spend the most, with almost half (47%) willing to pay between £8 and £10. Regionally, the most enthusiastic cocktail drinkers can be found in Milton Keynes, Cardiff and Brighton. Regional drinkers value the quality of atmosphere and experience far more than promotions such as happy hours. In contrast, London drinkers were more demanding of deals to entice them into a venue. London guests go out more frequently than those outside the capital, with 44% of Londoners visiting bars one to two times a week compared with 33% outside the capital. Be At One has seen total cocktail sales across its bars rise by 406% since 2012 and the company sold almost two million cocktails last year. Since its introduction to the menu in 2013, the Porn Star Martini has seen 1,449% growth in sales and is the most popular cocktail on Be At One’s menu, with 1,500 per day sold across its 31 bars. Operations director Andrew Stones said: “Today’s cocktail drinkers are increasingly searching for quality and a premium experience when it comes to choosing a venue for a night out, both in terms of product and atmosphere.”

Pubs and bars shrug off Dry January with food offers and soft drinks: Pubs and bars shrugged off the effects of Dry January by using food offers and soft drinks to tempt customers, according to new research. Data from CGA Strategy’s Trading Index showed bars and food-led pubs increased their average weekly food sales in January by 2.6% and 2.0% respectively compared with 2016. The index suggested some switched away from drink-led pubs in Dry January to ones that emphasise their food offer. Special promotions and an emphasis on healthier options have both helped to maintain trade during a month that sees many people resolve to eat better as well as cut out alcohol, the report said. Drinks sales have also held up well, with drink-led pubs increasing their average weekly drink sales by 2.6% compare with January 2016. There is also evidence that more people are enjoying soft drinks in pubs and bars as a result of giving up alcohol for the month. The share of all drinks sales taken by soft drinks was slightly higher in January than averages during the rest of the year – although uplifts might be even higher if pubs and bars could make their non-alcoholic drinks offer more appealing. The research also showed the scale the January detox has reached in 2017 especially among young adults, with more than a quarter (28%) of the age group planning to go dry in January against a country-wide average of one in five (20%). It had much less appeal for over-55s (14%), while females (23%) were more likely to take part than males (18%). Those committing to Dry January usually do so for health reasons and more than a quarter (28%) raised money for charity while taking part. CGA’s data also shows a significant upswing in sales in the last week of January, when people’s pay cheques arrived and the Dry January vow became more likely to be broken. The index suggested that while people started out with good intentions, alcohol sales can return to normal levels well before the end of the month. There will be more evidence of how managed pubs and restaurants fared in January in the latest edition of the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, which is out soon. CGA Strategy chief executive Phil Tate said: “Our research shows Dry January has become a full-blown occasion. That presents pubs and bars with a challenge if they are to retain footfall – but it’s one they are rising to. Good food and soft drinks give people reasons to keep coming in through the doors, and operators that can maximise those opportunities are more likely to shrug off any negative impacts of Dry January.”

Small brewers coalition passes 50 breweries, starts commissioning independent review: Companies representing more than 50 brewers around the UK have signed up to the Small Brewer Duty Reform Coalition less than a month after its launch. The organisation was launched on 18 January with the aim of asking the treasury to review and improve Small Breweries Relief (SBR) to ensure it supports a sustainable market. SBR is the system that provides a discount on beer duty to small brewers. To help make the case to the treasury, the coalition is also finalising terms of reference for an independent review, which will be undertaken by a firm of leading consultants starting at the end of February. This will help to frame the debate on reform. The consultants will be invited to make any recommendations for improvements to the system that would unlock growth potential of emerging brewers, deliver fairer competition for brewers of all sizes, stimulate the export of British beer, promote diversity and recognise small brewers’ diseconomies of scale. The Society of Independent Brewers and the Campaign for Real Ale are also being consulted as part of this review process. The findings of the review will be sent to the treasury. Coalition co-chairmen Rupert Thompson and Collin Wood said: “We are delighted that more and more brewers are joining the coalition and we continue to approach potential members who share our concerns that we need a sustainable system of SBR. We hope all parts of the sector will feed their views to the independent review.”

