As 2018 draws to a close, we look at some of the year's biggest and most popular stories on www.thecaterer.com
À la carte hits the menu at Midsummer House
The new year saw Daniel Clifford announce that he would begin offering à la carte menus at his two-Michelin-starred Cambridge restaurant Midsummer House.
Clifford said that after seven years of only preparing tasting menus the change would allow greater creativity, give his brigade a better work-life balance and follow a shift in demand from diners.
The chef, whose decision prompted a debate about the virtues of tasting menus versus à la carte, told The Caterer: "When I eat out, I don't want to be dictated to; my time as a dictator is no more. I think diners want change, they want choice and don't want to be preached to any more."
CVAs take over the high street
In January, Jamie's Italian became the first of many casual dining brands to announce that it would be undergoing a company voluntary agreement (CVA), as a ‘perfect storm' of high rates and rents as well as other cost pressures took their toll on the industry.
Oliver, whose Barbecoa steak restaurants would also fall victim to what has been dubbed the casual dining crunch, was followed by Byron, Carluccio's, Prezzo, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Gaucho.
Speaking to The Caterer, Oliver later described the period as "the hardest, darkest, toughest, most emotional rollercoaster ever". He, along with others, is now focused on ensuring a slimmed-down portfolio of sites are sustainable.
Explaining what had led to the crisis, Richard Hodgson, restructuring and insolvency partner at Linklaters, said: "The sector has been faced with a number of issues that have caused a stranglehold. First, there's oversaturation in the market. A number of chains expanded rapidly to the point that supply has raced ahead of demand. Couple that with increased food prices, staff costs and business rates, and owners are looking at where they can reduce costs to put the business on a more sustainable footing."
Richardson Hotels goes into administration over unpaid tax bills
The administration of the five-strong portfolio of hotels in Devon and Cornwall within the family-owned Richardson Hotels business was the first in a string of stories about the company to hit the headlines throughout the year.
In February, the group's Grosvenor Hotel in Torquay, which was not included in the administration, was relaunched as the John Burton-Race Restaurant with Rooms. The partnership, however, was short-lived, with the hotel being renamed again in September, this time as the Abbey Sands, following the breakdown of the partnership between Burton-Race and Keith Richardson, chairman of the company, who said: "We had a dream, but it did not happen."
The Pig expands with a trio of new hotels
Good news for lovers of the popular Pig brand of properties was forthcoming with the announcement from parent company Home Grown Hotels that the litter was set to undergo a £30m expansion with the opening of three hotels in Kent, West Sussex and Cornwall.
Each new hotel - like sister properties in the New Forest (Brockenhurst); near Bath; Studland, Dorset; Combe, Devon; and Southampton - will feature a restaurant supplied by an extensive kitchen garden or from within a 25-mile radius of the hotel, as well as the distinct shabby chic interiors designed by Judy Hutson, wife of the chief executive of Home Grown Hotels, Robin Hutson.
The first of the three new hotels to open will be in the village of Bridge near Canterbury, Kent. Due to launch in May 2019, the Pig at Bridge Place will be located within a Grade II*-listed, 17th-century manor house dating back to 1638.
The next two hotels will be located near Padstow, Cornwall (the Pig at Harlyn Bay) and near Arundel, West Sussex (the South Downs Pig), which are set to launch autumn/winter 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Premier Inn attempts to clean up its act
Premier Inn launched an investigation into unsavoury cleaning practices after housekeepers supplied by facilities management company ISS were shown on Channel 4's Dispatches programme using the same dirty towel, discarded by a guest, to clean the entire bathroom, including the sink, bath and toilet.
The programme, made by independent production company Tigerlily, also claimed that staff were expected to work additional, unpaid hours in order to meet cleaning targets.
A spokesperson for Whitbread-owned Premier Inn, the UK's largest hotel brand with more than 780 properties, said that the findings of the investigation would be addressed directly with ISS, adding that the company directly employed the "vast majority" of its housekeeping team, none of which had been the subject of the allegations.
