BLACKPOOL’S restaurant trade has been dealt a major blow after a top chef pulled out of two eateries in the resort just 18 months after they opened.
Heathcote’s Outside – created by former double Michelin-starred chef Paul Heathcote – has relinquished control of the Empress Grill and Mazzei Cafe in the Winter Gardens.
The venues are owned by Blackpool Council and a report says Heathcotes Outside had declared a loss of £45,000 on the operation and had only been able to put £88,828 into the businesses, which fell short of the £200,000 investment the council had wanted.
The failure of the businesses has been blamed on a lack of passing trade for the venues, which are located at the back of the attraction close to the Empress Ballroom.
Heathcotes will continue to run catering for events and conferences inside the Winter Gardens.
Mr Heathcote said: “It hasn’t been the success as envisaged.
“As a compromise, when we took on the outside catering contract, the council wanted us to run the restaurant but it was always believed it would be a difficult venue to run.
“It has never been anything to do with me directly and I have never visited the site.”
Mr Heathcote said he currently had no plans to open another restaurant in Blackpool, but envisaged the events catering side of the business would continue to be a success.
Stephen McDade, operations director of The Lindley Group, which runs Heathcotes Outside, added: “We have, by mutual consent with Blackpool Council, agreed to relinquish responsibility for managing and providing general catering services at Blackpool Winter Gardens’ Empress Grill Room and Mazzei Cafe in order to focus on Heathcotes Outside’s core area of expertise – catering for conference, banqueting and events at the venue by providing a bespoke, first-class fine-dining experience for all occasions.”
Heathcotes Outside has catered such high profile events as FIFA
dinners, MTV awards and BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism and culture on Blackpool Council, said both restaurants will remain open, and will be run by Crown Entertainment which operates the rest of the attractions in the Winter Gardens, with staff retained by the company.
He added: “We are disappointed things have not worked out with Heathcotes Outside. However, I want to reassure residents that under new operator Crown Entertainment Centres the exceptional quality of food and service will remain, with existing staff remaining in place.
“Crown will be offering expanded opening hours and a greater range of promotions and we are delighted Heathcotes will continue to operate as specialist event caterer in Blackpool.”
The Mazzei Cafe opened in February 2011, while the Empress Grill opened in June 2011 in the former Backstage Bistro, employing 12 staff.