Friday five: the week's top restaurant stories

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Friday five: the week's top restaurant stories

Related tags Restaurant

The first week of 2024 was tough for the sector with several high-profile restaurants closing their doors amid insurmountable cost pressures, and data showing a decline in consumer spend.

Simon Rimmer has closed his Didsbury restaurant Greens with immediate effect​ after 33 years. Describing it as a 'heart breaking' moment, the TV chef said the decision had come after the landlord increased the rent by around 35% and that the rising cost of food, materials, heating, lighting and power and employing people had also played a part and had led to the business becoming ‘unviable’. Greens was one of several high-profile restaurant closures to hit the sector this week. In Yorkshire, chef James Allcock announced the closure of his Beverly bistro The Pig and Whistle​, citing the impact of energy bill rises, staffing challenges and looming Covid debt; and in London, Tony Rodd announced the immediate closure of his Copper & Ink restaurant in Blackheath​, saying that ‘continued financial difficulties’ had made the business ‘untenable’. Meanwhile, in Wales, Cardiff-based restaurateurs Phill and Deb Lewis announced they would be closing their sustainability-focused outdoor restaurant Kindle​, describing the decision as ‘a reflection of the current industry struggles’.

- Elsewhere, it was announced that County Durham restaurant Raby Hunt will close later this month as its chef patron James Close joins the nearby Rockliffe Hall as culinary director​. The first chef in the North East to attract two Michelin stars, Close will open a new, as-yet unnamed, signature restaurant at the Darlington country house hotel as well as oversee and develop the five-star property's overall culinary direction. Close’s new restaurant will continue his current global approach to gastronomy, but a new bespoke space will allow interaction with the chefs, who will take diners on a journey inspired by the best cuisine from around the world.

- This week's slew of closures came as data from Barclays revealed that restaurants saw a spending decline of 6.7% in 2023​, as Brits spent less on eating out to offset rising household bills. Despite this, hospitality and leisure spending grew by 9.5% over the year, with transaction growth of 4.7%. And while spending in restaurants fell, eating and drinking spending still grew by 6.8%. Bars, pubs and clubs saw spending rise by 5.9% over the course of the year, while takeaways and fast food was up by 8.1%. Additionally, ‘other food and drink’ spend grew by 9.5%.

- In happier news, high-profile chefs Simon Rogan, Adam Handling and Jeremy Lee were among the hospitality professionals to have been recognised in the 2024 New Year’s Honours list​. Rogan, who is chef patron of the three Michelin-starred L'Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, was awarded an MBE for services to the food industry; as was Lee, who is chef-proprietor of Quo Vadis in London's Soho. Handling, whose London-based estate includes Frog by Adam Handling in Covent Garden, also received an MBE for services to hospitality and international trade in recognition of his work as an ambassador for the GREAT Britain and Northern Ireland campaign. Other industry names to be recognised in the 2024 New Year’s Honours list include celebrity chef and TV personality Paul Hollywood, who received an MBE for services to baking and broadcasting; and JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin, who was knighted for his services to hospitality and culture.

KERB is to welcome four new traders to Seven Dials Market in Covent Garden as it looks to place greater emphasis on incubating fresh talent at its flagship food hall​. The new additions to the London market’s roster come as four of its ‘highest revenue traders’ are set to leave the food hall by 13 January. They include ‘finer diner' brand Truffle Burger; vegan taco specialist Club Mexicana; Latino fried chicken concept El Pollote; and Mumbai street food outfit Curry on Naanstop. The new operators taking up residence are Nashville hot chicken concept Lucky’s; Colombian taco brand Los Gordos; burger slinger Mother Flipper; and Indian kati wrap business Kolkati. KERB says the changes reflect a ‘return to its original ambition’ of using Seven Dials Market to provide opportunities for small businesses to test their food concept before moving on to brick and mortar restaurants.

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

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