This week’s Diary includes Greene King’s five-year plan, tasty turnover at Burger & Lobster, Turtle Bay putting employees through their paces and a movie star making your latte.

 

King maker

Earlier this year, Greene King revealed details of its new five-year plan for growth to 2020, which includes the group improving its exposure to daytime trading and reducing its exposure to alcohol & evenings/weekends. It also said it would look to the development of ‘all day’ concepts and/or acquisitions and that areas under investigation to aid its growth included casual dining, fast casual and coffee/pub café. On the back of this evolved strategy, Diary understands that the group recently made a tentative enquiry regarding another casual dining brand and is believed to have closely checked on the progress of Patisserie Valerie before the company underwent an IPO. No half measures in its quest for growth from this brewer and pub operator.

 

A lot of lobster

The latest financial figures from Burger & Lobster and sister company Goodman Restaurants suggest that the recovery in London was well under way last year, with steak and lobster at the top of consumers’ eating-out wish lists. Turnover for the then five-strong Burger & Lobster, which will open its first overseas site this autumn in New York, stood at £17.7m in the year to 29 December 2013. The company, which has since opened a further site in London’s Little Portland Street, reported pre-tax profit of £1.1m for the 12 months. Sister steakhouse brand Goodman, which operates three sites in Mayfair, the City and Canary Wharf, reported turnover of £11.5m across the same period, with pre-tax profit standing at £346.6k.

 

Not always greener

Many wise words were spoken at the latest R200 event held yesterday at the Big Easy in Covent Garden and Diary was particularly taken by the wise words of one highly-regarded restaurateur. One was “stop viewing consumers as something to make money out of as they come through the door and instead think about how we can make them have a good time”. A second was “if your business/concept is good enough it will work in any location and in any financial climate”. However, Diary’s favourite was a quote from Nick Jones, founder of Soho House, on people returning to work for a former employer: “The grass is not always greener in most cases it is browner on both sides!”

 

A Brazilian winner

It seems that at least one thing connected to Brazil isn’t afraid to play the long game and make a success out of it. Cabana, the Jamie Barber-led brand, is now showing considerable growth in terms of performance and site openings, but it hasn’t always been like that. Barber told delegates at yesterday’s R200 event that the group’s site at Westfield Stratford was taking c£6,000 a week during the first few months of its opening at the scheme, leaving the Hush founder to wonder whether he had made the right decision to launch the brand, which will open in Leeds later this year and has a Manchester opening in its sights. He is certainly happy he did carry on, with that same site taking £65k last week.

 

Show stopper

M&C learnt this week that Doug Williamson, who co-founded the Esquires coffee chain in Canada in 1992, has taken the reins at the group’s UK operations. Williamson has a pretty interesting background. Prior to starting up Esquires, he was a prolific actor, having had roles in a number of films and TV shows including Friday the 13th, Cool Runnings, Stakeout, Rocky IV, X-Files MacGyver and the Twilight Zone. Diary wonders whether some of his stardust will rub off on the group as it looks to grow from c30 to around 100 sites by 2020.

 

New concept eyes growth

Here’s a fledgling multiple operator to keep a look out for. The Umbrella Project - headed by former Living Ventures, Columbo Group and All Star Lanes exec Andy Kerr and Stephen Thompson and Ali Tatton of Mixology Events - has taken its second site, the Sun Tavern on London’s Bethnal Green Road. It sounds like a real hybrid, serving pastries and hot drinks in the morning, bar snacks throughout the day and with a specialism in classic mixed drinks and “fine ales”. The Sun Tavern also boasts the latest licence in the area. There are plans to expand the concept, with a further site to be announced by the end of the year. Watch this space.

 

 

I have my reservations

Here’s a trend from across the pond that may not be such a welcome addition to the UK’s restaurant scene. CNN reports that a new website ReservationHop allows ‘customers’ to make reservations at restaurants under fake names and then sell them on. Writing on a blog, the website’s creator Brian Mayer says he’s had an “overwhelmingly negative” response to what he’s doing. “Is this even legal? Is it ethical? Restaurants are going to hate this! To be honest, I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking through these questions. I built this site as an experiment in consumer demand for a particular product, and the jury’s still out on whether it will work.” Well, please let us know before you export it over here.

 

Jumping through hoops (or under poles) for a job

Turtle Bay, the Piper-backed Caribbean restaurant chain, is taking a novel approach to recruiting staff with personalities as lively as the food it serves by challenging prospective employees to limbo and musical trials at its newest site in Crawley, Sussex. More than 1,700 people applied for 60 jobs at the restaurant that opens next month. Turtle Bay has received investment of £6m from Piper to open a further 20 outlets over the next three to five years.

 

They did The Mash, they did The Diner mash

Marc Francis-Baum’s restaurant group The Diner is playing host to an American travelling food festival called The Mash this week. It’s teaming up with The Brooklyn Brewery to serve up a special menu at its seven restaurants with individually selected Brooklyn beer. The Mash runs from today to 27 July to celebrate food and beer from across the pond. The menu includes spicy catfish tacos, a Coney Island dog with beef heart chili complimented with Brooklyn lager pale Brooklyn Pennant Ale for £10 for a main and a beer. The Mash will then travel on in a series of parties, concerts and pop-up supper clubs around 12 American and European cities.

 

London Cocktail week returns with industry seminars

London will play host to a week-long celebration of cocktails from 6 – 12 October as tasting sessions, master-classes, pop-up bars and parties fill the capital as part of the UK’s biggest drinks festival. This year will include industry seminars at The Bartenders’ Centre where small, artisan brands or bartenders can share innovative ideas in hour long sessions in a 60-capacity theatre. The free of charge seminars are just for people working in the drinks industry but for everyone else there will be unlimited £4 cocktails sold at bars and hotels around the city through the week.

 

Pint with a pussy cat

The world’s first cat pub has opened in Tokyo to let drinkers enjoy a purrfect time drinking and hanging out with cats. The Neko Bar Akanasu is home to five freely roaming cats and a kitten. It also offers an ‘all-you-can-drink in two and a half hours’ deal for 1,999 yen (£11.50) which has attracted customers from across the country. The pub follows on from the popularity of animal cafes that began in Japan and spread to London earlier this year with the opening of Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium in Shoreditch. Diary wonders if the café, which already has a 30-day waiting list for bookings, will paw the way for London’s first cat pub.

 

Deliveroo tips 250restaurants

More than 250 London restaurants have signed up to food delivery service Deliveroo that lets independent restaurateurs offer delivery without having to worry about the logistics. The latest restaurants to sign up include Bea’s of Bloomsbury, Bird, Bubbledogs, Hummus Bros, La Bottega and The Juice Well. Orders are GPS-tracked so the businesses and consumer can see where their dinner is and ensure it’s as fresh as possible. Having established the model in W1, the service will now be available to Islington

postcodes as part of its city-wide roll-out programme.