London's chefs brace for Olympics boom or bust
"We are hoping for the best and expecting the worst, as chefs are pretty pessimistic. But I am overjoyed that the Olympics are coming to London," says chef Michel Roux, outside Le Gavroche in London.
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LONDON -- With just days left until the London 2012 Olympics start on Friday, chefs and restaurateurs are divided on what the Games will mean for business.
Some fret that regular diners will work from home and avoid the city, while road closures mean that deliveries will have to be made during the night. Others expect an influx of visitors keen to explore London's culinary landscape.
Here's what some industry insiders had to say:
Tom Aikens (Tom Aikens): "We expect to be busy. We're supporting the London Fair Practice and Pricing Charter, which commits us to maintaining our usual prices and working in an ethical, environmentally sustainable way."
Joel Antunes (Kitchen Joel Antunes): "I was in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics and business was not good. This time, my plan is to take the opportunity to visit family in France."
Will Beckett (Hawksmoor): "Our Seven Dials restaurant will be rammed; Spitalfields: no change; Guildhall: quieter. My guess is that the city will be quiet with office workers staying at home and not being replaced by tourists."
Vineet Bhatia (Rasoi): "We are expecting a lot more people coming in but as ours is a small restaurant, we will always have a problem fitting them in."
Claude Bosi (Hibiscus): "We've extended our opening hours -- last orders now 11 p.m. -- to allow our guests to get back from the events."
Richard Corrigan (Corrigan's Mayfair): "It's an opportunity to showcase all that is good from these islands. We look forward to welcoming visitors to a taste of seasonal British and Irish produce."
Chris Galvin (Galvin La Chapelle): "We've cross-trained so that we can send staff from one restaurant to another if one gets busy. We want to show the world how good the food and service is in London."
Alexis Gauthier (Gauthier): "We already have a 50 percent increase in bookings for the Olympics compared to the same period last year. ... We are not doing anything special for the Games other than accepting euro and dollar notes."
Stuart Gillies (Gordon Ramsay): "It's an opportunity for one of the greatest food cities in the world to showcase what we are all about."
Trevor Gulliver (St. John Hotel): "Every single sports federation across all sports across the world, every event organizer, politician, agent, sponsor, sponsors' client, sports lobbyist, celebrity -- if they are on expenses -- they will be here. I'd like to think that some will cross our threshold."
Henry Harris (Racine): "It's not going to be the savior of the restaurant economy that a lot of people think. Many people will be entertained corporately and have their dining taken care of. It will be of assistance but how much, I don't know. Many people are just going to want a slice of pizza somewhere."
Sam Hart (Fino): "The Olympics is anyone's guess. We have no idea what's going to happen."
Mark Hix (Tramshed): "It could go either way. The road closures are going to be a nightmare ... If the Jubilee is anything to go by, then business will be down."
Niall Howard (Hakkasan): "It will probably be like the royal wedding last year, when the expectations were high and the reality was mediocre."
Philip Howard (The Square): "I think the Olympics will boost all businesses, but particularly restaurants in the mid-priced bracket."
Soren Jessen (1 Lombard Street): "The sports tourists are not the normal type of clients. We're lobbying embassies, Olympics committees, sponsors, etc., because if we don't attract Olympics visitors there will be no business."
Jeremy Lee (Quo Vadis): "Hopefully, being in Soho, we will see tired and hungry adventurers returned from the easterly Olympic marvels needing a restorative glass and a plate of invigorating sustenance while the few remaining in town carry on as the much ado in the East remains just that."
Bruno Loubet (Bistrot Bruno Loubet): "We think breakfast will be popular and then during the day, visitors will be watching the Olympics or walking about the city. ... We are looking to open the kitchen earlier and stay open later."
Nuno Mendes (Viajante): "We plan to be open for lunch during this time. There is a great deal of attention in East London and we are right in the middle of it, so it should be fun."
Simon Rogan (Roganic): "It won't affect Roganic very much as it is tiny and can't do any more covers than we do already."
Michel Roux (Le Gavroche): "We are hoping for the best and expecting the worst, as chefs are pretty pessimistic. But I am overjoyed that the Olympics are coming to London. It will be a showcase for Great Britain and a huge success, like the Jubilee."
David Strauss (Goodman City): "Most visitors may be here just to soak up the atmosphere, which is enjoyable, but results in less profit. The Manchester United versus Barcelona Champions League Final last year was one of the busiest, noisiest, most enjoyable lunches we've had, and the average spend was rubbish."
Marcus Wareing (Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley): "We will definitely see a positive impact, which is why we will be open for lunch on Saturdays throughout the Olympics. This is something we have never done before."
Alyn Williams (Alyn Williams at the Westbury): "Many Olympians and their managers are staying at the Westbury. We have plans for a quick light lunch menu for visitors to eat between events."
Bryn Williams (Odette's): "We are a neighborhood restaurant with regular customers, so we are not relying on bookings just because of the Olympics."
First Published July 22, 2012 12:00 am