A round-up of the top stories with the highest number of views on www.catererandhotelkeeper.com throughout 2012.
Alastair Storey, chief executive at the UK's largest independent contract caterer company, WSH, was named the most powerful and influential person in the UK hospitality industry.
Storey, whose WSH portfolio includes BaxterStorey and Benugo, beat celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and Richard Solomons, chief executive at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), to the top spot in the fifth Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100, our list of the 100 most influential people in hospitality.
This year marks the first time that a contract caterer has clinched the top spot, and comes on the back of another excellent year for the WSH group, which also includes education specialists Caterlink (state) and Holroyd Howe (independent), as well as front of house services business Portico.
2) Fat Duck chefs in Hong Kong fatal car accident named
Two men, believed to have worked as chefs at Heston Blumenthal's three-Michelin starred restaurant the Fat Duck, were killed in a traffic accident in Hong Kong, in one of the saddest hospitality industry stories of the year.
The men were named as Jorge Ivan Arango Herrera, 34, known as Jorge, and Carl Magnus Lindgren, 30, known as Magnus.
The accident occurred when a bus collided with a taxi and another bus - the pair had both been travelling in the cab. The taxi driver was also killed and 56 other people injured.
The restaurant in Bray said: "We can confirm that two members of Heston Blumenthal's culinary team were tragically killed in a car accident in Hong Kong. They were both senior members and great and dear friends. Two uniquely talented young chefs that were loved by everyone who worked with them. They will be sadly and deeply missed."
3) Michelin accidentally reveals some new stars for 2013 early(27 September)
Michelin accidentally published some of its 2013 results a week early after a mix-up on its website.
Once the official results were released, it emerged that three restaurants had been awarded two stars: Simon Rogan's L'Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria; Michael Wignall at the Latymer at Pennyhill Park in Surrey; and Pierre Gagnaire and Mourad Mazouz's Sketch in London.
A total of 18 restaurants were awarded their first Michelin star, including eight in London: Alyn Williams at the Westbury; Dabbous; Hedone; Medlar; Trishna; St John Hotel; and Launceston Place as well as Tom Aikens Restaurant in Chelsea, which regained its star after losing it following its closure for a six-month refurbishment.
In the rest of England seven establishments celebrated their first star, including Heston Blumenthal's Hinds Head in Bray, Berkshire; Paul Ainsworth at Number Six Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall; Restaurant Tristan in Horsham, Sussex; Alimentum in Cambridge; the Bath Priory; Raby Hunt, near Darlington; Guy and Britt Manning's Red Lion Freehouse in Wiltshire; and Thackeray's Restaurant in Kent.
Elior knocked rival caterer Compass Group out of the Premier League contract at West Ham FC, in a deal worth nearly £10m.
The French-owned caterer took over from Compass at the beginning of June, just two weeks after the London team was promoted back into the Premier League after one season in the Championship.
The two-year contract, worth £4.9m a year in annual turnover, sees Elior provide all food services on both match days and non-match days at the Upton Park ground. West Ham joined QPR as Elior's second premiership football client. The caterer also counts Brighton & Hove Albion, Glasgow Rangers and Port Vale among its football portfolio, as well as Scottish rugby ground Murrayfield.
Two-Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains (pictured) hit back at his critics on TripAdvisor by posting his own reviews of their complaints, labelling them as "boring" company and "exaggerated".
Bains, who in 2007 picked up a perfect 10 out of 10 score for his starter on the BBC cooking competition Great British Menu, took to the online reviews site to respond to negative feedback with his own sarcasm-laced comments.
He told one unhappy customer who complained about the atmosphere in the restaurant that their group resembled a wake, and added: "The only reason the staff stuck around was to make sure they were still breathing, as a death of grumpy customers is not something I want on my conscience."
Another commenter wrote: "The food is good but not exceptional, the prices too high and there is just something missing here."
But Bains hit back: "I know what's missing… You. Now stay away, the 2 for 1's are missing your business."
6) Masterchef's Gregg Wallace to open restaurant in Bermondsey(26 January)
MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace (pictured) announced the opening of his second eaterie in London - "a thinking person's greasy spoon" - at the Bermondsey Square Hotel.
