This week’s Diary includes Bowmark weighing up options for the Drake & Morgan chairman role, Harry Ramsden’s on the up, Caring eyeing Bam-Bou number two, and St Austell’s coffee move.


Feeling more chipper

It seems that the turnaround of Harry Ramsden’s, the iconic fish & chip shop group, is beginning to gain traction. After the company reported a 6.2% rise in like-for-like sales in the first quarter of this calendar year, results for the 12 months to the end of 2013 show that the group halved its losses during the period from £2.46m to £1.28m. It closed three sites during the year, plus a further unit since the start of 2014, taking its estate to 18 sites. Gross profit stood at £5.8m, up from £5.7m, while turnover on the back of the closures fell from £14.2m to £12.9m. The group currently has franchise agreements in place for 100 new outlets within the next five years. It recently entered into motorway service areas with Welcome Break and anticipates being in a position to make further announcements in both of these areas, in the coming months.


Connell moves on from D&M

Drake & Morgan is on the search for a new chairman after former backer John Connell stepped down from the role earlier this week. The timing of Connell’s departure comes a year after Bowmark Capital, the private equity backer of Las Iguanas, the Latin American restaurant chain, backed a £30m management buy-out of the highly-regarded, bar-restaurant operator. It is thought that Bowmark has a number of “irons in fires” when it comes to a replacement for Connell, while the serial entrepreneur is set to concentrate on the growth of his current Imbiba Partnership-backed vehicles Camm & Hooper and Darwin & Wallace.


Caring at Berkeley Square part 114

Much debate has centred around Richard Caring’s plans for the NatWest Bank site at 1/4 Berkeley Square, which he secured earlier this year. Speculation pointed towards the serial sector investor bringing a new international concept into the UK for the site, along the lines of his tie up with Keith McNally at Balthazar in Covent Garden. However, the latest rumour doing the rounds is that Caring may use the site for a second restaurant and bar under the Bam-Bou name. He already operates one site under the name in Percy Street near Tottenham Court Road.


Full of beans

St Austell Brewery has taken further steps into the coffee market by opening its first Brewer & Bean coffee retail outlet at the Great Western Hotel in Newquay. The Great Western Hotel is the first of the pubs and inns to open a dedicated Brewer & Bean outlet, separate to the main bar and restaurant. The new coffee shop offers a wide range of coffees, Tea Pig Infusion teas and Fairtrade hot chocolates to drink in or takeaway.


The good news…

Some positive reports on the trading front today. New data from Deloitte has found that consumer spending on eating out grew in the first quarter of the year, and consumers expect further growth in the current quarter.


And the bad news…

Planned tube strikes in April and May could cost London restaurants 2% of their annual evening trade, according to the British Hospitality Association (BHA). The BHA has said the industrial action over seven nights will negatively impact restaurants, theatres and related businesses by putting customers off because of the level of disruption.


Star status

D&D London has announced that the company’s SRA 2014 Group Rating has been upgraded to Three Star status – the highest accolade possible. A founder member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, the company said that sustainability has always been an imperative corporate social responsibility for the group, and it was D&D’s key objective to achieve the Three Star status in 2014. As well as focusing on environmental aspects, another key factor behind the company’s Three Star status is the chef apprentice scheme; a full-time, paid training programme offering up to eleven apprentices each year professional work experience in a D&D restaurant kitchen, a formal qualification from the University of West London and a career with D&D at the end of the two year course. D&D London purchasing director, Paul Jenkins, noted: “It has been fascinating to see the sustainability movement evolve to the extent where it now makes commercial (as well as ethical) sense to choose the sustainable option. For example, in 2014 all of our electricity has and will come from 100% renewable sources and at no premium over traditional electricity generation, whilst 60,000 litres of our used cooking oil has been converted into biodiesel saving 156,000kg of CO2.”


Review halaballoo

How long can a restaurant cling on to a good review? This week the Guardian’s food critic Jay Rayner vented his frustration at Surin, a Thai restaurant in Ramsgate, Kent, about which he penned a glowing review a decade ago. On Twitter, Rayner said he asked the venue to stop quoting his write-up because he has no idea if it’s good or bad anymore. He later tweeted: “Many asking what statute of limitations on reviews might be. Not sure. Will have to think. But certainly ten years covers it.” Rayner couldn’t resist a further swipe, when he wrote: “Apparently @SurinRestaurant has loads of good reviews on trip advisor. So obviously that settles it #thisissarcasm.” Ouch.


Pancake day

Dogs have become a must-have menu item in these dude food-friendly days, but Diary was slightly taken aback by this take on the genre. My Old Dutch, the London-based pancake house group, has developed what it calls a “pancake dog”, or a sausage wrapped inside a pancake. Essentially it’s a novel take on toad in the hole, sans gravy. Diary can’t work out if it looks appetising or not, but it’s certainly striking.