Company News:

Stonegate to convert Missoula site in Colchester into first Walkabout site since acquisition: Stonegate Pub Company is set to convert its Missoula site in Colchester town centre into what will be the first Walkabout site to open since the company acquired operator Intertain in December. The company is advertising for staff to work at the new venue, giving the address as the former site of live music and cocktail bar Missoula in Headgate, the Maldon Standard reports. Stonegate Pub Company acquired Intertain from private equity firm Better Capital for about £39.5m late last year. Better Capital’s 2012 Fund invested in the business in November 2014 and restructured and invested in the business, returning it to a profitable and cash generative group. Intertain underwent a CVA in early 2015 and surrendered unprofitable leases. Stonegate has said it plans to invest in many of the 30 Intertain sites during the next three years. At the time of the deal, Stonegate chief executive Simon Longbottom said: “Intertain’s strong association with sport in high-street locations is synonymous with Stonegate’s prowess in this market segment and further consolidates our position as the leading provider of sports-led entertainment in the high-street pub and bar market.”

Heavitree Brewery reports turnover increase: Heavitree Brewery has reported group turnover increased by £73,000 to £7,155,000 in the year to 31 October 2016. Group operating profit increased by £8,000 to £1,420,000. Adjusted operating profit before taxation of £1,420,000 was up 0.56% on last year. The Hole in the Wall and the Exeter Inn, both in Dawlish, were sold in the year under review realising a book profit of £28,000 and £171,000 respectively. The company also sold the Carpenters Arms in Islington, north London, realising a profit of £278,000, and one of the three new-build houses on the old Country House Inn site in Exeter, which realised a profit of £93,000. The Pen and Quill in Taunton and the Bell Inn in Cullompton are currently being marketed for sale. The company added: “A redevelopment of The Dolphin in St Marychurch and significant refurbishments of Marshals in Barnstaple and the Atmospheric Railway in Starcross were undertaken during the year, although the latter was not completed until soon after the year under review closed. These were the major capital works carried out during the year and all three houses are trading well after reopening. Many further smaller investments were carried out across different houses in upgrades to kitchens, lavatories or cellars, new patio areas and the normal annual programme of external decorations and changes to signage. The redevelopment of the Dartmoor Halfway in Bickington is well under way and it is hoped this exciting new pub will open in April.”

Casual Dining Group to close Cafe Rouge site at Liverpool ONE: Casual Dining Group is to close its Cafe Rouge site at the Liverpool ONE complex. The company said the restaurant, which overlooks Chavasse Park, would shut on Sunday (19 February), reports Your Move. It confirmed the news in an email sent out to its mailing list subscribers. The message read: “We wanted to let you know Cafe Rouge Liverpool ONE will be closing on Sunday, 19 February. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our loyal guests and we look forward to welcoming you into one of our other bistros shortly.” The Cafe Rouge site underwent a Beatles-inspired revamp in 2015. Last year a number of restaurants at Liverpool ONE were forced to close temporarily following a problem with mice at the complex.

London-based frozen yogurt company Sloane Bros passes 50% mark in £150,000 crowdfunding campaign for UK and overseas expansion: London-based frozen yogurt company Sloane Bros has passed the 50% mark in its £150,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it looks to open outlets in shopping centres across the UK as well as overseas franchises. The company, founded by Joe Chakra, is offering a 7.5% equity stake in return for the investment. So far, 120 investors have pledged £76,060 with eight days remaining. Sloane Bros opened its first shop in Brick Lane, east London, in June 2015, followed by its second in Nottingham in August 2016 at the Intu Victoria shopping centre. Now it is raising funds for further expansion in the UK and overseas as well as launching its business-to-business packaged products venture. The pitch states: “The funds from this round will be used to secure new UK locations and to launch the business-to-business packaged products business, as well as set up the franchising infrastructure. We believe the company would represent an excellent acquisition opportunity by adding a product line extension to several strategic acquirers, which would be more likely to provide better returns to the company’s shareholders than a listing or private equity sale. However the company would, of course, entertain all approaches.” Earlier this year, Chakra told Propel the company was looking to build a 16-strong UK estate in the next five years.

