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In 2006, Des Gunewardena and David Loewi bought Sir Terence Conran's restaurant company and expanded the group internationally. It now has more than 45 restaurants and bars worldwide, as well as the South Place hotel in London, and generates annual revenues of around £150m.
There is a strong entrepreneurial culture that runs through D&D. Gunewardena and Loewi believe that the dining experience goes beyond food – it is also about beautiful spaces, outstanding service and a buzzing atmosphere. Live music, chef residences and bar collaborations are all important features of their restaurants. The company is well-known for creating beautiful restaurants in iconic buildings and locations: German Gymnasium was converted from a 19th-century gym in King's Cross; Le Pont de la Tour is housed in a historic dock warehouse overlooking Tower Bridge; and 14 Hills in the City of London was designed as a ‘garden in the sky'. In October 2020, the group opened Klosterhaus in Bristol's Cabot Circus in the 18th-century, Grade I-listed Quakers Friars building. It incorporates a restaurant, bar and outdoor terraces, as well as a number of event spaces for business meetings and social events.
D&D's expansion into the US market has been equally successful. Following the launch of Bluebird in 2018, D&D's second New York restaurant, Queensyard, opened in March 2019. In Manhattan, the company now operates three high-grossing venues, with aggregate revenues pre-pandemic of around $30m (£23.2m) per annum. These openings represent a successful broadening of the business to make it less reliant on London and the UK in the context of Brexit.
In addition to its main business, D&D partnered with Lena Björck to launch Alexander & Björck, a luxury boutique outside catering business whose revenues are growing at 50% annually.
D&D London is committed to sustainability, with its chefs evolving menus with the seasons and buying from rainforest alliance, Fairtrade and direct trade sources. In 2019, a target to reduce energy consumption by 10% was set and achieved across the group.
In the same year, charities supported included the Felix Project, Women's Aid and Mental Health Mates. The company also raised £69,000 for the London Evening Standard's StreetSmart appeal to help the homeless, the highest amount raised by any London company.
Staff include Michelin-starred chefs and top sommeliers. Teams are rewarded with career paths that continually attract talent from all over the world. There is a chef apprenticeship programme and three levels of in-house diplomas, where employees can advance their skills and progress into management and senior restaurant positions. In 2019 the company launched a group-wide, two-week initiative called ‘My Hospitality World' to encourage young people into hospitality. It involved a range of events including an apprenticeship taster evening and a dedicated International Women's Day session aimed at inspiring young women to become chefs.
What the judges said
"Des and David are a formidable team who have created over many years great places to eat and drink in the UK and beyond." – Iain Donald
"Well deserved – fantastic national presence, strong financials and an impressive launch in the US." – Kavi Thakrar
- Philip Eeles, Tom Barton and Dorian Waite, Honest Burgers
- Des Gunewardena and David Loewi, D&D London
- Steve Holmes, Azzurri Group
- Mark Charlampowicz, general manager, Vox Conference Centre (Amadeus), Birmingham
- Iain Donald, commercial director, Individual Restaurant Company, Manchester
- Peter Martin, vice-president, CGA
- John Nugent, chief executive, Green & Fortune
- Robin Rowland, operating partner, TriSpan
- Kavi Thakrar, co-founder, Dishoom, London