Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Who's who in restaurants

04 January 2013
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Who's who in restaurants

The restaurateurs topping the Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 most influential people, in association with, show that success through this period of austerity consists of a value concept combined with creativity and comfort. Emily Manson reports

This year has proved quite a year for the UK's restaurateurs. While it may be boring to keep banging the recession drum, the continuation of the economic doldrums has now begun to define and reshape the sector.

Summing up the economic climate, former restaurateur Nick Scade, now chairman of the Academy of Food & Wine Service, says: "Trading remains incredibly difficult in the market, whether top or casual, but especially in the middle."

This situation is reflected in this year's Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 list, compiled in association with, according to Jane Sunley, chief executive of Learnpurple. "Restaurants with cool brands, well executed, value for money concepts and shabby chic decor are all proving popular with the cash-strapped though discerning consumer," she says. "These are the ones now doing well."

Sunley also notes that while the big chains continue to battle for market share through offers and super-marketing, the 2012 list shows entrepreneurship is "alive and kicking", despite the austere times and many risk-averse larger companies.

Value for moneyCaterer and Hotelkeeper 100's top five.

Alice Keown, associate director at Davis 
Coffer Lyons, says: "The whole recession is having a significant impact. McDonald has ensured the product's quality over the past couple of years and its success is very much about hot food and value for money. McDonald has been responsible for rebranding the burger chain from junk food pariah to an acceptable family meal and has managed to maintain that momentum this year."


Other familiar faces in this year's top 10 demonstrate the variety within the sector - from Richard Caring (Caprice Holdings) and Harvey Smyth (Gondola Holdings) to Des Gunewardena (D&D London) and Robby Enthoven (Nando's).

Tim Hughes, chef director of Caprice Holdings - whose founder, Richard Caring, came in at number 3 (overall number 11) - notes: "The interesting thing about Caterer and Hotelkeeper's 100 Most Powerful People in Hospitality this year is the vast spectrum - from high street to high end, street food to corporate."

One of this year's highest risers, Russell Norman, co-founder of Polpo adds: "This year's list is particularly eclectic. Contract caterers, hoteliers, chefs, restaurateurs, pub executives and entrepreneurs all being compared and measured against each other seems a little like comparing apples with telephones, but that just goes to show what a vastly varied industry we are part of."

Hughes goes on to note that just 15 years ago, Britain was only just starting to embrace different styles of cuisine. "Now," he says, "London is arguably the restaurant capital of the world. In our restaurants we have chefs who are creative, follow the seasons and use sustainable produce, but tend to answer to customers' demands, while other chefs are hugely pioneering - such as Fergus Henderson and Heston Blumenthal."

"We all have a shared responsibility in this 'restaurant revolution' and have changed the way that food is perceived. There's room for everyone in this marketplace."
Keown also points out that even previously high-end operators are taking advantage of the widening sector and are diversifying into the mid-market sector. "Even operators such as Caring want to protect themselves from having all their eggs in the fine-dining market and so are moving into much more accessible price points," he says.

Discounting In the mid-market, casual-dining sector discounting is fast becoming the acceptable norm. Scade notes: "The casual market is surviving on almost permanent discounting and they seem to have changed their business model to live with that."

But he adds that while the top end of the mid-market is still enjoying significant growth, it's squeezing the vast number of smaller mid-market independent operators who constitute a large proportion of the market, especially outside London.

Scade explains: "These operators can't really compete on the discounting front and trading is incredibly difficult for them. People are going out less and when they do, they want to avoid taking risks and so go to the chains as they are safe bets."

New Entries This desire for safety and comfort has also seen a marked shift in the type of new restaurants being opened - and in the people 
making debuts into the Top 100. New operators are focusing almost exclusively on single offers or simple foods done well - as is seen by the new entries this year of operators such 
as Wahaca, Hawksmoor and Goodman - as well as the near-meteoric rise of Norman's Polpo group.

Will Beckett, chef-patron of Hawksmoor says: "It does seem that the list this year shows a few people who are trying to do casual restaurants where the food is of a really high quality instead of focusing on one or the other. There seem to be quite a few new entries, like us, and maybe that tells you something about how eating out in Britain is changing at the moment."

Norman adds: "It is interesting and encouraging to see a significant number of independent operators on the list; an indication of the substantial shift, particularly in the restaurant field, towards small-scale, passion-led businesses."

Keown points out that operators such as Norman have also led the charge with regard to the trend of small plates. "It's effectively recession-proof as a concept," she says. "Customers feel as if they are spending less, even though they may well not be - it's a key recession-driven trend."

She adds that Norman is also responsible for the recent shift in restaurant design to favour stripped-back decor with exposed bricks, bare light bulbs and the rest. "He's taken interesting and challenging spaces that other restaurateurs haven't been able to see the potential of and turned them into an austerity chic venue, which has now become an interior design trend."

