2014 was another generally good year for hospitality - restaurants enjoyed a steady rise in eating out spend on the back of growing consumer confidence, the hotel market returned to good health – prompting plenty of foreign investment, and tourism went from strength to strength. There were also some magnificent achievements at the various awards ceremonies throughout the year.
The year was not without its challenges though, with issues such as flooding, the recruitment crisis and high VAT rates posing a threat to some businesses. Here is our take on the top 10 stories of the year:
1) Noma reclaims top spot at World’s 50 Best Restaurants
After being knocked off the top spot by El Cellar de Can Roca in 2013, Rene Redzepi’s Danish restaurant Noma stormed back to victory at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards 2014 – winning the top prize for the fourth time.
The judges said Redzepi’s ‘meticulous attention to detail, innovative approach to foraging and experimentation with fermentation’ made Noma the best in the world this year.
2) The UK floods
Hotels, restaurants, pubs and tourist attractions were battered by heavy rain and gale force winds in the early part of the year – with some serious consequences for hospitality spend. Thankfully the government stepped in and lent a hand - launching a £2m flood recovery campaign through VisitEngland to support businesses affected by severe weather.
3) Return to investment
After several years of decline, the hotel investment market bounced back in this year, boosted by interest from foreign buyers – primarily those in Asia, the Middle East and the US.
Significant hotel transactions in 2014 included Starwood Capital’s acquisition of the Four Pillars portfolio in January or £90m and De Vere Venues in March for £232m, as well as the sale of Edition by Marriott to ADIA for over £150m and the sale of Marriott Grosvenor Square to Hong-Kong based private equity firm Joint Treasure for £125m.
4) Gymkhana named Best Restaurant in the UK
In June 2014, Karam Sethi’s Mayfair restaurant Gymkhana became the first-ever Indian restaurant to take the title of National Restaurant of the Year. The achievement was particularly impressive given that Gymkhana only opened its doors in September 2013, but Sethi remained modest about his achievement, saying it was beyond his wildest dreams to be named number one.
5) Tourism Council established
Some long-awaited recognition of hospitality and tourism’s contribution to the UK economy came with the establishment of the first-ever Tourism Council. The council, chaired by tourism minister Helen Grant MP, is a ‘joint industry and government partnership’ that is striving to bring about a step change in tourism and give the industry the help it needs.
However, it came under early criticism for deciding that it would not tackle the issue of VAT –which was debated in Parliament for the first time earlier this year but remains unresolved, despite cross-party support for a reduction and evidence it would benefit the economy.
6) Beer duty freeze
Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to scrap the alcohol duty escalator for a second time in the March 2014 Budget was a welcome reprieve for the industry. The Chancellor also cut another penny off a pint of beer, leading the British Beer and Pub Association to crown him as ‘the toast of Britain’s brewers, pubs and pub-goers.
7) Good Food Guide history
2014 was the year that L’Enclume, Fat Duck and Gordon Ramsay made Good Food Guide history, with all three restaurants scoring a 10 out of 10 in Waitrose’s yearly publication – the first time in 15 years that three restaurants have won top marks.
8) Recruitment crisis
In April, McDonald’s chief people officer David Fairhurst spoke out about the looming recruitment crisis facing the hospitality industry, warning that the fast food chain was starting to feel the effects of the ‘workforce cliff’, with marginalised groups such as young people and older workers not being given enough incentive to enter a career in hospitality. The British Hospitality Association (BHA) and People 1st unanimously agreed with his comments, and recruitment remained a hot topic throughout the year.
9) Tom Kerridge opens second pub
Tom and Beth Kerridge’s second pub, The Coach, was one of the hottest openings of the year. Kerridge revealed the first details of the new venture during his demonstration at the Estrella Damn gastronomy congress, with further details released just before it opened.
The Coach is just down the road from the award-winning The Hand and Flowers in Marlow, and offers 40 covers with a strict no booking policy. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the pub has a tapas style menu, with diners encouraged to share several different dishes rather than stick to three courses.
10) Marcus Wareing opens Tredwells and replaces Roux on Masterchef
Marcus Wareing's new Covent Garden restaurant Tredwell's was another huge opening in 2014. The chef's third London restaurant is named after the butler in Agatha Christie's novel, 'The Seven Dials Mystery', and offers more casual dining than Wareing's existing restaurants, Marcus at The Berkley and The Gilbert Scott.
Wareing also joined the judging panel for Masterchef: The Professionals this year after the shock departure of Michel Roux Jnr, who quit the show over a dispute with the BBC.