Living Ventures win three awards at UK’s Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards 2018

Restaurant group scoops gongs for Casual Dining Group of the Year award, while its Grand Pacific venue, in Manchester, also wins for ‘Best Designed Bar’ and ‘New Casual Dining Concept of the Year’ awards

The UK’s foremost casual dining restaurants and pubs were revealed on Wednesday 21 February at the Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards 2018, hosted at the Marriott London Grosvenor Square, at the culmintaion of the first day of the Casual Dining show. More than 400 industry professionals attended the awards, including executives from PizzaExpress, Azzurri Group, Casual Dining Group, Mitchells & Butlers, Novus Leisure, Crowne Plaza, Redcomb Pubs, Charles Wells, Dishoom, Faucet Inn, Hubbox, MEATliquor and Red’s True Barbecue.

Living Ventures, wagamama, Bistrot Pierre, Brewhouse & Kitchen, Loungers, The Alchemist, Flat Iron, GBK, and The New World Trading Co (NWTC) were among the operators who received awards. Judges for the  awards included Bob Ivell, chairman of Mitchells & Butlers; Karen Forrester, CEO of TGI Fridays UK; ‘industry legend’ Ian Neill; Mark Fox, former CEO of Bill’s; Joycelyn Neve, MD of Seafood Pub Co; Brian Keeley-Whiting, owner of Whiting & Hammond; and Kate Nicholls, chief executive of The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers.


It proved to be a memorable evening for Cheshire-based Living Ventures, which celebrates its 25-year anniversary this year, The Group won three awards, including the new and hotly-contested, Casual Dining Group of the Year award. Living Ventures’s Grand Pacific, in Manchester, also won for the ‘Best Designed Bar’ and ‘New Casual Dining Concept of the Year’ awards.

Asian food chain wagamama retained its Large Multi-Site Restaurant Brand of the Year award. The Malt House in London also successfully defended its Independent Pub of the Year award this year.

“We’re so honoured to scoop this award for the second year,” says Paul Merrett, chef-director at The Jolly Fine Pub Group. “Last year’s win not only boosted our marketing campaign, it also had a terrific motivational impact on the whole team.  A casual dining award in my sector, is the trophy we all want to win and I’m super proud of the guys at The Malt House in Fulham


Chris Hill, CEO of The New World Trading Co, received the 2018 Trailblazer of the Year award – the sole category nominated only by the judges. Hill said he was ‘humbled and stunned’ to win and dedicated the award to his “incredible” team.

“NWTC is an exceptional company that does things a little differently and we have had amazing success to date. We have an exciting time ahead and I feel lucky to do what I do, with a team of incredible people around me. To be recognised in this way is testament to the ethos of all in NWTC and I can’t wait to share this success with them,” he says.

ASK Italian, Las Iguanas and Pho were also highly commended in various categories.

“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 80 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 2018 award 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,” says Brazier.

The 2018 award results in full:

Trailblazer of the Year – sponsored by Lamb Weston

Winner: Chris Hill, CEO, The New World Trading Co.

New Casual Dining Concept of the Year – sponsored by Reynolds

Winner: Grand Pacific

Best New Pub / Bar Site – sponsored by Ribena Sparkling

Winner: The Alchemist, MediaCity UK, Manchester

Best New Restaurant Site – sponsored by Fentimans

Winner: Bistrot Pierre, Mumbles, Swansea

Small Employer of the Year (under 20 sites) – sponsored by amber energy

Winner: Yummy Pub Co.

Large Employer of the Year (20+ sites) – sponsored by Boutinot

Winner: Loungers

Menu Innovation Award – sponsored by Essential Cuisine

Winner: Haché

Highly Commended: ASK Italian

Marketing Campaign of the Year – sponsored by Casual Dining

Winner: Pizza Pilgrims – ‘Pizza Box Art Gallery – Shoreditch’

Highly Commended: Las Iguanas – ‘Iggy and Friends’

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

Winner: Grand Pacific, Manchester (designed by Michelle Derbyshire)

Best Designed Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year (under 20 sites) – sponsored by London Design Fair

Winner: Fancy Crab, London (designed by DesignLSM)

Best Designed Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year (20+ sites) – sponsored by Procure4

Winner: GBK, Southport (designed by Moreno Masey)

Independent Pub of the Year (under 5 sites) – sponsored by Budweiser Budvar UK

Winner: The Malt House, London

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

Winner: KuPP (various locations)

Multi-Site Pub Operator of the Year – sponsored by McCain Foodservice

Winner: Brewhouse and Kitchen

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

Winner: Flat Iron

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

Winner: wagamama

Highly commended: Pho

Casual Dining Group of the Year – sponsored by Carlsberg

Winner: Living Ventures


About Casual Dining 2018

Keynote Theatre speakers and panelists at Casual Dining 2018 included Zoe Bowley, UK & Ireland MD of PizzaExpress; Brian Trollip, operations director at Dishoom; Nick Collins, CEO of Loungers; Luisa Fernandez, marketing director at Yo!; Paul Merrett, chef director and owner of Jolly Fine Pub Group; Chris Knights, group executive chef at Young’s & Geronimo Pubs; Antony Bennett, head of food at Loungers; Glenn Evans, head of food development at Las Iguanas, La Tasca and La Vina; chef/restaurant consultant Jay Morjaria; Christian Rose, MD of All Star Lanes; Jeremy Simmonds, co- founder & MD of Competitive Socialising; Simon Woplin, F&B operations manager at Picturehouse Cinemas; and Mike Berry, head of content at Fleet Street Communications.

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