Fresh from his annual festive television blitz Jamie Oliver was back in the headlines after announcing plans to close six of his then 42-strong Jamie’s Italian chain. The group’s (now former) CEO Simon Blagden faced backlash after blaming Brexit for the brand’s woes, though he added that the rising cost of ingredients and staff training had impacted the decision.
Chef Michael O’Hare revealed further details of the planned relocation of his Leeds restaurant The Man Behind The Curtain. The chef said he was planning to move the site, which holds the city’s only Michelin star, to a larger 6,000 sq ft space within the Flannels department store. He is also planning to open two further sites, The Man Who Fell To Earth and Are Friends Electric, at the upcoming GG Hospitality hotel in Manchester’s former Stock Exchange building.
The hospitality industry’s reliance on EU workers hit the headlines when the HR director of Pret A Manger revealed only in in 50 workers who applied for jobs at the chain was British.
The Jamie Oliver group announced it would be closing its final Union Jacks pizza restaurant six years after its launch. The brand was originally marketed as a flatbread concept, but it switched to ‘flatbread pizzas’ following a degree of confusion.
March also saw the release of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ 51-100 list, with London restaurants Lyle’s, St John and Hedone taking 54th, 91st and 98th place respectively.
The final 50 Best list saw New York’s Eleven Madison Park crowned the World’s Best Restaurant, knocking Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana off the top spot. Three London venues made the list once again – The Clove Club (26th), The Ledbury (27th) and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (36th).
Back in the UK chef Simon Rogan announced he would be leaving his Michelin-starred Fera at Claridge’s restaurant three years in to a ten-year management contract in a ‘mutual agreement’ with the hotel. He will relaunch his London pop-up Roganic as a permanent site in the capital next year.
It took four years, and some very deep pockets, but May finally saw the launch of Soho House’s The Ned. The 11-floor hotel cost a reported £200m and features eight restaurants on its open ground floor (the ninth is on the roof). Will it have staying power? It didn’t wow the critics, but the hotel opened its members-only restaurant Lutyen’s Grill to the public in December.
The Sportsman in Kent was named the UK’s best restaurant for the second year running at the 2017 Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards. Chef-patron Stephen Harris’ self-described ‘grotty boozer’ is one of the few restaurants in the UK to practise true terroir cooking, with air-dried hams hanging in the cellar and butter churned in-house.
Was 2017 the year the UK lost its appetite for gourmet burgers? The sector’s woes became clear in July when the family-run Handmade Burger Co was bought out of administration with the closure of nine of its restaurants.
Meanwhile, chef Bruno Loubet announced plans to close his King’s Cross restaurant Grain Store in preparation for his retirement from full-time cooking. Loubet’s career spanned more than four decades and included time working at La Tante Claire under Pierre Koffmann and at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons. The Grain Store site was later taken over by Caprice Holdings for its Granary Square Brasserie concept.
In the month Usain Bolt ran his final race at the World Championships in London, the athlete’s Jamaican restaurant group signed a deal to expand across the UK. Tracks & Records, which boasts Bolt as a partner, revealed it is planning to open 15 sites over the next five years as part of a deal with the UK’s Casual Dining Restaurants Group. UK diners can look forward to burgers ‘a la Usain’ and rum barbecue wings.
Is a £1,000 ‘golden hello’ the solution to the chef shortage? September saw Alexis Gauther, chef patron of London’s Gauthier Soho, reveal he had launched the package for new recruits who committed themselves to working at the restaurant after a trial period. He also gave staff access to a £37,000 research and development budget, pension fund, and private health insurance. “There is a lot of money in this industry, it’s not the Premier League, but we need to show that [it’s] there,” Gauthier told BigHospitality. “No one can ever say that money won’t excite people.”
October saw the resurrection of the debate over the relevance of the Michelin Guide as the red book revealed its new stars for Great Britain and Ireland 2018. Nine-seat sushi bar The Araki in Mayfair became the first Japanese restaurant in the UK to win three stars, while Claude Bosi at Bibendum was the only new two-star entry.
Fifteen restaurants also had their stars removed, the most surprising of which was Mark Poynton’s Alimentum in Cambridge - which has held its star since 2012.
There was more bad news for burgers in November with reports that the Byron chain could be facing a cut-price sale. The brand was bought by Hutton Collins for £100m in 2013, and has since doubled its estate to over 70 sites. However, Sky News reported that some prospective buyers were proposing to pay just £25m for the group.
It is the end of an era this month with the news that Stevie Parle's London restaurant Dock Kitchen is to shut on 23 December after eight years in business. Parle says the closure is a result of the lease coming to an end, but he is working on finding a new home for Dock Kitchen, or ‘a version of it’ next spring.