The managing director of the fast expanding, casual-dining chain collected the Best Individual prize at this year’s Retailers’ Retailer of the Year Awards, organised by BigHospitality’s sister title M&C Report.
He emerged from an assorted shortlist of eminent business leaders from the eating and drinking-out market, narrowly beating Rupert Clevely, managing director of Geronimo Inns; David Niven, chief executive of Nando’s; Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon; Mark Angela, chief executive of Pizza Express; and Robin Rowland, chief executive of YO! Sushi.
The awards, in their 13th year, are unique in that they are the only ones voted for by senior executives from the industry itself. They are, therefore, a true reflection of what the market thinks, identifying the best companies, concepts and individuals.
Blagden, who collected the Rising Star award in 2009, was operations director at Pizza Express before joining Jamie’s Italian, at which he has overseen the fast-paced expansion of the chain, which currently operates 17 sites in the UK, with several more in the pipeline.
The company is also on the verge of opening its first international site at Festival City in Dubai, whilst it will also debut in Sydney, Australia, later in the year.
Blagden’s prize was the first of three awards for Jamie’s Italian.
The chain, which is backed by high-profile chef Jamie Oliver, also won the Best Concept award, whilst Oliver himself was named Investor of the Year for the second year in a row.
In addition to Jamie’s Italian, the chef has a fledgling chain of cooking shops called Recipease, has launched new Mexican barbecue concept, Barbecoa, in London, and also heads the Fifteen fine-dining chain that trains and promotes aspiring young chefs, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The prestigious awards, which took place on 2nd March at The Dorchester on London’s Park Lane, take their name because they identify retailing excellence in an eating and drinking-out environment. Market positioning, great products, attention to detail and flawless execution are the hallmarks of past and present winners.
YO! Sushi, the privately owned group led by Robin Rowland, was named Best Company, narrowly beating Fuller’s, McDonald’s, Nando’s, Pizza Express, Strada and TGI Friday’s.
The Rising Star prize went to Adam Marshall and Adam Saword, joint founders of the Grand Union Group, the fast-growing London-based multi-site operator.
Young’s acquisition of the 26-strong Geronimo Inns for £60m was named Deal of the Year, whilst Pizza Express picked the Evolution Award for its “Living Lab” site in Richmond.
Drake & Morgan, the highly regarded bar and restaurant chain led by Jillian MacLean, won the Best Emerging Concept award.
The Best Venue award went to the Underdog Group’s Hawksmoor steakhouse restaurant in Covent Garden.
The awards were generously supported by event partners, Barclays Corporate, BDO Stoy Hayward, Brulines, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Olswang LLP, Pernod Ricard, Shelley Sandzer and Zonal Retail Data Systems.
The process to determine the winners saw a 700-strong bank of senior operators, industry experts and suppliers – known as the Retailers’ Academy – nominate the shortlists in each category. The shortlists were then sent back out to the Academy for final voting, with the finalists with the most votes emerging as the winners.