2022: Review of the year in hospitality

By BigHospiality

- Last updated on GMT

Review of the year in hospitality and restaurants 2023

Related tags Brett Graham Hawksmoor Chefs Casual dining Simon Rogan Gordon ramsay asma khan Anna Haugh Calorie information Energy

A look back at yet another tough year for hospitality – one that saw the Coronavirus crisis replaced by a host of new challenges for the sector to contend with.

January

2022 begun with the hospitality sector counting the cost of a second lost Christmas, after the industry’s attempt to recoup some of its pandemic losses over the festive period was decimated by the impact of the Omicron Covid variant. And the news would only get worse for the sector, as figures released by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) revealed that hospitality businesses were some of the most likely to report facing difficulties in finding staff. 

In better news, it was announced that Brett Graham’s beloved London restaurant The Ledbury would reopen with a new look and feel following a hiatus of nearly two years. The high-reaching Notting Hill venue had been closed since the first Covid-19 lockdown due to concerns over social distancing. 

January also saw the closure James Lowe’s Borough Market restaurant Flor. The restaurant, which opened in the summer of 2019 and featured on the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards top 100 list, had recently been repositioned as a bakery and wine shop before the decision was made to shutter it completely. 

Chef-Brett-Graham-on-reopening-his-The-Ledbury-restaurant-in-Notting-Hill

February

February begun with high-end steakhouse group Hawksmoor confirming it had achieved its target to become a carbon neutral company some 11 months earlier than initially planned, and was now setting its sights on becoming a net zero company. 2022 was a key year for hospitality businesses committing to a climate strategy, with meat-focused restaurants among those at the forefront of the sector’s charge to try and reach net zero.

February also saw the launch of the Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2022, with Simon Rogan’s flagship Cartmel restaurant L’Enclume awarded three stars and Ikoyi in London among those promoted to two stars. 

The end of the month was dominated by the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine, which led to millions of Ukrainian nationals fleeing the country. While the UK Government faced criticism over its initial failure to relax visa requirements, chefs and hospitality operators rallied to help raise funds and sponsor visas to support people who had been displaced by the invasion. The fallout from the invasion also led to many high street hospitality brands pausing operations in Russia and subsequently exiting the market entirely. 

Hawksmoor-reaches-carbon-neutral-goal-as-it-targets-becoming-a-net-zero-company

March

In March, chef Asma Khan announced that she would be closing her Darjeeling Express on Garrick Street in London’s Covent Garden later in the year, in order to relocate the restaurant to a smaller site with an open kitchen that better allow her all-female kitchen team to be more visible. The new iteration of Darjeeling Express is expected to launch in 2023.

Soaring energy costs and rising food price inflation also hit the headlines in March, with a joint poll by trade organisations revealing that 76% of businesses were mitigating skyrocketing energy costs by reducing their gas and electricity usage and raising prices, while 38% had chosen to cut their trading hours. Reflecting challenges that would persist throughout the year, the survey found that one in 10 hospitality businesses were seeing energy price increases of more than 200%. 

To make matters worse, hospitality businesses faced further disappointment after Chancellor Rishi Sunak failed to offer fresh financial support in his Spring Statement to help firms weather rising cost inflation pressures. Calls for the reduced 12.5% rate of VAT for hospitality firms to be retained beyond April were ignored; a move described as ‘a massive, missed opportunity’ by UKHospitality.

Energy-suppliers-undermining-benefits-of-Energy-Bill-Relief-Scheme

April

April saw major changes in the hospitality sector on both a micro and macro level. In London, months of legal wrangling between restaurateur Jeremy King and his group’s major shareholder, Minor International, came to a head when King lost control of the group that bore his and business partner Chris Corbin’s name after Minor fully acquired it in an auction.

Meanwhile, the entire industry was hit with major changes to calorie labelling legislation, with hospitality businesses that employ 250 or more staff required to start publishing calorie information across their menus. Under the rules venues are required to display calorie counts ‘clearly and prominently’ at the point of choice – typically a menu – along with the statement that ‘adults need around 2,000 kcal a day’. UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls described the legislation as a “slap in the face”. 

April also saw one of the biggest new restaurant launches of the year with the opening of Arcade Food Hall. London restaurateurs du jour JKS Restaurants took over the running of the short-lived Arcade Food Theatre on London’s Oxford Street and installed a variety of new food vendors with a strong Asian and Middle Eastern element to the offer. 

