Held annually, the Casual Dining Awards are a celebration of the multi-million pound casual dining industry, covering everything from new openings and menu innovation to best marketing and design.
70 brands were shortlisted for the 2020 awards, held last night at a London ceremony, including many of the big names we’re all familiar with: wagamama, New World Trading Company, PizzaExpress, Zizzi, Pho, The Alchemist, Flat Iron, Dishoom, Loungers, Mowgli and more.
And the winners included brands who are making their mark in Manchester.
Like the branches in London and Edinburgh, the Manchester member of the Dishoom family pays loving homage to the old Irani cafés of Bombay, and offers all-day dining and drinking.
Dishoom also picked up the award for Restaurant Brand of the Year (1-19 sites).
The Trailblazer of the Year Award went to Nisha Katona MBE, CEO and founder of Mowgli.
In the five years since Nisha founded her first restaurant, she’s opened nine more sites across the UK including two in Manchester, become a familiar face on TV, written three cookbooks, set up the Mowgli Trust charity to help local and regional causes, and been awarded an MBE for services to the food industry.
“Like all good trailblazers, Nisha leads by example,” said event organiser Eva Ellis, presenting the award.
“Whether it’s supporting her teams, personally training her chefs, or speaking to her customers on twitter, her mission is to enrich the lives of her staff, her guests and their communities, through a culture of grace, intelligence and graft.”
And the award for Best Designed Restaurant of the Year went to Bill’s in Spinningfields.
The Hardman Square branch, which opened in October, features a 177 sqm dining space with 96 covers, featuring cosy booths, sociable sharing tables, co-working space and a bespoke bar area. There is also outside seating, in the heart of Spinningfields, for 26 covers.
The striking new interior includes modern décor, vibrant colours, luxurious velvet seating and statement chandeliers, with quirky touches and vintage finds hand-selected by Bill himself.
Other winners on the night, with branches in Manchester as well as elsewhere in the UK, included Loungers (owners of Cosy Club in the Corn Exchange) who won Employer of the Year (50+ sites) and Pub / Bar Brand of the Year (50+ sites); Franco Manca, who won Best Family Dining Experience; The Alchemist, who won Pub / Bar Brand of the Year (2-49 sites); and The Ivy Collection, who won Restaurant Brand of the Year (20-50 sites).