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In bad taste: the bitter battle for control at leading London restaurants

The Observer’s critic heads for dinner at the Wolseley, the Corbin & King restaurant taken over last week by corporate giant Minor International, and laments the end of an era in hospitalityShortly after 4pm last Friday, dozens of staff at Brasserie Zédel, close by London’s Piccadilly Circus, gathered in the Crazy Coqs, the glorious art deco cabaret room opposite the restaurant. There, they were addressed by Dillip Rajakarier, CEO of Minor International. Overnight, the vast Thai hotel and restaurant group had won a bidding war to take control of Zédel’s parent company, which also owns landmark London restaurants including the Wolseley, Delaunay and Colbert. He was now the boss.“He got it wrong from the start,” says one person who was present. “He kept referring to us as a brand. We’ve never thought of ourselves as a brand.” The meeting became increasingly fractious. “He told us that founders come and go,” says another. “That was when he completely lost us.” Similar town hall meetings planned for the other restaurants were swiftly cancelled. It seemed that Rajakarier had underestimated the loyalty of the staff to those founders, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King. Continue reading…