The 90-seat Gregg's Table originally offered a menu including refined versions of favourite dishes from the 1970s such as spam fritters, boiled beef and carrots, and lobster thermidor. But new head chef Jordi Villa was drafted in in April after a slew of poor reviews.
7) St John Hotel placed into administration(26 October)
The St John Hotel off Leicester Square in London's West End fell into administration, having gained its first Michelin star just a month before.
The St John Hotel opened in April last year, months behind schedule after chef Fergus Henderson and restaurateur Trevor Gulliver ran into difficulties with the rebuild of the property.
The MWB Group - the parent company of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin - called in the administrators after the shares in the company were suspended on 31 October.
The share suspension related to an outstanding loan of £8m which the group owes to its subsidiary service office company MWB Business Exchange, while MWB Business Exchange owes its parent company £4.8m. The 12 Malmaison and 15 Hotel du Vin properties are now expected to be sold.
Two-Michelin-starred chef Claude Bosi (pictured) defended his actions after a heated spat with a blogger on social networking site Twitter.
The response came after Bosi was criticised for his comments following a review of his Hibiscus restaurant by the amateur food critic James Isherwood. Bosi branded Isherwood a "c*" but explained this was because he felt the blogger had been dishonest with him.
10) Bovey Castle for sale for £17.5m(21 May)
Bovey Castle, the 64-bedroom country house hotel within Dartmoor National Park, went on the market for £17.5m - nearly £10m less that its current owners paid for the property six years ago.
Property investment company Delancey, in conjunction with its then joint venture partner Hilwood Hotels & Resorts, bought the hotel from Peter De Savary in 2006, for £26.4m. A couple of interested parties are currently talking to the owners, but as yet no sale has been agreed.
The luxury four-AA-red-star Tylney Hall hotel in Rotherwick, Hampshire, apologised to customers affected by a food poisoning incident, which landed the property with fines and costs of more than £40,000.
Three people were struck down with the campylobacter form of food poisoning following a Christmas party at the 112-bedroom property owned by Elite Hotels, in December 2010.
12) Claridge's attract record audience for BBC 2 TV documentary
Claridge's saw its website crash 10 minutes into the first part of a three-part BBC2 documentary on the hotel, which has made a star of its general manager Thomas Kochs and staff. Bookings and job applications both rocketed.
The Peninsula restaurant, 85 Bugsbys Way in Greenwich was handed a record fine of £54,000 and its owners were banned from running restaurants in the future after it failed to clean up its act.
It was the second time in two years that the restaurant had been prosecuted by Greenwich Council.
Chef-restaurateur Richard Phillips (pictured) closed his restaurant at Chapel Down Vineyard in Kent, after Ashford Borough Council restricted the number of weddings the venue could host.
The restaurant, had been run by the chef's company, Kentish Dining Rooms (KDR), for four years.
15) AA promotes seven restaurants to three-rosette status
The AA honoured seven restaurants with three rosettes at the start of the year.
\ Hakkasan Mayfair, London
\ Roganic, London
\ Cotswold 88, Painswick, Gloucestershire
\* Tuddenham Mill, Newmarket, Suffolk
\ Gravetye Manor, East Grinstead, Sussex
\ East Lodge Country House Hotel, Rowsley, Derbyshire
\ Mark Greenaway at No 12 Picardy Place, Edinburgh
In January the deal to take on former Von Essen property Cliveden was completed.
Ian and Richard Livingstone, the billionaire property developer brothers whose London & Regional company owns a portfolio of hotels including Chewton Glen in Hampshire, bought the 41-bedroom Thameside for nearly £30m off a guide price of £35m for a long lease from the National Trust.
17) Skye Gyngell leaves Petersham Nurseries
Michelin-starred Petersham Nurseries Café in Richmond, Surrey, confirmed that head chef Skye Gyngell (pictured) had left the restaurant after eight years.
The restaurant and garden centre, which opened in 2004, appointed Australian chef Greg Malouf as Gyngell's successor.
However, Malouf himself left in November and the restaurant continues to hunt for his replacement.
