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Food festival to rival Edinburgh

03 July 2009
Food festival to rival Edinburgh

Simon Davis, co-founder with food critic Fay Maschler of restaurant consultancy A Private View, says the restaurant industry needs more support despite hopeful talk of recovery.

Despite glimmers of economic optimism seeping out, the short- and medium-term prospects for the restaurant industry at large remain, at best, fragile.

Hardens recently trumpeted the imminent launch of several high-profile restaurants, and the national media jumped on the comments, citing them as a clear indication that the restaurant industry had somehow managed to swerve away from the more brutal effects of the downturn.

Yet the reality is not quite so. It is cheering to read that, this autumn, restaurateurs such as Chris and Jeff Galvin are opening St Botolph's and Soho House founder Nick Jones is opening Pizza East in Shoreditch, but the truth is that the industry as a whole has been severely bruised by the economy.

That more restaurants have not yet been forced to close is only due to the fact that many have wisely stored up some cash from the good times, and this now serves as a buffer. The vagaries of the British weather also play their part, so the recent spells of sunshine are a relief.

However, the real effects of the situation will become apparent as those reserves of cash dry up. There will certainly be a steady increase in restaurants going out of business until the end of 2010.

It was, in part, with this in mind that A Private View devised the idea for an annual London Restaurant Festival, the first of which will be held on 8-13 October. The premise is simple: galvanising support for London's restaurants and getting people to eat out more.

This will be achieved both through a festival menu programme designed to drive people to the participating restaurants and also through creating a series of unique events that will draw attention to London's restaurant industry.

Fay and I hope the festival, which is supported by Mayor Boris Johnson, Visit London and the Evening Standard, among other partners, will grow over the years to become the restaurant and food equivalent to the Edinburgh Festival.

But while the festival can help support the industry, it is also the responsibility of chefs and restaurateurs to put even more effort into creating delicious and affordable menus and giving punters what they want.

More than 400 restaurants have already signed up to the festival, but there is still time to get involved. For details go to www.londonrestaurantfestival.com or e-mail penny.smith@londonrestaurantfestival.com

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