The past 12 months saw a number of high profile restaurant launches but in 2009 the trend for celebrity chef-led operations looks set to slow down. There will be more openings in retail developments, including Canary Wharf in London, St David's in Cardiff and The Core in Leeds.
Of course, the looming recession is of concern to all operators and the first three months of the year will be the acid test for the restaurant sector. The weakening pound could mean a rise in tourists boosting business in central London but operators located in the outskirts will be vulnerable.
Those hoping to beat the downturn will be looking to cut costs and offer deals to lure diners but the key to success will be careful menu planning to maintain margins and removing those costs that don't add value.
Expect consolidation in the chain restaurant sector, while some of the public listed groups could go back to private.
Tips also remain on the agenda for 2009 and the Government's consultation on proposals to ban operators from using tips to make up national minimum wage (NMW) concludes in February. It seems likely that NMW will become salary-only and that a disclosure regime will be enforced.
Finally, after a poor set of awards last year, hopes are high that 2009 will be the first year since 2004 that the top accolade of three Michelin stars will be awarded in the UK. Nathan Outlaw is a strong contender to rise to the two-star status, while French chefs Hélène Darroze and Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex are also tipped to gain two stars.
By Kerstin Kühn
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