Merry Christmas and happy new year

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gordon ramsay holdings Hospitality industry Gordon ramsay El bulli

Merry Christmas and happy new year
The team at BigHospitality would like to wish all our loyal readers a very merry Christmas and a happy new year

For those of you working over Christmas, like Papillon head chef David Duverger, we hope you get some time off during the festive season to recharge your batteries for 2009.

This will be our last news update of 2008, so be sure to re-visit the site on January 2 when we will return with all the latest news from the hospitality industry.

In the meantime, why not take a look back at the industry`s highs and lows in our month by month round-up of news from 2008.

What happened in 2008?

The financial crisis dominated the headlines and inevitably affected some businesses in the hospitality industry with Food & Drink Group, Tom Aikens` restaurants, Le Frog bistros, Folio Hotels and pub group Orchid among those falling into the hands of administrators.

It wasn`t bad news for everyone, though with many new hotels, restaurants and pubs opening for business and others announcing plans for expansion. Urban Splash`s Art Deco Midlands Hotel opened in Morecambe Bay in June and there was a Gallic feel to July with the arrival of Helene Darroze at the Connaught and Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex who opened L`Ambassade de l`Ile, his first restaurant outside Lyon.

Gordon Ramsay Holdings carried on spreading its wings with Angela Hartnett in charge of opening the York & Albany and Murano in London and Gordon Ramsay making it to Hollywood with the opening of The London in June.

The advice from the analysts was give customers value for money and they`ll return, so many chefs and restaurateurs decided to do just that and concentrate on the mid-market. Jamie Oliver set about opening Jamie`s Italians across the country and the Richard Caring-backed Cote expanded in London and announced plans for more outside it. Atul Kochhar also announced he would be opening a chain of casual-dining Indian restaurants.

Some of the big issues affecting the whole of the industry were staff gratuities, the Food Standards Agency`s Scores on the Doors consultation and the 48-hour working week.

Month by Month

The release of the 2008 Michelin Guide in January left some members of the industry happier than others with Anthony Demetre (pictured, right) and Will Smith securing a star for their second restaurant Wild Honey while Claude Bosi’s Hibiscus lost one of its two stars when it relocated from Ludlow to London.

Whitbread launched its Table Table brand in February and animal rights protesters moved forward with a campaign to convince restaurants to take Foie Gras off the menu.

There were celebrations in March for students at Colchester College after they won the College Restaurant of the Year 2008 title and in April for chef Ferran Adria when his restaurant El Bulli was voted the world`s best restaurant for the third time in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants.

Gordon Ramsay stirred up debate in May when he said that chefs should be fined for using ingredients when they weren’t in season. And The F-Word chef was back in the news just a few weeks later with the announcement that the Berkeley Hotel – home of Gordon Ramsay Holdings’ restaurant Petrus – was to work directly with Ramsay’s protege Marcus Wareing when the contract finished in September, ending the pair’s 15-year working relationship.

In June, chef Rex Newmark, son of restaurateur Robert Newmark, became a reality TV star when he entered the Big Brother house and on a more serious note the Food Standards Agency started working with the industry on ways to put nutritional information on menus.

Restaurant magazine unveiled the R100 in July, its inaugural list of the top 100 restaurant companies operating in the UK today, and the debate over tips for waiting staff and whether tips should or shouldn`t be used to top up wages really gained momentum with the government deciding to hold a consultation on proposals to make restaurants pay waiting staff National Minimum Wage with tips on top.

In August Premier Inn revealed it was investing £100m in building nine new hotels while Tom Aikens was forced to close his eco-friendly fish restaurant Tom`s Place (pictured, below) after neighbours complained of the smell.

Awards season kicked off in September with the return of the London Restaurant Awards and the AA celebrated 100 years of measuring service and quality in hospitality industry at its Centenary Awards where Rick Stein was given the Lifetime Achievement Award. The industry was also given the chance to still recruit chefs from outside the EU despite a tightening of immigration laws after the profession was included on a recommended list of shortage occupations.

Chef Simon Hulstone had much to celebrate in October after winning the Knorr Chef of the Year contest. So too did Mark Tilling, head pastry chef at Lainston House Hotel after he won the UK heat of the Barry Callebaut World Chocolate Masters at the Restaurant Show and Maze which was voted top in Restaurant magazine`s first Top UK Restaurants list. The British Hospitality Association told us new hotel builds had reached an all time high and the North outshone the South in a restaurant survey by Hardens. All that and the opening of 50 new food `concepts` at Westfield.

In November Richard Corrigan announced he was closing his Soho restaurant Lindsay House, but opening a new one in Mayfair. Hotel du Vin opened its first Pub du Vin in Brighton and we celebrated National Curry Week. The Chancellor`s decision to lower the VAT rate drew a mixed response from the industry and a campaign was launched to Save the Great British Pub.

Companies were told in December, unsurprisingly, to expect customers to be cutting back on their spending this Christmas and were warned of an `epidemic` of insolvencies in 2009. However, three companies posted strong financial results and said they were confident about the forthcoming year. Whitbread`s sales were up 13 per cent Carluccio`s saw profits rise 14 per cent and Clapham House Group`s profits rose 114 per cent. And finally, the FSA made its first decision on the Scores on the Doors system with the news it had approved a six-tier system.


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