Barrafina head chef and general manager to step down: Nieves Barragán Mohacho, who has been head chef of renowned tapas brand Barrafina since its debut site launched a decade ago, and the group’s general manager Josè Etura are leaving at the end of the month to pursue their own project. Mohacho and Etura’s positions will be filled by the three head chefs from the respective Barrafinas – Carlos Manuel Miranda Gomes, Gisela Fernandez Moles and Javier Duarte Campos, along with Aurelija Sovaite, the current general manager of Barrafina in Adelaide Street, Covent Garden. Sam Hart, who owns Barrafina group with brother Eddie as well as Quo Vadis in Soho and El Pastor in Borough Market, said in a statement: “Nieves and José have been an integral part of what has made Barrafina the success it is today, and it has been a true pleasure watching them both develop over several years to a point where they are ready to pursue new projects. We will miss them here enormously but I’m looking forward to following their next steps with excitement and pride.” Nieves told the Evening Standard: “It has been an incredible honour to be at the head of this special restaurant for all these years. We’ve achieved a crazy amount together and I’ll miss the teams and all the customers.” The other Barrafina sites are in Dean Street, Soho, and Drury Lane, Covent Garden. Barrafina has a Michelin star and the Adelaide Street site was named best restaurant in Britain at the National Restaurant Awards 2016. This year the venue was placed second in the list.

Papa John’s hires new marketing executives as it bids to build brand awareness across the UK: Papa John’s has appointed two new marketing executives as it bids to “build the brand from a customer point of view”. Carrie Williams will be responsible for digital and social media, while Fahmida Hussain will focus on increasing local marketing support for franchisees. Both will be based at Papa John’s European headquarters in Milton Keynes. Senior director for marketing David Scott, who joined Papa John’s last year, has been tasked with increasing the company’s marketing output. The former Carlsberg brand director and Greene King marketer said: “Our goal is to drive sales and build the Papa John’s brand from a consumer point of view. There is a high general level of awareness of Papa John’s across the nation. However, our task is to ensure customers also understand our ‘better ingredients, better pizza’ proposition. Highly targeted digital and social media promotion is just one avenue, and we are delighted to now have incremental resources dedicated to helping solve the marketing challenges of individual stores and come up with appropriate promotional strategies relevant to particular geographical locations. This is highly valuable for our franchisees and, so far, the tactics are yielding particularly positive results in terms of increasing sales. We have more campaigns scheduled for this year, from TV advertising to digital marketing in addition to some innovative and fun partnership promotions.” Papa John’s has more than 350 sites across the UK and over 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.

Durham-based multi-site operator acquires £5.6m Wetherspoon pub in Newcastle: North east-based businessman Andrew Ward, who runs a number of ventures including five pubs in Durham, has acquired The Union Rooms in Newcastle from JD Wetherspoon. Ward did not disclose the purchase fee but last month Wetherspoon told Propel the price was more than £5.6m. The grade II-listed pub, a favourite haunt of students and city centre workers, will close at the end of this week for Ward and his team to carry out a refurbishment. Ward, who bought the pub through his newly launched company Union Rooms Newcastle Management, told Chronicle Live: “We want to build on the success it already has. It’s been bought in a cash purchase, bricks and mortar and as a going concern, lock stock and barrel. It’s a long-term investment and it’s a really successful investment. I feel very privileged to be able to buy it. We know what we’re doing. It’s definitely in good hands and we’ll keep it open. I’ve got five other successful pubs, all known for great ales and beers. We buy freeholds and I wanted to buy this because it’s an outstanding business in a fantastic location but it’s also got a thriving business and obviously a loyal customer base. We’ve got no plans for student accommodation – it’s only ever going to be a leisure operation.” Ward’s Durham pubs are The John Duck, The Angel, The Elm Tree, The New Inn and The John Hedley.

