The Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards 2019 has revealed the UK’s best casual dining operators. Held at the London Marriott Hotel, in Grosvenor Square, following the first day of the Casual Dining trade show, the annual awards recognise the best new openings and standout restaurants, bars and pubs of the year.
Azzurri Group, wagamama, Oakman Inns & Restaurants, The New World Trading Co (NWTC), Dishoom, Jamie’s Italian, Flat Iron, Dirty Martini, The Alchemist, Caravan, The Chilli Pickle, and The Boathouse (in Falmouth) were among the operators who took home awards.
Steve Holmes, CEO of Azzurri Group, which was named Casual Dining Group of the Year, said: “We are truly delighted to receive this award, especially given the quality of other businesses in the category. It’s fantastic recognition for our teams, who work tirelessly to deliver the best experience they can for our customers, and this award is for them.”
Peter Boizot, founder of PizzaExpress, who sadly passed in December last year, was also remembered and recognised for his outstanding contribution to the casual dining industry. His posthumous Casual Dining Outstanding Contribution Award was accepted by Zoe Bowley, the company’s MD, to a standing ovation.
Dishoom’s founders – cousins Kavi Thakrar and Shamil Thakrar, received this year’s Trailblazer of the Year Award – the only category nominated directly by the judges.
It was also a memorable night for The New World Trading Co, whose The Florist brand won three trophies, including New Casual Dining Concept of the Year, Best New Restaurant Site and Best Designed Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year – the latter two awards for its newly opened Liverpool venue. The company’s fourth award of the night was for the hotly-contested ‘Employer of the Year’.
wagamama was also celebrating, having retained its title of Large Multi-Site Restaurant Brand of the Year (over 20 sites) for the third year in a row. It also added Menu Innovation (over 20 sites) and Marketing Campaign of the Year to its awards haul.
Simon Potts and the team at The Alchemist also repeated their win of last year, with another Best New Pub/Bar Site award. This time for their first welsh site – in Cardiff’s St Mary Street.
New awards categories this year included ‘Ethical Operator’ and ‘Best Family Dining Experience’, which went to Oakman Inns & Restaurants and Jamie’s Italian respectively.
Jon Knight, chief executive of the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, who collected their award, said: “The whole team at the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group would like to thank the Casual Dining show, the sponsors, and everyone who voted for this award. It’s a real honour to accept it on behalf of Jamie and all the restaurants.”
Cabana, Charles Wells, Cosy Club (Loungers), Las Iguanas, Oakman Inns & Restaurants, and PizzaExpress were also highly commended in various categories. Over 400 industry professionals attended the awards.
“The Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards are the most important annual celebration of the very best in the business,” said Chris Brazier, group event director at Diversified Communications UK (organiser of the awards and Casual Dining show).
“Once again the sheer quality of this year’s awards finalists – over 100 restaurant and pub operators from across the country – was exceptional. Standing out from the crowd is no mean feat in such a hugely competitive sector. But our 2019 winners and highly commended recipients do just that. From the big names to the smaller independent operators, they have been singled out for their continuing commitment to driving innovation, inspiring creativity and delivering an all-round incredible casual dining experience. Congratulations again to each of our fantastic winners,” he added.