Jan 19, 2016

Restaurants Yes; High-Streets No – Restaurant News January 2016

The post-Christmas stats are in and tell us that restaurants and pubs saw strong increases in spending over the holidays, despite a tougher time for high street retailers. Spending in restaurants was up 13.1% compared with Christmas 2014, while pubs saw an even stronger boost of 13.7%. The stats comecourtesy of Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of all credit and debit card transactions in the UK. This makes sense really – while shoppers can easily shop from the comfort of their armchairs/computers/tablets, virtual dining hasn’t quite got the same appeal to it. Chris Wood, chief operating officer at Barclaycard said: “In many ways, this Christmas brought to the fore all the shopping trends of 2015. “In terms of what consumers purchased, a large proportion of spend went towards activities and experiences, such as a Christmas dinner out or a night at the cinema. Looking ahead to 2016, it will be interesting to see where UK consumers choose to spend their money, and how the continuing shift towards the purchasing of experiences and services, as opposed to goods, develops and what that will mean for the retail sector.”

A good year for chicken

2015 was a successful trading year for Nando’s who are now looking to open a further 20+ restaurants and refurbish 30 more across the remainder of its current financial year. The parent company’s capital investment this year has climbed by nearly £10m and the brand aim to double their outlets in the UK going forward. All this despite essentially being a self-serve chicken joint – it seems their recipes are hitting the mark with the high street diner.

Steak out!

Steak group Hawksmoor is to open a flagship restaurant in New York’s World Trade Center at the end of 2017. The restaurant will be part of the Richard Rogers-designed Tower 3, which is currently under development in Lower Manhattan, and at 14,000 sq ft will be Hawksmoor’s biggest site to date. Hawksmoor founder Will Beckett said: “We’ve been travelling to New York for over 10 years, finding inspiration on how to run our company and our restaurants, so the idea of being invited to open a restaurant in such an iconic location in the city is genuinely thrilling and humbling. It is also the biggest challenge we’ve ever had, but we hope that if we can bring our passion for sourcing, standards, ethics and hospitality to the restaurant we can become a long-lasting part of New York’s amazing restaurant scene.” The New York site will feature Hawksmoor staples such as sharing sized portions of T-bone and bone-in prime rib,along with beef dripping chips and clams and braisedtrotters. Hawksmoor hope that this reflects a small recognition of how exciting the London restaurant industry is, suggesting that the two cities are now on a par in terms of culinary quality and variety. Hawksmoor celebrates 10 years in business in 2016, having been founded by childhood friends Will Beckett and Huw Gott in 2006.

Crème de la crème

Restaurants give the best tables to more attractive customers, according to researchers for a new four-part TV programme by Channel 4, Tricks of the Restaurant Trade. According to researchers, one episode of the forthcoming series shows professional models posing as diners at three different London restaurants, who were reportedly given prime-spot, visible tables, while less-traditionally attractive patrons were told there were no tables available, given seats  further back, or tables near the toilets. The show will aim to discover how restaurants set their prices and to investigate how operators might tempt diners to spend more. The show is also set to look at the difference between ingredients, such as the cuts of meat used, in gourmet chains such as Gourmet Burger Kitchen and fast-food outlets such as KFC. Dorothy Byrne, head of news and current affairs at Channel 4, who commissioned the show, stated: “At Channel 4 we have previously revealed a lot about the secrets of supermarket food and how food is made in the UK. Now we’re doing the same for restaurant and takeaway food, because most families eat out a couple of times a week so it’s vital that they know what’s in the food they’re eating and whether they’re getting value for money.”

Côte roll out

Côte has bought restaurant businesses Jackson + Rye and Limeyard for an undisclosed sum, with plans to roll out both brands. Jackson + Rye has three London locations, in Soho, Chiswick and Richmond. Meanwhile, Limeyard, which bills itself as an all-day American kitchen, has just one site in Ealing. A spokesman for the chain told the Evening Standard: “We are incredibly excited to bring two high-quality fledgling restaurant concepts under the Côte umbrella at such an early stage in their growth. “Both cater to a new type of clientele for us and we see an opportunity to apply Côte’s proven front and back of house expertise to develop and expand both brands further.”

Pizza wars

As Pizza Express looks to launch a delivery service in 2017, based in Exeter (just one for now, but with the aim to expand) Domino’s are attempting to beat them at their own game by re-attempting to open a restaurant. Their past attempts to do this failed back in 2012, but things are moving again, this time in Kent. The restaurant will look to cater for 60 covers and be a little more sophisticated in styling than their take-out outlets.

Bright copper kettles

There’s something special about copper kitchenware – it’s rustic, more expensive and brings with it a sense of warmth and nostalgia. This has been the inspiration for The Ninth – a newly opened restaurant from Jun Tunaka, designed by Dale Atkinson. The décor boasts bronze tones and a strikingly rustic, earthy and eclectic feel, with its polished oak surfaces, chocolatey leather seating and gold tarnished walls. Risottos, beetroot and squashes feature on the January launch menu.

