London Mayor Boris Johnson has praised recent investment by three overseas companies into the capital's restaurant and hotel sectors, claiming it proves that London is 'the best big city in which to start and grow a business.'
Referencing the openings of five new businesses by three companies from outside the UK this year - ME Hotel at Aldwych and The Hippodrome Casino by The One Group; Sushisamba and Duck and Waffle at the Heron Tower by Samba Brands Management; and Bibigo Bar and Dining Room by CJ Group - Johnson said the investment, which will also create an estimated 1,750 jobs in the industry, was evidence that London's economy was seeing a resurgence.
"London has been basking in the world spotlight for the past month and international investors have rightly seen that the capital is the best big city in which to start and grow a business," he said.
"Our fantastic restaurants and leisure venues have never had a better opportunity to expand, capitalising on the amazing opportunities the Games are providing to boost jobs and growth in the capital."
Shimon Bokovza, founder and managing partner of Samba Brands Management, who opened the 24-hour restaurant Duck and Waffle in the Heron Tower earlier this month, said he felt 'happy and humbled' to be in London.
"If you want to be a player in this industry [London] is where you need to be. It has a great talent pool and phenomenal infrastructure. Look at the Olympics. Unbelievable. And when you add a government that supports business, it is a win-win for all.”
The Mayor's reference to the London 2012 Olympics may well make some restaurateurs, hoteliers and publicans in the West End and the City smart. Many saw trade take a massive hit during the two-week event as workers and non-Olympics visitors heeded warnings to work from home and stay away from the capital.
However, some may well be starting to see the results of the legacy left by the Games.
South African-born restaurateur Neleen Strauss, who sent a £90k bill to the Mayor due to her frustrations at seeing trade drop by 80 per cent during the Games, said she was feeling more positive for the future and could understand why so many international companies were opening restaurants in the capital.
"London is a magical city. I love living here and we invested in it by opening here several years ago. I'm glad the Olympics were such a success and I hope it is a gold medal legacy they leave. I trust it will be," she said.
"We will look to the future now and rebuild. I'm more positive now and am looking at the growth in the long run. September bookings are looking up, October's looking good too and bookings for Christmas are also doing well."
Strauss said there had been no response to the bill she sent to the Mayor's office but that she had not expected a response.
She said: "I sent it out of frustration. I did get lots of messages of support from other restaurateurs who said 'well done' for doing something about it. I have such good customers and they were coming in especially to support us after they heard. I'm just being positive about the future now."
It is not only the international companies previously mentioned who are investing in London this year. A host of UK-based companies and international chefs will open new restaurants and hotels this autumn, including:
- Bubbledogs in Soho
- D&D London's Fish Market, New Street Grill and Bengal Bar at The Old Bengal Warehouse
- Simply Fish in North London
- Nathan Outlaw at the Capital Hotel
- D&D London's South Place Hotel
- Alvin Leung's Bo London