Mandatory-calorie-labelling-comes-into-force-for-restaurants-employing-250-staff-or-more

May

It was all change on MasterChef: The Professionals in May when it was announced that Myrtle chef Anna Haugh would replace Monica Galetti as a guest on this year’s series. Galetti announced the previous month that she would be stepping back from filming the current series of the cooking show on which she has been a judge for the past 14 years, citing being unable to balance the three-month TV filming schedule with her restaurant and family commitments as the reason.

Big changes were also afoot at Honest Burgers, which announced it was overhauling its supply chain through the development of a regenerative farming programme, with the aim of reducing its carbon footprint and the environmental impact of eating beef. The move will see all restaurants in the Honest Burgers portfolio serving beef from regenerative farms by the beginning of 2024. 

In Bristol, chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias announced that his Michelin-starred restaurant Casamia would close in August after nearly 25 years in business. In a statement, the chef said the closure of the high-reaching restaurant was due to rapidly increasing costs making the business “financially unviable”. It was subsequently confirmed that Sanchez-Iglesias would open a relaxed-yet-ambitious Italian restaurant within the site, called Casa, which eventually launched in December.

Anna-Haugh-named-as-Monica-Galetti-s-replacement-on-next-series-of-MasterChef-The-Professionals

June

June was marked by a number of ups and downs for the industry. The beginning of the month saw hospitality spending soar as the extended Platinum Jubilee weekend led to a 41.5% uplift in restaurants compared to the same period last year, according to data from Barclaycard. However, celebrations were short-lived with rail strikes at the end of the month hitting hospitality businesses hard, with some city centre pubs reporting a 50% fall in sales and the night-time economy seeing a 40% drop.

Corbin & King’s new owner, Minor International, rebranded the group as The Wolseley Hospitality Group, removing any reference of Jeremy King and his fellow co-founder Chris Corbin. The new name, according to Minor, reflects The Wolseley’s ‘wide-reaching international reputation’.

Plenty of smiling faces were seen on the evening of 13 June as the biggest names in the business arrived at The Hurlingham Club in London to celebrate the UK restaurant industry at the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards 2022. Gareth Ward’s Ynyshir restaurant in Wales was crowned the UK’s best restaurant. Located in Machynlleth, it is the first outside of England to claim the top spot in the award’s 16-year history. 

Ynyshir's Gareth Ward and team

July 

Boundary-pushing York restaurant Le Cochon Aveugle announced that it was to permanently close its doors, with chef-patron Josh Overington saying it is time to ‘start a fresh adventure’. A regular on Restaurant magazine’s list of the top 100 restaurants in the country, the restaurant served two ‘blind’ tasting menus (Cochon Aveugle is French for blind pig) alongside a creative wine list overseen by Overington sommelier wife Victoria. 

Tony Parkin swaps Surrey’s Great Fosters Hotel for the Noble Inns Group’s The Brickmaker’s Arms. He doesn’t stay for long, however, with the talented chef leaving after just a few months to oversee the cooking at Ireland’s Michelin-starred Cliff House Hotel.

Fried chicken brand Absurd Bird goes into administration with the closure of its five dine-in restaurants. The brand announced its closure on TikTok and said customers could still order its chicken burgers from its virtual restaurants. How very 2022. 

Le Cochon

August 

Beloved chef, restaurateur and cookbook writer Alastair Little dies at the age of 72. Little was dubbed ‘the Godfather of modern British cookery’ having led the movement away from French haute cuisine in favour of food based on simplicity, seasonality and taste, often with Mediterranean influences.

Celebrated Port Isaac-based seafood chef Nathan Outlaw shakes things up at his flagship once again, switching from a more casual business model borne of the pandemic to a more expansive and ambitious tasting menu. Outlaw’s New Road is an exclusive gastronomic experience once again, offering a single £175 course tasting menu. 

Gordon Ramsay Restaurants says it remains on course with its growth strategy as it posts a pre-tax loss of £6.8m. The group ramped up its expansion efforts during and in the aftermath of the pandemic, concentrating on more casual formats including Street Burger but also launching Restaurant 1890 at The Savoy, the most ambitious restaurant the group has opened in London for some time. 

