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Amuse-bouches: The latest restaurant news bites

In restaurant news this week: Dining out in the UK is predicted to fall by over a third in September, London wine bar Top Cuvée gets ready to open a shop, and a MasterChef: The Professionals finalist prepares to open a West African restaurant in October.

One of the dishes on offer at Akoko.

Eating out to drop by over a third next month: According to a YouGov poll, eating out in September will fall by 36% once the Eat Out to Help Out scheme comes to an end. However, 46% of those surveyed said they would be having the same number of meals out next month as they had done in August. According to the latest figures, over 64 million meals have been claimed by customers in the first three weeks of the scheme, while 87,000 requests have been registered by restaurants wishing to participate.

Byron sold for £4m: In a report in The Caterer, UK burger chain Byron has been sold out of administration for £4 million in a prepack sale. The business appointed administrators at the end of July. Byron has now been sold to a company now known as Famously Proper, which has been given licences to operate 20 of the 51 restaurant sites for one month. Of the remaining sites, 30 have been surrendered, but one has been retained. Among the restaurants due to reopen include branches in York, Oxford, Southampton, Milton Keynes and London’s Waterloo and Old Brompton Road.

Majority of UK consumers still feel uncomfortable when dining out: Data published in the  EY Future Consumer Index has revealed that only 27% of UK consumers said they currently feel comfortable eating in a restaurant, a figure which fell to 23% when people were asked the same question about bars and pubs. These figures, however, are up from 19% and 17% respectively when the last study in June was conducted. People also felt safer when grocery shopping, with 56% saying they now felt comfortable, compared with just 25% in May.

Tommy Banks hits back at Daily Mail article: Chef and restaurateur Tommy Banks has hit back at a Daily Mail article which he said had left his team feeling “hurt” and “deceived”, calling it “disappointing” and a “bit under-hand”. Banks’ Made in Oldstead food box delivery service received a poor review in the article, which presented a round-up and review of similar services available in the UK. Banks said he didn’t want to appear like his response was “sour grapes”, but questioned the timing of the piece and the nature of the criticism. “It hurts a lot,” he said. “We set up Made in Oldstead during coronavirus and started a new business from scratch. It’s been really important for us… it has allowed us to move staff that we would have otherwise struggled to employ into a new business.” Banks thanked everyone for the support he had received and said that Made in Oldstead was likely to be an important part of the business going forward. Many UK food critics have agreed not to publish negative reviews, believing it not to be fair in the current circumstances.

Wahaca to close 10 sites: Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca has announced it will close 10 out of its 28 sites and is considering a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA). Co-founder Thomasina Miers described the email sent to staff as “one of the hardest” she’d ever written, adding: “We are going to try and save jobs, but we have not been immune to what Covid has thrown at the world….in order to survive and to ensure we have a bright future, we are going to have to take a step back to be able to move forwards”. Sites due for closure include Bluewater, Bristol, Brixton, Charlotte Street, Chichester, Manchester, Liverpool, Kentish Town, Southampton and St Pauls.

D&D London to open remaining restaurants: Restaurant operator D&D London has said it will reopen its remaining restaurants in the next two weeks after better than expected performance at its UK sites. Central London was still the restaurant group’s “toughest market”, with city restaurants trading at 50-60%. However, considering the occupancy of offices, chairman and CEO Des Gunewardena said he was “relieved” to be trading so well. “We’ve performed much better in London residential areas such as Chelsea and in Manchester and Leeds where we are currently trading ahead of last year – despite Covid restrictions”, he said.

Top Cuvée to open permanent retail space: Highbury wine bar Top Cuvée has announced it will add to its online shop with a bricks and mortar site near its flagship site. Aptly named Shop Cuvée, the shop will sell natural and low-intervention wine, beer, pre-mixed cocktails and spirits as well as deli food.

Oxford City FC hires Michelin star chef: Oxford City Football Club has hired Dan Craddock, formerly of Michelin-starred Mallory Court, as its catering manager. Craddock will be tasked with delivering fun and nutritious meals for the footballers in order to transform their eating habits, according to the Oxford Mail. 

West African restaurant Akoko to open in Fitzrovia in October: MasterChef: The Professionals finalist William JM Chilila and restaurateur Aji Akokomi are set to open West African restaurant Akoko in London in October. Using traditional cooking techniques including smoking, curing and fermenting, dishes will include smoked goat served with jollof rice; pounded yam with native lobster egusi; beef suya and quail yassa as well as desserts including goat milk ice cream with uda burnt cream and caramelised Ghanaian cocoa butter.

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