Long established names and nine new entries make up the North of England’s hospitality power list for 2018, which covers 216 brands, 1194 sites and over 22,200 employees.

For the seventh year running, the NRB Top Fifty recognises the north’s most significant and influential hospitality operators.

New entries in 2018 include the founders and directors of Bundobust, Camerons Brewery, Wildsmith Hotels, Crafted Projects, Mowgli Street Food, Amber Taverns, James’ Places, East Coast Concepts (which includes Neighbourhood in Spinningfields) and Rose Four Group.

“Despite tremors in the casual dining market our NRB Top 50 entrants have shown no shortage of ambition,” said Thom Hetherington, CEO of organisers Holden Media.

“Almost every one of the fifty has grand plans for expansion and new sites, and I am sure that 2018/19 will see a ‘rise of the indies’ which will play to the strengths of our great Northern operators.”

According to the judging notes, the judging panel – consisting of northern hospitality experts in the fields of hospitality, finance, accountancy, property, law and consultancy – looks for “ambitious individuals who are driving their businesses to sector-leading levels of commercial success; who show consistency as well as innovation, and who make a contribution to the industry and the region in terms of skills, training, ambassadorial work, and CSR.”

Those in the NRB Top Fifty can be chef-patrons running would-class kitchens, or captains of industry building extensive multi-brand portfolios, but they must be inspirational standard bearers for the Northern hospitality industry.

Three special achievement awards were presented to Jobe Ferguson, Ross Mackenzie, and Lyndon Higginson from Black Dog and Liars Club, Simon Potts of The Alchemist, and Chris Ure and Martin Wolstencroft from Arc Inspirations.

Pic Jody Hartley

Jobe, Ross and Lyndon run Liars Club, Cane and Grain and Crazy Pedros as well as the recently revamped Bay Horse pub. In addition, Jobe also operates TNQ, and Lyndon operates Junkyard Golf, The Golden Pineapple and dive bar Bunny Jackson’s.

“A complex portfolio has done nothing to dent the trio’s focus, and despite their unique impact on the region’s food and drink landscape it feels that they are only just beginning to click through the gears,” said the panel.

The panel praised the Alchemist brand’s successful expansion and clever marketing. Recent openings include a £1.2m waterside Media City site in Salford.

“This award-winning brand has expanded rapidly without a single mis-step, with a pioneering approach to everything from marketing to CSR which has had other operators playing catch-up,” they commented, adding that under Simon’s tutelage The Alchemist has “come alive as a brand.”

Discussing Arc Inspirations, which includes the Banyan bars in Manchester and Leeds and the new Manahatta Deansgate, the judging panel were impressed by the company’s organic growth.

“Their ability to build such a sizable and multi-faceted business steadily and organically, without the need for significant outside funding, is a rare feat worthy of recognition.”

“Ones to watch” over the next year include El Gato Negro, which has become “a fixture on the city’s competitive dining scene.”

The awards were announced at the Northern Restaurant & Bar show on 20 March 2018.

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