Friday five: the week's top restaurant stories

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Friday five: the week's top restaurant stories

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This week's top news stories include Tom Brown's plans to close his Cornerstone restaurant, Barcelona’s Disfrutar topping The World’s 50 Best list, and Popeyes adopting AI technology for its drive-thrus.

- Chef Tom Brown is to close his Michelin-starred Cornerstone​ citing the high running costs of a tasting menu restaurant and ‘changing tastes in diners’ preferences’. The 36-cover Hackney Wick seafood restaurant launched in 2018 and won a Michelin star in 2021. Brown said his energy is now ‘best directed’ toward his newest opening, Pearly Queen, the relaxed oyster and fish restaurant in Shoreditch, which opened at the end of last year.

Disfrutar in Barcelona has been named the best place to eat on the planet by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants​. Headed by chef trio Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas, Disfrutar is ‘famed for modern techniques and beautiful ingredients, resulting in an experience that subverts traditional fine dining in a completely surprising way’. Ranked number two in the 2023 list, Disfrutar is followed in the ranking by Asador Etxebarri in Atxondo, Spain, and Table by Bruno Verjus in Paris (see below for the full list). Just two UK restaurant have made the 2024 list, with Santiago Lastra's Kol placing at 17 and Jeremy Chan's Ikoyi placing at 42.

- Fast-expanding fried chicken group Popeyes has claimed to be the first quick service restaurant in the UK to use AI for drive-thru ordering following a successful pilot​. The fast food brand has officially launched its first AI powered drive-thru after success at trials as its Northampton restaurant, with the trial now being extended to two further drive-thru locations in Cardiff and Rotherham this month. Following this, the company plans to expand the technology to all its current Popeyes UK drive-thru sites by July. Dubbed ‘Al’, after Popeyes’ founder Al Copeland, the American Voice AI solution has been developed to handle orders, including accents the length and breadth of the UK. Al greets the guests at the drive-thru screens and takes their order in a conversational way while a digital display provides guests with a visual confirmation that their order has been understood properly. The order is then prepared and later delivered through the window.

Soho House has rejected a takeover offer that would have seen it go private​ because it undervalued the members club group. The New York-listed company said last Friday (31 May) that it had rebuffed an offer by an unnamed party despite it being at a ‘substantial premium’ to its current market cap. It comes after Soho House announced earlier this year that an internal special committee was assessing options for the business including a deal to go private. In an update to investors regarding the takeover offer, Soho House said: “The special committee concluded that the offer did not adequately reflect the value of the Company and was not in the best interests of its public stockholders.”

- Less than a third of hospitality businesses are ‘currently compliant’ with the new tipping law set to be introduced later this year, new research warns. Data published in a report commissioned by hospitality technology specialist Three Rocks reveals that two thirds (63%) of businesses currently take a percentage of tips from employees​; actions that will be unlawful once the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023 comes into force in October. Of them, 29% use tips to cover costs such as processing fees, while over a quarter (28%) take a profitable share of the tips. Three Rocks surveyed 1,000 hospitality businesses for the report, entitled Tipping Point: How new legislation will impact hospitality. The study included UK hospitality businesses of all sizes, from independent operators to national restaurant, pub and bar chains. According to the research, 83% of businesses expect to incur costs of at least £12,000 a year to comply with the legislation, with nearly one in five (18%) claiming costs could increase by £60,000 to £360,000.

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

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