Following the revelations from Dispatches, further examples of poor pay and working conditions for agency housekeepers were revealed to The Caterer, with details of some housekeeping staff provided by agencies not being paid for training days worked at hotels. While it is usual practice for agencies to cover the cost of two to three training days, in some cases this was found to not be happening, with the hotels involved failing to ensure that payments are being made. As a result, some staff were said to be paid under the National Living Wage due to the missed training payments.
Restaurateurs bid to tackle no-shows
The scourge of no-shows hit the headlines repeatedly in 2018, with February seeing post-Valentine's day reports that restaurants had lost out on thousands of pounds as tables sat empty on what should have been one of the busiest nights of the year.
This ultimately led to many restaurateurs introducing deposit schemes. Among them was Mark Greenaway, who had recorded 450 cancellations or no-shows at his eponymous restaurant in Edinburgh in just one month.
Explaining his decision, Greenaway said: "The worst example I can give is last September: 22 customers in one night, whom were all confirmed, just did not turn up or call to cancel. Now, when you consider that we are a small, independent restaurant only seating 42, and on the weekend feed 70 customers maximum, this makes a huge difference to the business and is the difference between us making and losing money."
Stuart Gillies leaves Gordon Ramsay Group
In March Stuart Gillies was formally removed as a director of the Gordon Ramsay Group, two months after The Caterer had revealed his departure.
Mystery still surrounds the chief executive's departure after more than 15 years as Ramsay's right-hand man, with the restaurant group never responding to repeated requests for comment.
Later in the year Gillies would register two businesses with Companies House. We wait in anticipation to see his next endeavours.
Tom Brown opens Cornerstone
April saw the opening of Tom Brown's much-anticipated restaurant, Cornerstone in Hackney Wick. The debut from Nathan Outlaw's protégé was quickly lauded by the critics, while his potted shrimp crumpet with kohlrabi, gherkin and parsley may have been one of the most Instagrammed dishes of 2018.
Speaking to The Caterer in the weeks before the opening, Brown said: "As people always say, I just want a busy restaurant. I would like to do future sites on top of this one, if the opportunity was there."
South African owner to transform Hadspen House in Somerset into hotel
News was revealed that Babylonstoren - one of South Africa's most renowned country hotels - is planning to open an outpost in Somerset.
Hadspen House, located between the villages of Pitcombe and Ansford, is in the process of being transformed into a luxury hotel with between 30 and 35 bedrooms and an 80-cover restaurant, a kitchen garden and estate.
The 17th-century mansion, which had been owned by the Ford family for more than 200 years, was bought in 2013 by South African businessman Koos Bekker, owner of Babylonstoren in the Drakenstein valley.
The general manager of the hotel is Andrew Foulkes, former manager of the Abbey hotel in Bath and 2017 Cateys Manager of the Year. It is expected to open in April 2019.
GG Hospitality brings in new CEO as Michael O'Hare leaves the group
GG Hospitality, the hotel and restaurant firm backed by former Manchester United footballers Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, appointed Winston J Zahra as its new chief executive to head up a newly formed executive team as the business geared up to roll-out the Hotel Football brand in the UK and internationally.
In addition to launching further properties to join the original Hotel Football in Old Trafford in Manchester, Zahra will also oversee the opening next year of Stock Exchange, the 41-bedroom boutique hotel planned for the Grade-II-listed former stock exchange building in the city. Further ahead is the St Michael's development in Manchester, made up of a 200-bedroom hotel and 170 apartments.
Meanwhile, the culinary focus of the group had a setback in June with the departure of Michelin-starred chef Michael O'Hare, who said his intention was to focus on his Leeds restaurant, the Man Behind the Curtain.
O'Hare had overseen GG Hospitality's Rabbit in the Moon restaurant in Manchester's Urbis building and was due to create the restaurant in the Stock Exchange hotel. In October it was announced that the Rabbit in the Moon was to close and be replaced by an events space, while details of the revised restaurant for the hotel are yet to be revealed.
The Caterer Top 100 highlights lack of women in top hospitality jobs
Back for the first time since 2012, The Caterer's Top 100 Most Powerful People in Hospitality list was published as part of the magazine's 140th anniversary.
Alastair Storey, chairman and chief executive of WSH, the largest independent catering business in the UK, took the top spot as he had done six years previously, highlighting his rock solid position in British hospitality.
