Which restaurants will survive in 2009?
Slightly off-topic but as a long-standing food and drink writer I thought you might be interested to read my thoughts on the type of restaurants that I believe will survive the current recession
Looking back on my predictions a year ago, most have come to fruition but who would have guessed just how deeply the recession would bite in such a short time? Certainly not the people who were behind the spectacular new shopping and eating complexes like the Westfield Centre in West London or Cabot Circus in my home town of Bristol which increasingly look like extravagant follies.
Still, I'm not as convinced as the rest of the media that we'll all be eating at home. People still haven't got the time and in some cases the skills to cook every night. Here are the eight types of restaurants I reckon will survive:
I don't so much mean restaurants frequented by celebs - though that too - as the new generation of mid-priced restaurants run by celebrity chefs - Jamie's Italian, (Raymond) Blanc's Brasseries and Maze Grill (Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherton) among them. A Big Name is reassurance, in many people's view, that they're spending their money wisely. (Not that I think they're always right)
There are all sorts of reasons why neighbourhood restaurants should flourish - they tend to be cheaper, there's no need to take the car (so no drink-driving problems) but above all the level of personal service you get if you're a regular. If you're feeling credit-crunched it's good to be cossetted.
They've seen it all - hard times as well as good ones and know how to deal with the downturns by making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Examples of two long-distance runners: Le Gavroche in London and Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham
Restaurants which offer small plates
A trend for the past few years but one that will really come into its own in 2009. Forget the 3 course meal (unless it's a thrifty fixed price lunch) What you need is a place where you can go and have a couple of plates and a good glass of wine. Like the excellent new Bocca di Lupo in Soho.
For the reason given above plus the fact that as supermarket selections get more and more restricted we all need somewhere to go and enjoy an interesting glass of wine. For me one of the best openings of 2008 was Terroirs, the brilliant new West End wine bar set up by the enterprising Caves de Pyrène
Traditional curry houses
Not the flashy new top-end ones but yer local Indian. Eat in or takeaway.
(Some) top-end hotel restaurants
The super-rich are always with us and they have to have somewhere to go so I don't see an end to luxury dining. But where? The premier league such as the Dorchester and the Grosvenor House should survive but I wouldn't put my money on less illustrious names with similar prices.
Seaside B & B's
Especially those offering half board. (Which I suppose makes them D, B & Bs) With the euro at parity with the pound why travel further afield? Despite the weather last summer expect a revival of the English seaside guesthouse (noughties-style)
The likely casualties
Upmarket sandwich bars
Taking your own lunch to work will be so 2009
Mid-priced chain restaurants
If we eat out we'll save it for a special occasion. Chain restaurants which have survived on the basis that people were eating out three or four times a week will struggle. Particularly if they offer mediocre food.
Large country house hotels
Unless they're very hip and cater for the super-rich (see above). Too far to go, too expensive.
The good news
In a frantic bid to keep our custom, restaurants will be falling over themselves to offer us deals we can't refuse so expect brilliant cut-price lunch offers, 2 for the price of one dinners and free glasses - or even bottles - of wine. Every cloud, as they say, has a silver lining . . .
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