This week’s Diary includes further fallout from NAMA, Five Guys on the expansion trail, Starbucks ramping up its UK expansion and those impressionable guys at Loungers.

Won’t be alone for long

Earlier this year, US fund Lone Star acquired the bulk of Anglo Irish Bank’s €7bn UK loan book sold by the special liquidators for the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC). Diary understands that within that book currently sits the TCG business and GRS Pubs, the c60-strong tenanted pub group formerly owned by London Town and currently being managed by Ted Kennedy. It will be interesting to see how long Lone Star will take to work through its new asset book and whether it has any inclination to move some of the portfolio on. With new vehicle Hawthorn Leisure, which recently secured 275 tenanted sites from Greene King, making no secret of its plans to secure further groups, Lone Star may have found a bidder for the latter portfolio and Diary wonders if it could tempt Stonegate back to the table for the former.

Something’s brewing

On the back of reporting a drop in turnover in its last financial year, Starbucks UK was quick to point out its return to the expansion trail here, stating that it hoped to open 100 new sites across the country this year. With the closure of 30 stores also planned this will see its UK portfolio grow by 70 sites in 2014. This is against the 53 sites it opened in the UK in 2013 and the 50 it closed over the same 12 months. The group is certainly ramping up its growth plans and Diary understands that it will be the franchise route which will provide the foundation for this expansion. The company had two franchise partnerships in the UK at the beginning of 2013, but is on target to have up to 25 by the end of this year, leading the brand’s growth in small regional towns.

We buy any

Five Guys, the US burger chain, has not been backward in its plans to grow a national presence in the UK. The company currently has seven sites open with another four lined up for openings this summer. It hopes to have at least 20 opened by the year end with handful more in the pipeline for next year. A quick flick through a latest issue of Property Week, finds what Diary believes is the group’s first direct advertising campaign calling for sites. Under the banner “We need sites” comes a number of sound bites from the national press regarding the brand’s offer, followed by a simple statement saying “Five Guys now expanding nationwide”. The final interesting part is that the call out for sites hasn’t come from a property adviser, but from the group’s two leading property executives. Seems the foot is being pressed even harder on that expansion pedal.

Joule’s ups the ante

Joule’s, the Shropshire brewer and pub operator, has announced an exciting next stage of its development, with the upcoming launch of a craft brewed lager. The new product is set to be unveiled later this month and joint managing director Steve Nuttall is keen to get feedback on the development. Diary hears he has even written to AB InBev to get its thoughts on the issue and maybe come to Market Drayton to discuss the product. However, it is thought he is not holding out for a reply from the global brewer.

Sound reasoning

Bristol was the site of the first Loungers site and has become a base for the group’s subsequent national expansion. The group will cement its place in the city’s eating and drinking-out scene, with the opening next month of its first Cosy Club in the centre of Bristol. But Diary has always wondered why Bristol was chosen as the place where the Loungers empire would start. Operations director and co-founder Jake Bishop touches on some simple reasoning behind the choice of city: “An attractive girl at school said it was a great city and we were very impressionable”. They are undoubtedly not the only people to have been swayed by this line of reasoning! 

Salmontini targets wealthy demographic

Salmontini, the Middle Eastern restaurant operator, is opening its first UK site in London at the former Palm in Knightsbridge, as part of a plan to expand globally. The company has multiple restaurant concepts across Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Dubai, and is now looking to expand to other major cities around the world. Salmontini’s restaurants all feature signature dishes of smoked Scottish Salmon and seafood specialties, sushi, meat dishes and pastries. The Palm was part of a US steakhouse chain that had been operating in Knightsbridge, its only UK site, since 2009. Davis Coffer Lyons acted for Salmontini to secure the lease for an undisclosed premium.

Best publicity is no publicity?

Wahaca, the Mexican street food concept led by Thomasina Miers and Mark Selby, has revealed the secret to its success was to keep PRs away from its fledgling restaurant, according to co-founder Mark Selby, who told the Daily Telegraph he paid a PR person to not get the restaurant any PR because he was conscious that “we didn’t know what we were doing.” The restaurant group now has 12 London sites and is planning to expand beyond the capital with Cardiff and Manchester among its targets, suggesting the unconventional approach has been highly successful.

Slider Decider finalists revealed

The Gun, in London’s Docklands is hosting the Slider Decider competition on 5 June for 16 chefs to compete for most creative slider dish. Among the finalists is last year’s winner Jamie Thickett of Opera Tavern who won with his Iberico pork slider with lobster, fried courgette, nduja aioli and a saffron bun. The hopeful chefs will host cookery demonstrations and spectators get to sample the slider dishes. The finalists come from the kitchens of ETM Group, Burger Craft, Nigel Fredricks Butcher, Fika, Boisdale, The Flask, Nanban, Mews of Mayfair, Boom Burger, Hixter, Brindisa, The Bloody Oyster, BRGR.CO, Ember Yard, and L’Anima.