The list was widely read and shared on social media, creating many talking points, particularly around the lack of women on the list - there were just 13.
Chris Gamm, editor of The Caterer, said: "Lots of people have asked why there's not more women on the list. The fact is this imbalance exists. Highlighting it on the Top 100 list is important as it means the debate can take place."
Ruth Hansom emerges as the star of Million Pound Menu
In May Million Pound Menu - think hospitality Dragon's Den - introduced budding operators to serious investors as well as the television-watching public.
Presented by Galvin at Windows general manager and First Dates maitre d' Fred Sirieix, the show allowed would-be restaurateurs to test their concepts and business acumen in a bid to secure the investment that could bring the concepts to life.
Chef Ruth Hansom and business partner Emily Lambert appeared on the first episode and proved to be a hit with both the public and investors, securing the backing of Atul Kochhar, who was "blown away" by Hansom's cooking. Their concept restaurant Epoch, which will showcase purely British produce, is understood to still be in development, and in the meantime Hanson has taken on the head chef position at Luton Hoo hotel's Wernher restaurant. Exciting times are doubtless ahead.
Principal hotels to split between three brands following sale by Starwood Capital
In what was one of the largest hotel acquisitions of the year, French investor Foncière des Régions (later renamed Covivio) snapped up a portfolio of 13 hotels from the US-based Starwood Capital Group, heralding the break-up of the Principal brand.
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) was appointed as the operator of the properties in a move away from the asset-light approach the company has adopted in recent years. The 334-bedroom Principal London, which had only opened in April following an £85m refurbishment, was rebranded as the Kimpton Fitzroy London in October, with the rest of the properties due to join Kimpton or one of several other IHG brands, including InterContinental, Hotel Indigo and Voco.
The demise of Principal, which within two years had seen a group of tired, under-invested hotels turned into vibrant venues relevant for today's guests, was greeted with surprise throughout the industry. However, its chief operating officer, David Taylor, now vice-president operations at Principal Hotels at IHG, was recognised for his work in creating the brand - following on from earlier roles as general manager at the Hoxton and London Edition hotels - by being named as the 2018 Hotelier of the Year in November.
Fire closes the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London was forced to close for much of the year after a fire broke out at the hotel on 6 June, just a week after a multimillion-pound renovation had been unveiled.
More than 100 firefighters battled to extinguish the fire, which is believed to have started when the byproduct of welding work landed on the felt lining of a planted wall, setting it alight.
During the months of closure, the hotel's employees donated about 40,000 hours to support good causes across the capital, an act that saw it presented with the Extra Mile Award at the 2018 Hotel Cateys.
The restaurants, spa and event spaces in the hotel reopened at the beginning of December, with guest rooms and suites expected to follow in spring 2019.
Prescott & Conran falls into administration
Prescott & Conran's London portfolio, including Parabola, Lutyens and Albion Clerkenwell, closed in June after the group fell into administration.
The Boundary Project in Shoreditch remained open and under the control of Sir Terence Conran and his family following a restructure that had seen it transferred to a new holding company.
Administrators' documents would go on to reveal that Prescott & Conran collapsed owing creditors more than £14m after difficult trading conditions left the businesses "unviable".
The stars gather for the Cateys
The Cateys 2018, the hospitality industry's biggest night of the year, saw Diego Masciaga, former director and general manager of the three-Michelin-starred Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire, carry off the Life Achievement Award.
Held at London's Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott hotel, the awards ceremony was attended by 1,250 guests and also celebrated the success of 21 other award winners.
It was the final Cateys to be overseen by the hotel's executive chef Nigel Boschetti before his departure in October to Grosvenor House's sister hotel in New York, the 1,892-bedroom Marriott Marquis.
- Atul Kochhar 'no longer employed' by Mayfair's Benares
One-Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Benares announced that Atul Kochhar was no longer in its employment in August.
Kochhar, one of the first Indian chefs to be awarded a Michelin star, had been at the helm of the Mayfair restaurant for 15 years. The circumstances around his departure remain unclear.
