Friday five: the week's top hospitality stories

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Friday five: the week's top hospitality stories

Related tags Restaurant

This week's top news stories include industry reaction to Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement, the sudden closure of Birch’s Hertfordshire hotel, and this year's R200 Awards winners.

Hospitality leaders have voiced frustration at the Chancellor’s failure to announce any additional financial support measures for the sector in his Autumn Statement​, beyond those already in place. Jeremy Hunt confirmed this week that the business rates discount for hospitality businesses will be extended for a further year​, with the multiplier for small premises also frozen. Delivering his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor set out his ‘vision for growth’ that included what he described as the largest business tax cut in modern British history. Other measurements set to impact the sector include a further extension to the freeze on alcohol duty until August next year; and reforms to the planning system designed to allow for faster planning applications.

- Birch’s Cheshunt hotel has closed suddenly following the company behind it being placed into administration​. Launched in 2020, the Hertfordshire-based hotel and co-working space is home to two restaurants overseen by high profile chef Robin Gill - The Zebra Riding Club and the more casual Valeries. Birch launched a second location, in Croydon, earlier this year. It is understood that the site - which has two restaurants overseen by chef Lee Westcott - is also in administration but continues to trade as normal. A statement on Birch Cheshunt's website reads: “We deeply regret to inform you that the owners of Birch Cheshunt Theobalds Park Op Co have placed the business into administration and the administrators Tenco, are closing the hotel with immediate effect. We are very sad to share this disappointing news and apologise for the obvious distress and disruption to our members, guests, suppliers and the great employees.”

- Restaurant groups Rosa’s Thai and Flat Iron were the big winners at the annual R200 Awards​, which were held last night in London. The Thai restaurant group, which is overseen by CEO Gavin Adair, was named Restaurant Group of the Year (over 20 sites) while Flat Iron took home the same title in the under 20 sites category. The award caps of a good year for TriSpan-backed restaurant group Rosa’s Thai, which secured a new £10m bank facility in May to build its footprint outside the capital and which made its debut in Scotland earlier this year. The group also recently said that its first ever site, in Spitalfields, posted all-time record sales in its 15 year. Flat Iron, meanwhile, stepped up its expansion across the UK this year with its first non-London site in Cambridge followed by another in Leeds and a further one in Manchester on the cards. The annual R200 Awards are organised by Restaurant and are voted for by hospitality leaders. The winners were announced earlier this week at Dishoom in Canary Wharf.

- Cardiff restaurateurs Sophie Pascoe and Benito Martinez will open two restaurants at Lakeside’s Amber Vista development​. Located next to each other, Bodega wine bar and restaurant will be joined by a second site of Ballers pizzeria, which serves Neapolitan pizzas with a Spanish twist. Bodega is billed a the little sister restaurant to The Priory in Caerleon, which is also owned by the duo, and will specialise in small plates. The menu will be a homage to the pair’s Spanish heritage and will be split into snacks, small plates and sharer plates.

Neat Burger, the vegan fast food concept backed by Lewis Hamilton and Leonardo DiCaprio, is to close half of its UK estate amid large-scale financial pressures​. The London-based group will close four of its eight remaining restaurants in the capital before Christmas. They are understood to include the brand’s debut site on Oxford Street, which launched in September 2019, as well as those in Liverpool Street, Canary Wharf, and Westfield Stratford. A site in Dalston that launched as recently as August also appears to have closed. In a statement provided to Restaurant, Neat Burger blamed 'macro pressures reflected across the industry' as being a key factor behind its decision.

For more of this week's headlines, click here​​​.

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