Hospitality 2022: Chefs and restaurant owners on their year, and their predictions for 2023

It’s been a tough time, but hope wins out. And in that spirit, we asked three restaurateurs and chefs about their year and what they think 2023 might have in store.

Pam Brunton, chef and co-owner of Inver, Cairndow, www.inverrestaurant.co.uk

How was 2022?

We didn’t know what to expect post-Covid, but we’ve been busy. There’s a wonderful bunch of people working with us, which makes our jobs so enjoyable and I think the guests feel that too. We won Best Restaurant in Scotland in the National Restaurant Awards in the summer – and were No. 23 in the UK – and made The Good Food Guide’s Top 10 in the UK. Our new head chef Matthew Smith came second in the prestigious UK National Chef of the Year competition.

Sam Yorket and Tomas Gormley of Heron

Plans for 2023?

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Most of the team are staying with us, with a few new starlets joining too, so I’m looking forward to lots of creative input. I’m learning about growing mushrooms for the restaurant and might even have a chance to do some writing. Watch this space.

Hopeful or worried?

In the eternal battle of hope versus worry, I always side with hope. We are concerned about the rising costs – our electricity bill has quadrupled, food costs are up 10-50 per cent. Brexit has meant import taxes piled on top of fuel expenses for products from abroad. We’ve put the staff’s wages up, so have no choice, but to raise the prices at Inver. I am hopeful that the last eight years of building a reputation will mean guests still value what we do. If the worst-case scenario does happen, at least I’ll know we did the right thing.

Tom Tsappis and Matilda Ruffle of Killiecrankie House Pic: Alexander Baxter

How will your menu evolve?

The fantastic produce from the hills, fields, waters and hedgerows all around us will continue to guide us. This year we have a wine and beverage manager so we’re looking forward to some holistic creative input on the drinks front. Head chef Matt and our talented sous chef Nicky Robinson will continue to collaborate. The lovely Ciara Gilmartin has recently qualified as a herbalist and started making salves, salts and soaps from locally foraged plants, which will be featuring in the six rooms.

What do you predict for Scottish hospitality?

Those with a focus on quality experiences, which make the most of the epic, unique scenery and produce, will continue to do well. In times of financial trouble, no-one can afford to gamble on something that might not deliver.

Pam Brunton of Inver Pic:Elena Heatherwick

Sam Yorke, chef and co-owner of Heron, Edinburgh, www.heron.scot

How was 2022?

We celebrated our first birthday in July and Tomas and I have learned so much in our first year of trading. Being listed in the Michelin Guide was definitely a stand-out. We were also shortlisted for best breakthrough restaurant in the GQ Food & Drink Awards. We’ve grown our team significantly over the past year, which has allowed us to dramatically improve our offering. New recruits include Aran, who swapped bartending for cheffing during Covid, and Erin, our sommelier. No lows come to mind. I try not to dwell on them.

Plans for 2023?

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Building on the success of our events with MacDuff and Lind & Lime. These events allow us to showcase brilliant Scottish produce.

How will your menu offering evolve?

We’re constantly tweaking our menu, so it’s hard to predict which direction we will go in. We will, however, continue to push to be more sustainable. We’ll also continue to offer our hospitality discount. After so much turmoil in the industry, it’s good to be able to look out for our peers.

What do you predict for Scottish hospitality next year?

With so much economic uncertainty and a looming recession, it’s difficult to be overly optimistic, but we have to try. I do feel that it is an exciting time for new restaurants. People are shifting towards restaurants that have more unique offerings rather than the classic old school. This is allowing some great new places to open and thrive.

Matilda Ruffle, co-owner of Killiecrankie House, www.killiecrankiehouse.com

How was 2022?

It was really our first year of business, so we’ve had some brilliant highs and learnt along the way too. Getting wonderful reviews from press and guests has been particularly rewarding. We’re starting to build a repeat customer base, and it’s always lovely seeing familiar faces. We’re very proud of the lovely team we’ve built, giving us a great foundation. Being included in the Michelin Guide after nine weeks of opening is also a highlight.

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The hardest things we’ve had to contend with have been industry-wide issues – navigating Covid-related cancellations at the start of the year and the huge increase in all of our bills, putting an enormous amount of pressure on margins, but also impacting the number of guests as energy prices have shot up. Dealing with our energy company has been a constant headache since we opened, which I’m sure many people can relate to.

Plans for 2023?

Putting on a shortened tasting menu for lunch on Saturdays. As well as continuing to invest in our kitchen garden, we’re going to build a smokehouse and get some ducks. Our menu is always evolving. It gets better as we come up with new ideas and finesse old ones, but the core of what we do – delicious, innovative food that tells a story about us and where we are – won’t change.

Hopeful or worried?

Any business owner will know that it is impossible to be just one or the other. Right now, we are hopeful about our business, and worried about certain exterior factors.

What do you predict for Scottish hospitality next year?

We will sadly see a lot of independent places closing due to the current environment. Chains and restaurants with deep pockets will survive. Many will have to increase their prices to keep the lights on. If you love a place it is imperative, now more than ever, to support them.

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