In June Kochhar had been let go by Dubai's JW Marriott Marquis Hotel after he posted a series of allegedly anti-Islamic tweets to the actress Priyanka Chopra. Kochhar was replaced at Benares by executive chef Brinder Narula.
Heckfield Place finally opens its doors
After a delay of some six years, Heckfield House, located within a Georgian property in the midst of a 400-acre Hampshire estate, finally welcomed its first guests.
The hotel is the vision of overseas owner Gerald Chan and his family, who spent undisclosed millions on creating their version of a British country house hotel. Interior designer Ben Thompson eventually succeeded in getting his designs approved, following in the footsteps of earlier designers who had been and gone, while a succession of key personnel were appointed before moving on throughout the extensive renovation and redevelopment of the property.
Today, the 45-bedroom hotel, with two restaurants overseen by chef Skye Gyngell, is headed by general manager Olivia Richli. The general verdict is that the wait has been worth it, with universal praise for the hotel's carefully considered organic design and connection to the locality.
Kerridge's Bar & Grill launches at the Corinthia Hotel London
One of the most high-profile restaurant launches of the year - Kerridge's Bar & Grill at the Corinthia Hotel London - highlighted the importance of hotels securing the right partner when working with an outside operator.
Kerridge's Bar & Grill saw the coming together of two big personalities: the hotel's managing director Thomas Kochs and two-Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge of the Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. Both spoke to The Caterer about the importance of creating a happy team, which in turn creates a great atmosphere in the dining room.
More recently, Kochs and Kerridge took centre stage in the prime-time BBC One documentary about the Corinthia, A Hotel for the Super Rich and Famous.
Corbin & King relinquish management of the Beaumont hotel following sale to Barclay family
The foray into hotelkeeping by seasoned restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King came to an end with the sale of the five-AA-star, 73-bedroom Beaumont in London's Mayfair to the owners of the Ritz London, the Barclay brothers.
As owners and operators of a successful portfolio of four restaurants, including the Wolseley, Brasserie Zédel and Colbert, their move into running hotels was unfortunately not as commercially successful. While the Beaumont was praised by critics and guests alike and was the winner of the Hotel of the Year - Independent Catey award in 2017, there was an overspend on the opening costs in 2014.
King wrote in a Corbin and King newsletter: "I am inevitably sad to let it go, but it is the right course of action. Que serÁ¡, serÁ¡."
Allergens hit the headlines
A coroner branded Pret A Manger's allergy labelling "inadequate" following the death of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who collapsed while on a flight shortly after eating a baguette purchased at the chain.
The teenager had suffered an allergic reaction to sesame baked into the baguette, the presence of which was not highlighted on the packaging or on the fridge of the Heathrow Airport outlet in 2016.
The inquest and reports of other allergen-related deaths put pressure on the grab-and-go market to overhaul their approach to displaying allergens. Pret A Manger has since launched a pilot testing ingredient labels, while environment secretary Michael Gove has said he will bring forward concrete proposals to change the law around the turn of the year.
Michelin launches 2019 guide
Come October all eyes were on the launch of the 2019 Michelin guide, where Core by Clare Smyth, Mark Birchall's Moor Hall and James Knappett's Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs were all awarded two stars.
There were no new three-star presentations or new accolades for Scotland or Wales at the ceremony, despite a record year that also saw 21 new one-Michelin-star accolades handed out.
Marcus Wareing and David Everitt-Matthias were the most high-profile chefs to lose stars in the 2019 Michelin guide. Their restaurants - Marcus at the Berkeley hotel in London's Knightsbridge and Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham respectively - both went down from two stars to one.
Gidleigh Park in Chagford, Devon, was the third business to drop from two stars to one, following the departure of executive chef Michael Wignall last year. A total of 15 restaurants lost their single stars, some of which had the accolade deleted as the result of a change of chef or closure.
There are now a total of 155 one-Michelin-star establishments, 20 two-star and five three-star in Great Britain and Ireland.
Patisserie Valerie accounts called into question
In October Patisserie Valerie suspended trading in its shares pending an investigation into "significant, and potentially fraudulent, accounting irregularities" and "a potential material mis-statement of the company's accounts".
