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Azzurri Group & wagamama among the winners of Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards

Azzurri Group, wagamama, Oakman Inns & NWTC among the winners of Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards

The UK’s best casual dining operators were revealed tonight (27 February) at the Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards 2019.

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.

“I’d also like to thank the many, many people who aren’t here!  The tens of thousands of customers who continue to support us each and every day, week in week out, snow or sun, Brexit or no-Brexit!  Also, to the amazing staff in all of the restaurants who are totally unwavering in their support to Jamie, and the wider Team; and, of course, to my fabulous Leadership Team who without them I/we would be nothing.”

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,” says 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 says.

Casual Dining’s event manager, Eva Ellis, says: “Over the past four years, the Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards has established itself as a key event on the casual dining calendar.  It’s a fantastic way to reward and celebrate the achievements of those companies who are driving forward Britain’s fastest-growing food sector.  Congratulations to each of our deserved winners.”

The 2019 Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards winners are:

Trailblazer of the Year – sponsored by Trail

Winners: Kavi Thakrar & Shamil Thakrar, Dishoom

New Casual Dining Concept of the Year – sponsored by Reynolds

Winner: The Florist

Best New Pub / Bar Site – sponsored by Lamb Weston

Winner: The Alchemist – Cardiff

Best New Restaurant Site – sponsored by Arla PRO

Winner: The Florist – Liverpool

Ethical Operator Award – sponsored by RTW Checker

Winner: Oakman Inns & Restaurants

Employer of the Year – sponsored by Yapster

Winner: The New World Trading Company

Highly commended: Oakman Inns & Restaurants

Highly commended: PizzaExpress

Menu Innovation Award (1-19 sites) – sponsored by Essential Cuisine

Winner: Caravan

Highly commended: Cabana

Menu Innovation Award (20+ sites) – sponsored by Essential Cuisine

Winner: wagamama

Highly commended: Las Iguanas

Marketing Campaign of the Year – sponsored by Chef Direct

Winner: wagamama – ‘feed your inner good’

Best Designed Pub / Bar of the Year – sponsored by Commercial Kitchen

Winner: Dirty Martini, Birmingham – designed by Grapes Design

Best Designed Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year – sponsored by London Design Fair

Winner: The Florist – Liverpool

Best Family Dining Experience – sponsored by Belvoir Fruit Farms

Winner: Jamie’s Italian

Pub of the Year – sponsored by Fentimans

Winner: The Boathouse, Falmouth

Independent Restaurant of the Year (under 5 sites) – sponsored by Deliveroo

Winner: The Chilli Pickle

Multi-Site Pub Operator of the Year (5+ sites) – sponsored by Casual Dining

Winner: Oakman Inns & Restaurants

Highly commended: Charles Wells

Small Multi-Site Restaurant Brand of the Year (5-19 sites) – sponsored by Boutinot

Winner: Flat Iron

Large Multi-Site Restaurant Brand of the Year (20 Sites +) – sponsored by Coca-Cola European Partners

Winner: wagamama

Highly commended: Cosy Club

Casual Dining Group of the Year – sponsored by Carlsberg UK

Winner: Azzurri Group

The awards judges included Ian Neill, chairman of Hush Haché; Karen Forrester, CEO of TGI Friday’s UK; Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality; Jon Knight, CEO of Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group; Zoe Bowley, UK & Ireland MD of PizzaExpress; Chris Hill, CEO of New World Trading Company; Susan Chappell, divisional director of Mitchells & Butlers; David McDowall, CEO of BrewDog (Retail); Alex Salussolia, MD of Glendola Leisure Group; Stephen Wall, owner of Pho; Brian Keeley Whiting, owner of Whiting & Hammond; Garry Duncan, operations director of Nando’s UK & Ireland; Luisa Fernandez, marketing director of YO!; Jo Fleet, MD of Flat Iron; Scott Collins, co-founder & MD of MEATliquor; Peter Martin, director of CM&Co; and Chris Brazier, group event director of Casual Dining.

Other winners on the night commented:

“It is a real honour to win ‘Best Independent Restaurant’. We have had an exciting year celebrating our 10th anniversary and branching out, so for The Chilli Pickle to still receive recognition from our peers means so much,” says Alun Sperring, co-owner of The Chilli Pickle.

“We are extremely proud to have won this prestigious award, which is dedicated to all our lovely staff and loyal customers.  We’ve been proud to hold the keys to this 300-year-old independent pub and restaurant for the last 16 years, during which time we’ve endeavoured to innovate and refresh our ideas constantly, whilst also trying to remain consistent in our offer. We look forward to welcoming old and new customers for many years to come,” says David Carless, co-owner of The Boathouse, Falmouth.

For further information, please visit

Casual Dining 2019 at London ExCeL

The second day of Casual Dining show is open from 10am to 5pm tomorrow (Thursday 28 February) at London ExCeL.

Speaker highlights include exclusive interviews with Steve Richards, CEO of The Casual Dining Group, Jens Hofma, CEO of Pizza Hut Restaurants UK, and Mark Jones, CEO of Carluccio’s (all speaking to Peter Martin, director at CM&Co & VP of CGA).  There will also be Keynote sessions from Peter Borg Neal, CEO of Oakman Inns, and Anna-Marie Mason, brand director at Mitchells & Butlers.

For further information and to register, please visit

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