Godfather-of-modern-British-cookery-Alastair-Little-dies-at-72

September 

Liz Truss AKA ‘the human hand grenade’ begins what is to be the UK’s shortest-ever premiership. Her infamous mini budget delivers little for restaurants but is disastrous for consumer confidence sending mortgage rates sky-rocketing. Her Government's Energy Bill Relief Scheme is better received. 

Just three days after Truss enters Downing Street, Queen Elizabeth II dies. The industry pays tribute to the country’s longest reigning monarch with everyone from Gordon Ramsay to burger chain Wimpy taking to social media to express their admiration. 

What’s in a name? Adam Handling kicks off what is to be a flurry of ding-dongs over restaurant brand names, forcing Frog Harrogate to change its name to Lilypad. Shortly afterwards, cult London taco player Taqueria Sonora was threatened with legal action by Worldwide Taqueria over its use of the - surely generic - taqueria tag and Phil Howard had to change the name of his pasta brand from OTTO to NOTTO, which rather amusingly scans as ‘not Otto’. 

What-does-the-appointment-of-Liz-Truss-mean-for-the-hospitality-industry

October

Extraordinary scenes see Liz Truss fail to outlast the shelf life of a lettuce as she resigns as PM after just 44 days in office. Her former Tory leadership rival Rishi Sunak (of Eat Out To Help Out fame) steps up to the top job and looks to stabilise the economy. Most of Truss and team’s infamous ‘Growth Statement’ has already been gutted by new chancellor Jeremy Hunt but - significantly - Sunak adopts a rather less generous approach to energy bill support, with help to be greatly reduced from March 2023.

Illustrating just how damaging swingeing rises in energy bills have been for the sector, Brighton-based fried chicken brand The Bok Shop announces that rising costs have forced it to close two of its sites. 

The ‘world’s biggest hospitality recruitment initiative’ targeting the next generation of workers begins today with the backing of chefs including Tom Kerridge, Rick Stein, Angela Hartnett and Raymond Blanc. Devised in the pandemic by Hospitality Rising, the ‘Rise Fast, Work Young’ campaign is the industry’s response to its jobs crisis, which at the time stood at around 400,000 vacancies.

The-lowdown-Hospitality-Rising

November 

Launceston Place chef patron Ben Murphy is crowned National Chef of the Year, while Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons chef Mae Dionio is named Young National Chef of the Year. Talking of chefs that have done well in competitions - and indeed Le Manoir - Luke Selby is named as the new executive chef at Raymond Blanc’s idyllic Oxfordshire hotel following the departure of Gary Jones. 

The penultimate month of the year also sees the deaths of two pioneers of the British food scene. The Carved Angel chef Joyce Molyneux was among the first British chefs to attract a Michelin star and blazed a trail for female chefs at a time when the top of the restaurant industry was completely dominated by men. One of those men was Richard Shepherd, who was described as a ‘giant of hospitality’ when the news of his death, aged 77, was announced. 

Animal Rebellion mount the first of what is to be a series of protests at high-profile UK restaurants. Activists from the climate justice movement staged a ‘sit-in’ protest at Gordon Ramsay’s three Michelin-star flagship in Chelsea. The shenanigans would be repeated at a number of other top restaurants, including Dinner by Heston Blumenthal down the road in Knightsbridge and Manchester’s Mana.

Chef-Luke-Selby-on-cooking-competitions
December 

What should have been the first ‘normal’ Christmas trading period in three years was badly undermined by faltering consumer confidence and strikes, with the rail industry’s industrial action particularly damaging for hospitality. Indeed, UKHospitality warned that the RMT union’s decision to strike would cost the sector £1.5bn and cause a level of disruption comparable to Omicron Covid-19 variant the previous festive period.

Paul Kitching dies suddenly at 61. The chef was known for his exceptional and sometimes experimental cooking, first at Juniper restaurant in Altrincham, where he won a Michelin star in 1997, and later at Edinburgh restaurant with rooms 21212, which he opened with partner Katie O’Brien in 2009 and which won a Michelin star just eight months later. Chefs took to social media to express their sadness, with Claude Bosi writing: “Today we have lost what I call a true genius. RIP my dear friend”.

As 2022 draws to a close, the hospitality industry reflects on an eventful and also extremely tough 12 months. Who knows what 2023 will bring, but if it's anything like as dramatic and fast moving as 2022 we'd best strap ourselves in. 

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