Chief financial officer Chris Marsh would go on to resign after being suspended and later arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation. The Serious Fraud Office later confirmed it had opened a criminal investigation.
The turbulent months to follow saw undeclared overdrafts amounting to £10m discovered alongside a now dismissed winding-up petition.
Shareholders did back a rescue package for the chain that saw £15m of new shares issued to private investors following a funding injection by director Luke Johnson to the tune of £20m, but shares remain suspended.
Andrew Fairlie and Gerard Basset reveal terminal illnesses
In the same week in November, The Caterer reported the sad news that two of the industry's leading personalities are facing the struggle of terminal illness.
Two-Michelin-starred chef Andrew Fairlie, who has run his eponymous restaurant at Gleenagles in Auchterarder, Perthshire, for 17 years, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2005 and earlier this year was told that intensive treatment or surgery was no longer possible. He had now passed the business over to long-term colleagues - creative co-founder Gregor Mathieson; general manager Dale Dewsbury; and head chef Stevie McLaughlin - while continuing to act as a sounding board for the team.
Two days later, Gerard Basset, Master of Wine, co-founder of the Hotel de Vin chain and former World's Best Sommelier, said that he had been overwhelmed by messages of good wishes after it was revealed on Twitter that he had a life expectancy of only six to 12 months.
Basset, who owns Spot in the Wood in the New Forest with his wife, Nina, was diagnosed with oesophagus cancer in 2017. Following a major operation and a course of chemotherapy in the UK, he is now receiving treatment in France.
Fife Arms opens with strong focus on art
One of the most extraordinary collections of art ever seen in a UK hotel went on display this week with the opening of the Fife Arms hotel in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.
The 46-bedroom property in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, was acquired by Iwan and Manuela Wirth of the Hauser + Wirth galleries in 2014, and has since undergone an extensive refurbishment involving Moxon architects and interior designer Russell Sage, who has created a strong Scottish narrative. The general manager is Federica Bertolini, who was previously at the Hotel Tresanton in St Mawes, Cornwall.
Paintings on display include works by Pablo Picasso and Lucian Freud.
Le Manoir owner Belmond sold to LVMH for £2.5b
Belmond - one of the world's most prestigious collection of hotels, restaurant, train and river cruise properties - revealed that it is to be acquired by French luxury goods company LVMH MoÁ«t Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) for $3.2b (£2.5b).
The transaction is expected to complete in the first half of 2019, subject to the approval of Belmond shareholders.
Belmond has two hotels in the UK: Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, and Belmond Cadogan, which is due to open in London's Knightsbridge in February 2019.
The acquisition will significantly increase LVMH's presence in the luxury sector. It is already the owner of Dom Pérignon, Krug, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior Couture and TAG Heuer, as well as Bulgari and Cheval Blanc in the hotel sector.
Myrtle Allen, 94, first Irish woman to be awarded a Michelin star and owner of Ballymaloe, County Cork
Paul Bocuse, 91, three-Michelin-starred chef and founder of the Bocuse d'Or culinary competition
Peter Boizot, 89, founder of PizzaExpress
Anthony Bourdain, 61, chef, author and TV personality
Neil Bowler, 52, property specialist with leisure consultancy Jenics
Matt Campbell, 29, chef and MasterChef: The Professionals contestant
Richard Cousins, 58, chief executive, Compass Group
Ken Gunn, 67, co-owner, Sonas Hotel Group, Isle of Skye
Laurence Isaacson, 75, restaurateur and chairman and co-owner of L'Escargot
Richard McKevitt, 69, hotelier and co-founder, Morethan Hotels
Gerard O'Sullivan, Aramark UK's culinary director
JoÁ«l Robuchon, 73, the world's most Michelin-starred chef, with 24 stars across 13 restaurants
Chris Rouse, 76, former general manager, Turnberry, Ayrshire, and 1996 Hotelier of the Year
Nick Ryan, 76, owner of the Crinan hotel in Argyll and 1999 Hotelier of the Year
Mark Thatcher, former executive chef of the House of Lords
John Tovey, 85, celebrity chef and former owner of Miller Howe hotel near Windermere, Cumbria
Miles Quest, PR and hospitality journalist, 81