This week’s exclusive Diary includes Wasabi raising its profile; Mitchells & Butlers’ PR guru moving roles; Christie + Co moving home; and Jongleurs proving a hit in the downturn. Wasabi whispers The growth of Wasabi, the London-based sushi and bento chain, has been impressive over the last few years. The expansion of the c.25-strong group, which also operates the highly-thought-of Kimchee restaurant in Holborn, has been very much done under the radar, increasing the intrigue surrounding the business, which is led by Dong Hyun Kim. However, Diary hears that this is about to change, with Kim set to do his first press in the UK later this year. The only mystery is why the group has now chosen to speak. Is it due to the success of Kimchee, or to show would-be investors a small peak behind the curtain of this impressive operation? Keeping it in house Christie + Co, the business adviser, is moving its head office from its current home in London’s Victoria Street following its parent company’s securing of long-term headquarters at Whitefriars House in Carmelite Street. Diary hears that two floors of the new Christie + Co HQ (ground and lower basement) have been designated for bar and restaurant use and the group is currently marketing this space to let to potential bar/restaurant operators. So a new home and a new instruction all in one, not a bad move at all. Over to you Diary would like to congratulate Andrew Roache, who this week moved from external communications at Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) to take up the role of internal communications manager. Not only would we like to say well done to Roache, who is one of the best comms guys out there, on his new role, we would also like to compliment him on his timing. With the Takeover Panel’s lock-out period for Joe Lewis’s investment vehicle Piedmont to make an approach for M&B expiring this Friday, what an opportune time to take his leave. His successor may have to hit the ground running. Fingers on buttons Diary didn’t expect to see a piece of service innovation on its bank holiday travels, but some duly arrived during a visit to a seafront restaurant and bar in Swanage, Dorset. Coming to the end of an evening meal, a button device was left on the table by a passing waitress that gave it four options to press for another drink/service/the bill/or cancel one of the other three. Once selected, your choice was then relayed to a system behind the counter and a waitress would quickly appear with said bill etc… The only thing was, being very English, Diary was too afraid to press it! Join the party The past 10 or 15 years has heralded a golden age for multiple pub operators, and Diary has heard of another high flying operator who could soon be added to the list. Darren Lingley, the current BII Licensee of the Year, who runs the Five Bells in Colne Engaine, Colchester, Essex, is rumoured to be close to securing another two outlets. Watch this space. Laughing all the way to the bank We all need a giggle to wash away the economic downturn blues, and Momo Leisure, operator of Jongleurs comedy clubs under franchise, is finding that this desire is definitely registering at the tills. Momo co-founder David Elphick told Diary that sales at its Nottingham and Bristol sites are up more than 15% year-on-year. “It’s a corny thing to say, but we are in the midst of a recession and people want to go out for a laugh,” said Elphick. The pub property dilemma Scottish pub operator Maclay Inns is looking to add two or three sites to its estate this year, and CEO Steve Mallon gave Diary an insight into the difficulties faced by expansive pub operators in the current market. “Whilst the picture has changed slightly now, the feeling was that the stock coming to market was bottom end pubs from the tenanted market that weren’t for us. We were finding that operators with good stock were holding onto their venues and the lack of bank liquidity was discouraging lenders coming forward.” Lets hope Maclay finds a way through the dilemma as it looks to add two or three sites this year. Oh I do like a Pete beside the seaside Be calm, ladies. Pop singer Peter Andre is currently looking to open his second cafe, in Brighton, under his New York Coffee Club brand; his first site opened in East Grinstead, West Sussex, in November. According to the Argus, the singer, who once lived in Hove, has submitted a planning request to the local council to open at The Quadrant at the city’s clock tower. Separately, Diary is unable to confirm rumours that Andre is planning to roll out a fast food concept called Mysterious Grill.

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