Other new entrants to the Top 100 this year, Luke Johnson and Andy Bassadone, are also having a key influence on the marketplace. "Johnson is fascinating in terms of the breadth and scope of his influence and effectively owns all the bakery brands out there and is defining the sector," says Keown, adding that Bassadone, "has redefined casual dining first with Strada, then Côte and now Bill's."

Benefits of responsibility Of course, rising food and energy costs remain a continued pressure for operators and Mark Linehan, managing director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, notes that now four of this year's top 10 restaurateur entries are members of the SRA.

"Customers are becoming increasingly 
educated and demanding," he says. "The fact that four of the restaurateurs on the top 10 
list are members of the SRA demonstrates 
that the most powerful people in the industry see the benefits of running their business responsibly and communicating that to their customers."

A View From the Top Jill McDonald

What's driving the sector at the moment? Value for money. Customers have less money in their pockets and quite rightly their expectations of what they should get for their money are higher. Positives for you over the past year? We've had another strong year in 2012. Customers have been choosing us because we continue to provide good food and good service at great value for money and nowhere else was that more evident than at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Being involved in such a monumental event was a big challenge for us but one we relished. It gave us the chance to show on a world stage what our business stands for and how far we've come, and there's no doubt that we're going to use what we learnt from 2012 to drive momentum next year. What's in store for 2013? I'm still expecting things to be tough for our customers in 2013 so we will continue to invest in all areas of our business, especially in our 90,000 employees who are so key to us delivering a great customer experience. Is there anything you would like to see happen over the next year? There are two things on my wish list for 2013 
- a continued focus on bringing down youth unemployment and a little more help for struggling families. Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 - Restaurateurs 1 Jill McDonald, McDonald's 2 Harvey Smyth, Gondola Holdings 3 Richard Caring, Caprice Holdings 4 Robby Enthoven, Nando's 5 Des Gunewardena, D&D London 6 Jeremy King and Chris Corbin, 
Rex Restaurants Associates 7 Andrew Page, The Restaurant Group 8 Arjun Waney, Zuma, Roka, La Petite Maison, Arts Club, Aurelia, Banca, Coya 9 Andy Bassadone, Côte, Bills Produce Store 10 Nigel Platts-Martin and others, 
the Square, the Ledbury, Chez Bruce 11 Simon Kossoff, Carluccio's 12 Niall Howard, Hakkasan Group 13 Luke Johnson, Risk Partners Capital 14 Russell Norman, Polpo, Polpetto, da Polpo, Spuntino, Mishkins 15 Robin Rowland, Yo! Sushi 16 Jonathan Kaye, prezzo and chimichanga 17 Alasdair Murdoch, Clapham House Group 18 John Vincent/Henry Dimbleby, 
Leon Restaurant 19 James Horler, 3Sixty Restaurants 20 Namita and Camellia Panjabi, 
Ranjit Mathrani, Masala World 21 Iqbal Wahhab 22 Mark Selby and Thomasina Miers, 
Wahaca 23 George Bukhov, Goodman, 
Burger and Lobster 24 Marlon Abela, MARC 25 Will Beckett and Huw Gott, Hawksmoor How we compile the list The *Caterer and Hotelkeeper* 100 brings you 
the 100 most influential people whose achievements are having the biggest impact upon the hospitality industry in 2012. It tells you where they've been, where they are now and where they are going. This year, for the first time, we opened up the selection process to nominations from the industry at large and were overwhelmed with the response. This final list of operators includes a diverse collection of personalities, from the bosses of the biggest corporate giants to others who are pushing the boundaries of style, comfort or cuisine in their chosen field. The *Caterer and Hotelkeeper* 100 covers all sectors of the industry - hoteliers, restaurateurs, contract caterers, pub operators and chefs. Nominees in each of these five categories were judged by panel of industry experts and *Caterer and Hotelkeeper* journalists who specialise in those sectors. To qualify, candidates had to be based in the UK, and their power and influence should be primarily in the UK market. Shortlisted candidates were awarded marks for each of five criteria, which were then averaged out to give an overall ranking. First consideration was the scale and scope of the operation headed by the nominees. But size isn't everything, and they were next judged on the power and influence they exert in the industry and the respect they command among their peers. We asked whether they were shapers of policy, leaders in their field, or inspiring and nurturing the next generation. The judges then examined whether the candidates had a proven record of financial success and whether this was reflected in the eyes of their peers and the outside world. The candidates' reputation for innovation was next, as the judges examined to what degree they were setting standards others wanted to copy and whether their ideas would remain in fashion. Longevity was the fifth and final hurdle for the candidates as the panellists considered whether they - and their creations - would stand the test of time.
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