Another former Von Essen property, the five-red-AA-star, 20-bedroom Seaham Hall in Durham was sold to Seasons Holidays after the price was slashed from £12.5m to £5m.
It was believed the dramatic drop in the value of the property reflected the fact that it was is in need of some refurbishment.
19) Alyn Williams named Chef of the Year
Alyn Williams (pictured), chef-patron of his eponymous restaurant at the Westbury hotel in London's Mayfair, was named the 2012 National Chef of the Year.
He won the title after placing second in 2011, beating Joe McCafferty, from Roka, and Paul Matthews from Hunter S, who came in second and third place respectively.
Adam Smith (pictured), premier sous chef at the Ritz in London, was named the 2012 Roux Scholar.
He chose to spend his winning stage at Yannick Alléno's three-Michelin-starred restaurant at Le Meurice hotel in Paris.
10 other significant stories of 2012
1) Barcelo pays £20.25m to pull out of UK
(3 April 2012)
Spanish hotel company the BarcelÁ³ Group agreed to pay a penalty fee of £20.25m after pulling out of an agreement early to operate 20 hotels in the UK.
It threatened to quit the UK if its request to Puma Hotels, the owner of the four-star properties, for a reduction in the rent it paid for the hotels was not met.
In what appeared to be a straight swap, Robert Cook (pictured) was appointed chief executive of De Vere Village, while the man he replaced, Gary Davis, was made chief executive of Malmaison and Hotel de Vin.
Davis said: "It is a privilege to take over Robert's mantle, cast a fresh eye over the brands and take the business on to the next stage of its development."
Drinks supplier Waverley TBS collapsed into administration leaving £64.5m of debts to unsecured creditors.
In total, there were 200 trade creditors, owed a total of £40.5m. Waverley TBS's book value was over £72.5m, but the administrators estimated only £9.7m of that figure would be realised.
The two Bistro du Vin restaurants in London - launched with great fanfare and aggressive expansion plans last year - were sold by the MWB Group, for £1.2m.
The two branches - in Clerkenwell and Soho - recorded a loss of £330,000 in the 18-month period to June 2011. MWB decided the concept was not core to its business and decided to sell them.
5) BaxterStorey banks £100m catering contract with RBS
BaxterStorey banked a £100m catering contract with people's bank RBS after Compass Group's Restaurant Associates (RA) lost the business.
The five-year deal, estimated to be worth in excess of £20m a year, is widely regarded as one of the most lucrative contracts ever to be awarded to an independent operator.
6) Advertising Standards Agency upholds TripAdvisor complaint
Having successfully challenged TripAdvisor's "reviews you can trust" claim, online reputation management firm Kwikchex indicated it planned to push for a code of conduct for online review sites.
The Advertising Standards Agency upheld the complaint and said its claims were misleading because it did not verify the reviews on its website and therefore could not prove the reviews were genuine.
Restaurants in central London reported a fall in trade as diners stayed away owing to potential Olympic overcrowding.
Operators reported a significant drop in footfall during the first few days of the games as punters avoided central London because of congestion fears.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson (pictured) advised Londoners to stay away, prompting accusations that he had "shot business in the foot". The advice was later withdrawn.
Travelodge entered a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) with its creditors as it sought to reduce the level of rent it pays on 109 hotels. It also planned to shed 49 hotels which it no longer considered viable.
The company, which was understood to be trading well but struggling under £635m of bank debts, said the move would leave it on a more stable footing for the future.
Suffering from an ailing reputation, Spanish-style casual-dining operator La Tasca said it was set to redevelop the restaurants in its 46-strong estate, after its Creditors Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) completed without legal challenge.
Simon Wilkinson, who joined La Tasca as chief executive last year, said the process would allow it to free up more cash to redevelop its remaining sites.
A group representing nearly 400 hospitality businesses, largely in the hotel and leisure sector, launched its official campaign to cut VAT on accommodation and attractions to just 5% in Parliament.
The Campaign for Reduced Tourism VAT presented a report looking at the benefits of a tax cut to the Tourism All Party Parliamentary Group using an official Government economic model, used by HMRC.
By Neil Gerrard
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