Butcombe Brewery rebrands beer range ready for new phase of growth: Brewer and operator Butcombe Brewery, owned by Liberation Group, has revealed new branding for its entire range under the ethos “Truth In Every Taste”, as the company enters a new phase of growth. The company, which is behind brands such as Butcombe Original and Butcombe Gold, has developed a “striking new brand with flair and storytelling at its heart”. The new branding will be launched at Craft Beer Rising Festival in London on Thursday, 23 February. Butcombe said the rebrand reflected the company’s “strong heritage, commitment, and the bravery it took to start an independent brewery at a time when it was a real risk, way before craft brewing was a lifestyle statement”. Butcombe said the rebrand would help the company get back to the “core values at the heart of the brand and beer and the people who started it”. The brand is also designed to appeal to the growing number of female drinkers interested in craft ale. The new brand mark includes a contemporary Butcombe logo with a T-Rex, representing originality with a nod to the past. The company has also rebranded its point-of-sale material, while new-look bottles have been designed to maximise stand-out shelf presence to support Butcombe’s growing off-trade business. Butcombe is seeking to further establish its credentials beyond the south west. It is expanding its brewing operations and growing its pub estate to 100 outlets during the next three to five years. Butcombe marketing manager Emmy Webster said: “This marks a huge step forward for the Butcombe brand, it is as much a reflection of who we are as it is a statement of the development of the company, our intent for the future and our ambitious growth plans. This new direction aligns with our vision of becoming one of the nation’s most popular brewers.”

Shuffle Bar & Jukebox starts expansion with second site: Shuffle Bar & Jukebox is to start expansion after acquiring The Tap Room in Southampton on a new free-of-tie lease through agent Savills. The grade II-listed property, which was fully refurbished in 2014, features 1,260 square feet of ground-floor trading space with private accommodation above, as well as a courtyard. The pub has a 1am sale of alcohol licence on Fridays and Saturdays. Shuffle Bar & Jukebox, owned by husband-and-wife team Paul and Sonya Mason, was established in 2014 and runs the Shuffle Bar & Kitchen in Brighton’s York Road. The operator has plans to acquire a further site this year, followed by two more next year in university towns such as Guildford, Reading, Portsmouth, Winchester and Exeter as well as south London suburbs. Paul Mason said: “We had been searching for our second site for 18 months. We had previously identified Southampton and, in particular, the Bedford Place area as a great pitch on a well-known circuit so we were delighted when Savills told us about the site. We are bringing with us a unique type of drinking experience where our guests have full control of the music by accessing our bespoke digital jukebox via their mobile devices. They are able to choose from more than 2,000 tracks, spanning 50 years of music, not to mention a cocktail menu of over 120 drinks. Our Brighton guests absolutely love it and we can’t wait to get Southampton shuffling!”

Edinburgh-based social enterprise pub company unveils chef training programme: Edinburgh-based social enterprise pub company Beer for Good has unveiled a chef training programme that aims to give disadvantaged young people the necessary qualifications for a career in catering. The company said the programme was the next step in the creation of an academy for catering and hospitality staff, and it was already looking to expand the programme to other venues throughout the country. Applicants will come from referral partner organisations such as the Prince’s Trust, with the first trainees due to start at the end of this month. The course will take trainees three years to complete, after which they will possess an SVQ Level 5 in professional cookery. Head chef Matthias Sandler told Scotland Food and Drink: “We’re going to recruit young people who maybe haven’t done well at school or who have struggled to find work and give them the support and training for them to become fully trained chefs, and help turn their lives around.” Sandler revealed he had developed an “adventurous” new tapas menu that would enable his trainees to learn a broad range of cooking styles and ingredients, while still delivering high-quality restaurant food to customers. He said the menu had just gone live in the group’s flagship Harry’s Bar, which reopened last year as a social enterprise bar and restaurant. Sandler and Beer for Good owner Chris Thewlis said they would use their contacts in the hospitality sector to give trainees work experience in other cities and kitchens, such as venues in Aberdeen and St Andrews.

French brasserie concept Bon Vivant opens in Bloomsbury: French brasserie concept Bon Vivant has brought a slice of Parisian romance to Bloomsbury by launching on Valentine’s Day. The new restaurant has opened in Marchmont Street, around the corner from King’s Cross, offering croissants and coffee in the morning, light lunches, classic French dinners and, at the weekend, bottomless brunches. There are also tartines, charcuterie plates and magret de canard, alongside more modern dishes and a wine list focusing on French varieties. In true Parisian style, the venue also offers outside seating as well as comfortable velvet chairs indoors under the banner “taste the good times”.

Liverpool-based multi-site operators launch Italian deli in city centre: Liverpool-based brothers Paolo and Donato Cillo, who operate restaurant Il Forno and Paolo & Donato’s deli in the city, have opened a third site. A Tavola Italian deli has opened in the East Village in the city centre offering “authentic, healthy and organic Italian produce and wine”, the Liverpool Echo reports. The venue also offers a dine-in area and hosts masterclasses in how to create and enjoy Italian food and drink.