Open kitchen

Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens and the Typing Room’s Lee Westcott are to host a one-off collaborative dinner at Tom’s Kitchen in London’s Chelsea on 2 February. The dinner marks the first of a series of other guest chef and suppliers dinners planned for Tom’s Kitchen over the course of 2016. The five-course tasting menu will be in a modern European style, combining the chefs’ varied influences and creativity. Costing £80pp, the dinner will serve 22 people and begin at 7pm, with a matching wine flight included in the price. Between them, the two chefs have worked in Hong Kong, Copenhagen and Dubai.

Michelin merger

Michelin has acquired Bookatable, as part of the group’s plan to develop its online restaurant reservation market in Europe. The acquisition strengthens and accelerates the development of Michelin’s technology platform for online restaurant reservations and looks to “build the offers of the future”. The announcement follows a multi-year partnership between the two firms, which saw Michelin incorporate Bookatable solutions into its Michelin restaurants offer through online and mobile apps with the aim to help restaurateurs develop their business with new solutions, while making it easier for customers to book tables.

Game on

Native, a new restaurant specialising in game and rare breeds from a River Cottage-trained chef, is to open in London’s Covent Garden, in Neal’s Yard. Set to launch next month, the new site has been co-founded by chef-patron Ivan Tisdall-Downes and business partner Imogen Davis, who met at university and since trained at River Cottage (the cookery and chefs’ school and restaurant brand run by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall).  The constantly-changing lunch and dinner menus will focus on game meat, rare-breed meats, wild food and nose-to-tail, root-to-stem eating. Aiming for bold flavours and taking inspiration from street food, the restaurant will aim to make game and wild food more accessible in style and price, and also include foraged and vegetarian options. Typical dishes will include the “signature” pigeon kebab, and southern fried rabbit, while the wine list will highlight British wines and sparkling wines, plus a regularly-changing seasonal cocktail menu.

Costa Fresco

The coffee giant has test-run a food (rather than coffee) led venue on Tottenham Court Road, with evident success. Costa Fresco will now expand across other locations, forming a sort of spin-off chain that focuses more eating than drinking. The same idea applies – cosy and relaxing areas to recline over some sustenance, but salads and breads will form the main focus of the menu, with specific focus on ciabattas and sandwiches that used London’s bespoke bakeries as inspiration. The chain have also teamed with salad outlet Chop’d for the healthier option for casual dining.

Sausage on a roll

The Great Sausage Roll Off competition at Barnes pub the Red Lion is back for another year, fundraising for children’s hospice charity Shooting Star Chase. Beer and food writer Melissa Cole will host the contest to create the ultimate sausage roll, which is set to be judged by Tom Kemble, head chef at Bonhams restaurant; food critic Charles Campion; BBC Masterchef 2015 finalist Emma Spitzer; and Thane Prince, food writer and judge on BBC Two show The Big Allotment Challenge. Last year’s winner was John Grabecki, head chef at BNY Mellon, with his rabbit sausage roll plus black pudding, rabbit leg, loin, maple syrup and Bayonne ham served with rabbit liver parfait, offal crumb and powdered potato. The Great Sausage Roll Off contest is one of a similar set of competitions hosted around London, which also include the annual Scotch Egg Challenge hosted at the Ship pub in Wandsworth; and the burger-based Slider Decider contest held at Docklands pub the Gun.

Stax-ing up

The team behind American diner group Stax Diner is to launch a second site, Boondocks, in London’s Old Street this spring. The venue will also feature a takeaway counter, along with a 100-capacity events space. Serving from midday to midnight, seven days a week, the Boondocks menu will feature hot dogs, onion blossom and waffles and desserts such as peach cobbler, with drinks including hard and soft milkshakes, beers, and wine. There will also be American-style bakery items such as monkey bread, cinnamon buns, fruit pies and doughnuts, and brunch will be available on Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 2pm. The venue will also offer cinema nights and comedy events, serving chilli cheese hot dogs alongside.


Technology-led restaurant Inamo is expecting a significant uplift in interest after relocating its St James’s site to Covent Garden with an enhanced technology. Inamo’s St James restaurant and its existing Soho site were known for an e-table system which allowed diners to order through a projected menu on the table, as well as adjust the lighting and play games. The table technology remains at the Covent Garden site, but diners will order from a tablet and use an infrared pointer to adjust the lighting and ambience at the table, until the functionality is added to the tablet. Through new projection technology, developed by Inamo’s sister company Audamo, diners can change the interactive table cloth, view the restaurant’s chef cam, and even view their own photo montage.


Restaurant magazine has predicted the trends for the new year. The writers at the informative dining rag reckon that fast food is changing for the better – doing up its eat-in venues (KFC), sophisticating its burger ranges (McDonalds) and even selling booze (Burger King). As well as this, wine bars are apparently on the road to becoming cool again (when were they not?) with the focus on being more about fun and less about where people in suits go after work. The no reservation policy is apparently getting old now, and tacos are seemingly on the up. Soft drinks are in danger of being eclipsed by soda water and crushed/cubed ice is old news (shaved ice is making a comeback from the 80s, apparently, because you can infuse it with gin!)