Friday five: the week's top hospitality stories

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Friday five: the week's top hospitality stories

Related tags Pensons Jamie oliver Laurence Henry Tom Barnes

This week's most read news stories include Jamie Oliver admitting the model of his now defunct Jamie's Italian chain was 'wrong from day one' and the impending closure of the Michelin-starred Pensons.

- Michelin-starred Worcestershire restaurant Pensons will close permanently this Christmas with its owner citing ‘relentless inflationary pressure’.​ ​Owner and managing director Peta Darnley said the decision had been made following careful consideration of the restaurant’s ‘future commercial viability’. “It is with an extremely heavy heart we make this announcement. The Pensons team’s dedication and talent is outstanding and this decision is no reflection on their ability but a very sad result of the economic climate we face,” she said in a statement released by the restaurant. Within the Netherwood Estate, the 36-cover restaurant launched in 2019 with chef Lee Westcott at the helm. He was replaced by former Nathan Outlaw and Gidleigh Park chef Chris Simpson shortly after the launch.

- Jamie Oliver has admitted the model for his Jamie’s Italian chain, which collapsed in 2019, was ‘wrong from day one’.​ In an interview with The Times, the chef and restaurateur described the business as often punching above its weight when outbidding competitors for premium high street locations. He said that when he first launched the restaurant chain in 2008, he and his team were ‘so hot’, which brought a ‘feeling of cockiness’. Oliver’s UK restaurant group fell into administration in May 2019, leading to the closure of the chef’s nationwide Jamie’s Italian chain, as well as his Barbecoa and Fifteen restaurants. This month will see him return to the London restaurant scene with the launch of Jamie Oliver Catherine St in Covent Garden.

- MasterChef: The Professionals winner Laurence Henry has left his Cleaver & Wake restaurant within Nottingham’s The Island Quarter after around one year’s trading.​ The former Restaurant Sat Bains sous chef oversaw the ambitious fine dining restaurant within the high-profile mixed-use development as well as a separate bar area. The two venues launched almost exactly a year ago, but Henry says he has been working on The Island Quarter, which was billed at the time as being one of the biggest regeneration projects in the UK, for the past three years. Writing on Instagram, the chef said that he wanted to open something that was ‘truly mine’ and teased another ‘big project’ in 2024.

- Former Simon Rogan lieutenant and Roux Scholar Tom Barnes will open his debut solo restaurant next Spring.​ In Manchester city centre’s NOMA district, Skof will have 36-covers and is being billed as ‘an unpretentious yet ambitious dining experience’ offering menus that are ‘deceptively simple yet brimming with technique and full of flavour’. Barnes says he aims to remove some of the seriousness associated with tasting menu restaurants by ‘bringing an element of surprise and joy to his guests’. Skof will be owned and operated by Barnes but will form ‘part of the next iteration’ of Rogan’s Umbel Restaurants, where the group will ‘support talented individuals in opening their own restaurants and businesses’.

- UKHospitality has warned that fresh train strikes planned for December by the Aslef union will ‘devastate trading’ for the sector and cost businesses up to £800m.​Aslef, which represents UK train drivers, has announced a ‘rolling programme’ of walkouts between 2 and 8 December, with different train companies affected on each day. The union has been locked in a row with train companies over pay and working conditions for the last 18 months and has held 14 one-day strikes so far. As part of the latest round of industrial action, drivers will also refuse to work any overtime from 1 to 9 December. “Hospitality businesses rely on revenue made during the busy festive period to see them through the fallow months of January to March, so it’s essential strikes during December are avoided,” says Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality.

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