Friday Five: the week's top news stories

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Top hospitality news stories International Women's Day, Arcade Food Hall

Related tags: JKS Restaurants, Sally Abe, Boparan Holdings, Elite Bistros

This week's best-read hospitality stories include chefs and restaurateurs marking International Women's Day and JKS Restaurant's eagerly awaited relaunch of Arcade Food Theatre.

Chefs and restaurateurs across the country marked International Women’s Day​ (8 March) with a range of one-off events, masterclasses and specially curated menus. Chef Sally Abé brought together a line-up of female chefs for a panel discussion that centred on the major issues faced by women in hospitality at her Westminster restaurant The Pem, with speakers including Andi Oliver and Sandia Chang. Alex Hely-Hutchinson’s Stoney Street brought together a group of chefs including Chantelle Nicholson, Judy Joo and Masha Rener for a special one-off meal, with each chef preparing a unique dish inspired by a woman who shaped their lives. In Somerset, Roth Bar and Grill hosted a special dinner with chef Angela Hartnett OBE that combined her love of Italian ingredients with the restaurant’s wood fire cooking; while in Scotland, Highlands hotel The Fife Arms has its kitchen taken over by MasterChef champion Jane Devonshire. 

- JKS Restaurants looks set to open Arcade Food Hall next month​ following the announcement of a new partnership with chef and Asian ingredient expert Luke Farrell, which will see him create two new concepts at the central London venue. Farrell will open a full-service Southern Thai restaurant called Plaza Khao Gaeng as well as Indonesian street food kitchen Bebek! Bebek! The latter will join a number of other kitchens at the central London food hall, which traded as Arcade Food Theatre before closing due to the pandemic. JKS Restaurants has also teased the possibility of a third venture for Farrell, whose Ryewater Nursery in Dorset supplies hard-to-find Asian ingredients to top Asian restaurants.

- High street hospitality chains including McDonald’s, Starbucks and Pizza Hut have announced they will pause business in Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.​ Foodservice brands had been facing calls to follow the example of major Western companies including Nike, Apple and IKEA, and suspend operations in the country, with people on social media threatening to boycott businesses continuing to sell in Russia. Amid the growing pressure, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Yum! Brands, which collectively have thousands of locations across Russia, have now all announced they will halt business in the country. McDonald’s decision to temporarily close its restaurants is particularly symbolic. The fast food giant first opened in Russia on 31 January 1990, a move that was hailed at the time as a sign of thawing Cold War relations.

- Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) is to trial the use of two service robots in one of its restaurants,​with a view to expanding their use across its wider estate. The KettyBot robots, designed and built by Pudu Robotics, are being trialled at BRG’s latest Slim Chickens restaurant in Guildford, which launched earlier this month. Programmed to be fully automated, the robots can engage with guests through spoken conversation, take orders and deliver dishes, both to tables and for collection. Infrared cameras, laser radars and sensors are used to ensure smooth transitions, navigation and obstacle avoidance.

- Elite Bistros is to open its first pub operation​ with the purchase of The White Horse in Churton, near Chester. The hospitality business, founded by chef and restaurateur Gary Usher, is the stages of buyin the village pub, which has remained close since the start of the lockdown restrictions. In a series of tweets, Usher announced that the company was “in the middle of buying” the pub and that it “would be a dream for us to run it”. Usher, who says he is familiar with Churton because his mother and father live a few minutes away and often walks his dog in the area, says his intention is to keep things simple.

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