2019: Review of the year in hospitality

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

2019: review of the year in hospitality and restaurants

Related tags: Fine dining, Casual dining, Chefs

2019 saw Jamie’s Italian disappear from the high street, Patisserie Valerie’s fall from grace, and the loss of two hugely-influential British chefs.

January 
The year started inauspiciously with scandal, closures and the sad passing of a chef legend. Former Duck & Waffle head chef Dan Doherty is accused of sexual harassment, forcing both the The Royal Oak gastropub at which he worked and contract caterer Rhubarb to cut ties with him.

Beleaguered bakery chain Patisserie Valerie enters administration, closing 71 loss-making sites and shedding 920 jobs following that accountancy scandal that rocket the group at the end of 2018.

Chef Andrew Fairlie dies at the age of 55 following a long illness. A scholarship in honour of the late Glenegales chef is later established by Hospitality Industry Trust (HIT) Scotland.

PizzaExpress shows its intentions to enter into the grab-and-go sector by announcing the launch of Za, a pizza-by-the-slice concept located in the City.

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February
Paul and Emma Ainsworth are named as the husband and wife team who will replace outgoing chef Nathan Outlaw at The Mariners in Rock pub in Cornwall. The Ainsworths, who also recently launched a cookery school at their flagship padstow restaurant, introduce a strong menu of pub classics at the venue.

France-based Big Mamma Group crash onto the London restaurant scene with the opening of Gloria in Shoreditch - a brash, chic Italian restaurant that gets Londoners’ tongues wagging.

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March
Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner owner Boparan announces it will close 27 struggling restaurants as the group becomes the latest to succumb to the challenges in the casual dining sector.

Wagamama - one of the few high street restaurant brand that is still growing in the tough climate - announces it’s play into the fast casual arena with the creation of Mamago - which will open close to PizzaExpress’ Za.

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April
A report from the Centre for London think tank reveals that approximately 20,000 chefs, roughly 10% of the UK hospitality workforce, are leaving the profession every year. It also states that the London restaurant scene’s heavy reliance on migration will amplify the challenges surrounding recruitment in the future.

The iconic Michelin starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon restaurant in Covent Garden closes.

My Million Pound Menu winners Jamie Duffield, Dave Bone and Anthony Power announce they will open their debut restaurant Pilgrim in Liverpool. The restaurant goes on to win critical acclaim.

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May
PizzaExpress announces that its pre-tax losses almost doubled to reach £55m in 2018, blaming tough trading in the UK and overseas. The company would later be forced to quell speculation that it was being dragged down by its large amount of debt.

Ruth Hansom reveals that the restaurant she was due to open with business partner and sommelier Emily Lambert after receiving funding on TV show Million Pound Menu restaurant is no longer going ahead. The pair had secured the prospect of a £750,000 - £1m investment from Atukl Kochhar in the programme.

Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian restaurant group goes into administration with the closure of celebrity chefs’ restaurants. Thus follows a grab for many of its locations, with The Ivy group snapping up a number of the most high profile one.

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June
June was a month to forget for a number of London restaurateurs, with three high-profile restaurants shutting their doors for good. Mikael Jonsson’s acclaimed Chiswick restaurant closes, followed by Jason Atherton’s Social Wine and Tapas venue. Pitt Cue barbecue restaurant also closes its doors after struggling in its new City location.

Wahaca finds itself at the centre of a PR disaster after a tweet goes viral that suggests that a member of staff had to foot the bill when a customer left without paying for their meal. The Mexican restaurant group is slow to respond on social media at the time, and later admits that it had learned from its mistakes.

Mark Birchall’s Moor Hall is named Best Restaurant in the UK in the National Restaurant Awards, prompting a glut of booking requests overnight.

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July
A chef at a high-end hotel in the Cotswolds has been sacked over accusations of bullying, which culminated in chef Nathan Davies having boiling butter poured down his trousers. Members of the hospitality industry express their disgust at the incident and offer support to Davies.

Simon Rogan announces that he is making a return to hotel dining with the opening of Henrock in Linthwaite House hotel in the Lake District.

Sonny’s Kitchen in Barnes’ announces it is to shut after 33 years.

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August
Marco Pierre White is roasted for sexist comments. Speaking to The Irish Independent, the former three star chef said: “The real positive with men [in the kitchen] is that men can absorb pressure better, that’s the main difference, because they are not as emotional, and they don’t take things personally.” The restaurateur added that he thought men also brought a physical strength to the table that women do not have.

rhubarb closes its Centre Point restaurant Vivi after just six months citing low footfall and ongoing construction work at the Tottenham Court Road site.

Chef Kevin Tickle leaves the Michelin-starred Forest Side in Cumbria to spend more time with his young family.

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September
YO! launches its first full-service restaurant concept as it looked to further pivot away from its famous conveyor belt sushi. YO! Kitchen debuted at London’s Westfield White City shopping centre and offers 40 Japanese-inspired sharing plates including curry, ramen and a sashimi ‘pizza’. Sushi is still on the menu, but is delivered by waiters rather than a rotating conveyor belt.

The plant-based Neat Burger restaurant opens in Mayfair with the backing of Lewis Hamilton and Italian entrepreneur Tommaso Chiabra. Significant expansion for the brand - which serves burgers made with Beyond Meat patties - is on the cards for 2020.

KERB Seven Dials Market food hall opens in Covent Garden marking the pioneering street food operator’s first bricks and mortar project. Brands trading at the site include Monty’s Deli, Pick & Cheese and pizza giant Franco Manca’s new pizza concept Strozzapreti.

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October
The Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland 2020 causes a big stir. There are four new two stars and a rather controversial three stars for Sketch’s Lecture Room & Library. In another rather controversial move the Little Red Book removed all three of The Araki’s stars following the departure of chef patron Mitsuhiro Araki.

The brand that caused the biggest ever shake up of the traditional Indian restaurant model announced that it has chosen Birmingham for its third site outside London.

US chain Chick-fil-A lands in Reading only to close a few weeks later after protests and boycott calls by LGBT campaigners. The Christian owners of Chick-fil-A, which has about 2,400 outlets in the US, have made donations to organisations opposed to same-sex relationships and marriage equality.

In a presentation to investors, US fast food chain Wendy’s reportedly says that it is looking to return to the UK within the next 12 to 18 months.

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November
Chef and restaurateur Gary Rhodes dies aged 59. Known for his distinctive spiky hairstyle, Rhodes was one of the original and most successful celebrity chefs and had a distinguished career pioneering British cuisine. Tom Kerridge, who worked for Rhodes early in his career, said that he was “one of the greatest British chefs who almost single handedly put British food on the world stage”.

Chef Alyn Williams threatens to take legal action against The Westbury Hotel in Mayfair after being sacked from his job. The chef-patron of almost nine years at the Michelin-starred restaurant says he was dismissed because he entertained friends on a Sunday lunchtime when the space was closed, some thing he says had previously been permitted by management.

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December
Fred Sirieix leaves his role as general manager at London’s Galvin at Windows restaurant. The Frenchman - who is now a household name thanks to his TV Work, most notably First Dates - had worked the floor at the sky-high dining room since it opened in 2006.

After surviving the collapse of Jamie Oliver’s wider UK restaurant business earlier in the year, Fifteen Cornwall closes its doors.

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