Starbucks trials ice cream in US stores: Starbucks is trialling an affogato menu at 100 Starbucks sites in California. Affogatos, an Italian treat, are created by pouring a shot of espresso on top of a scoop of ice cream. The company is also offering an upmarket Roastery Affogato menu at ten Reserve bar locations in Los Angeles, Boston and Washington DC, Yahoo Finance reports. The move follows Starbucks’ addition of an affogato to the menu at its Seattle Roastery in June. The offering became a top-five menu item. Variations on the classic affogato include a cold-brew ice cream float and the Shakerato Affogato, which is made with icy shaken espresso and finished with vanilla syrup and a mint sprig.

Liverpool venue District House to relaunch as high-end live music and events space following liquidation of previous operator: Liverpool venue District House is to relaunch as a high-end live music and events space following the liquidation of its previous operator. GHU-owned District House has a new team and a renewed focus after the liquidation last month of the hospitality management company that previously ran the venue. Karen Jones has been brought in as general manager, with Bold Management commissioned to deliver a programme of events. The venue, in Water Street, is due to relaunch on Saturday, 25 February. Jones told Insider Media: “For 2017 we have been busy putting in place a robust programme and a new team to ensure this stunning venue is operated to the highest standards and we are so excited about the line-up of events Bold Management is bringing to the venue. All our events will create the opportunity for our guests to dress up and experience fine dining while being entertained. We are bringing dinner cabaret right up to date for those of us who like to have a little more from our nights out. This is a high-end offer you will see in hotels in Ibiza, Dubai and Miami – and we think Liverpool will love it.”

M&B steakhouse brand Miller & Carter and Gourmet Burger Kitchen agree deals for sites at new Bedford leisure complex: Mitchells & Butlers’ steakhouse brand Miller & Carter and Gourmet Burger Kitchen have both agreed deals for sites at a new multimillion-pound leisure scheme in Bedford. The two brands will open at the Riverside North complex, which is being developed on the banks of the Great Ouse. They will join Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi as well as Wagamama, which have both secured sites. The complex will also have a seven-screen Vue cinema and 100-bedroom hotel. A Bedford Borough Council spokeswoman told Bedford On Sunday the development was on track for this month’s deadline, with the cinema due to be handed over imminently. She added outlets would be filling up over the next few months as planned.

Burger & Beyond and Other Side Fried collaborate for Soho street food residency: Street food vendors Burger & Beyond and Other Side Fried are to collaborate for a three-month residency in Soho. The partnership at Dirty Harry’s cocktail bar in Wardour Street will kick off on Friday, 24 February featuring gourmet burgers with unusual toppings. Burger & Beyond offers hand-pressed gourmet burgers, taking inspiration from “London to Miami, Vegas to Los Angeles and Berlin to New York City”, and has operated from a Citroen van at festivals and markets across the country. Its burgers include the Hot Mess (spicy pepper jack cheese, jalapenos and chipotle mayo) and The Cliff, which features a 90 day-aged patty. Other Side Fried operates sites at Pop Brixton and Camden Market, specialising in a fried chicken burger that is double-breaded in a secret recipe. Burgers are served in a potato bread bun with crispy sweet cure bacon and baby cucumber pickles. The ultimate combination at the residency will be Beyond The Other Side – a beef patty with fried chicken skin and smoked honey butter, pancetta bacon and tarragon mayo, Hot Dinners reports. Shared sides will include fried chicken strips with cocoa and chilli salt, smoked mash with chicken gravy and crispy onions, and Cajun waffle fries.

Turtle Bay lines up Colchester site: Caribbean restaurant brand Turtle Bay is lining up a site in Colchester, Essex. The company, which has 35 sites in the UK, is advertising for staff for a venue in the town. Turtle Bay has earmarked a site within Greytown House in High Street for the restaurant, reports Gazette News. Turtle Bay, which is backed by Piper Private Equity, was formed by Las Iguanas co-founder Ajith Jaya-Wickrema and opened its first site in Milton Keynes in 2010.

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