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Wolseley restaurant firm Corbin & King forced into administration in ‘power play’ by its Thai owners










Two of London’s best known restaurateurs face a battle for their empire after it was forced into administration in a ‘power play’ by its Thai owners. 

Chris Corbin and Jeremy King run top London restaurants including The Wolseley, which is popular among celebrities

They have been in business together since buying La Caprice in 1981, and in 1990 opened The Ivy, one of London’s most popular venues. 

Chris Corbin and Jeremy King (pictured with his wife Lauren) run top London restaurants including The Wolseley, which is popular among celebrities

Chris Corbin and Jeremy King (pictured with his wife Lauren) run top London restaurants including The Wolseley, which is popular among celebrities

The Corbin & King restaurant group has been fighting Thai hotelier Minor, which has had a 74 per cent stake, since 2017. 

King is thought to have opposed openings abroad and sought to bring in outside creditors. 

Minor opposed this and called in a £35million loan, effectively forcing it into insolvency. 

King said that was a ‘power play’, and that he and Corbin will buy it out of administration. 

King said last night: ‘There is absolutely no need to go into administration, we are trading extremely well and all suppliers, staff etc continue to be paid.’ 

Minor said: ‘Since 2017, Minor has put a number of commercially attractive expansion proposals on the table only to see them blocked by Mr King. 

As the majority shareholder, we refute in the strongest possible terms any suggestion Minor has anything less than the success of Corbin & King Ltd and the interests of all its stakeholders at heart.’ 

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A Chinese restaurant chain in the north west of England has been forced to make use of robotic waiters, after struggling for staff during the Covid pandemic.

Directors at The Chinese Buffet unleashed one BellaBot in each of four restaurants in Liverpool, St Helens, Bolton and Wigan, to serve food to diners. 

When the buffet re-opened after the last lockdown, its owners decided to serve food to people at the table, ordered via an app, rather than allow them to serve themselves.

This added an extra strain on the already short waiting staff, according to owners Paolo Hu and Peter Wu, who said the BellaBots had already proved popular with diners.

The guide price for the friendly-faced robots is $20,000 (£14,500), which is less than the cost of employing a waiter at minimum wage for 40 hours per week. 

Quirky footage shows Bella, who features a wide-eyed feline face, sweeping across the restaurant floor dishing out delicacies to delighted customers. 

A Chinese restaurant chain in the north west of England has been forced to make use of robotic waiters, after struggling for staff during the Covid pandemic

A Chinese restaurant chain in the north west of England has been forced to make use of robotic waiters, after struggling for staff during the Covid pandemic

Fung laing, Kamilla Waluck, Joseph Telford, with owner Paolo Hu and restaurant manager Yuki Lee) pose with BellaBot, brought in due to Covid staff shortages

Fung laing, Kamilla Waluck, Joseph Telford, with owner Paolo Hu and restaurant manager Yuki Lee) pose with BellaBot, brought in due to Covid staff shortages

HOW THE BELLABOT WORKS 

Customers place an order for food using the app, which goes to the kitchen staff.

They then place the food on one of four shelves on the BellaBot.

It goes to a table and lights up the shelf that has their food on it.

Bella then says to the diners, for example: ‘Table 52 please take plates from the shelf with the blue light’.

It is able to move on to up to three other tables in a single outing from the kitchen, repeating the process.

In an average week during trials, BellaBot covered 67 miles.

The robot can talk to diners and even sing Happy Birthday when required.

It costs an estimated £14,500 for a single BellaBot, which is less than full time minimum wage for a human employee. 

The restaurant, like many others around the world, has battled with low staff numbers since reopening after the pandemic, made worse by employees having to isolate due to the Omicron variant of Covid.

It meant that as more things opened up and got busier, the restaurant struggled to find enough servers to keep up with demand.

The Chinese Buffet spokesman David Ramsden said the BellaBot has proved to be a novel solution to the ongoing staffing problem.

He said that ‘customers love it,’ adding ‘we have people doing TikToks, others saying the children loved the robot.

‘It’s quirky and really interesting. It’ll attract people to come to the restaurant to see the robot serving. It’s a good pull for people into restaurants.’

Families come in specifically to see Bella, and when it is someone’s birthday, the robot can join human staff at the table to sing Happy Birthday to the diners, the owners said.

‘During the covid pandemic, the buffets were closed even when restaurants were open because people needed to remain seated,’ Mr Ramsden explained.

‘Rather than being a [traditional] buffet, it became a table-service buffet. You order via the app and it was delivered directly to your table.’

This put more pressure on the waiting staff, as previously customers would go up and collect their own food, requiring fewer waiters.  

Directors at The Chinese Buffet unveiled one BellaBot in each of four restaurants in Liverpool, St Helens, Bolton and Wigan, to serve food to diners in place of humans

Directors at The Chinese Buffet unveiled one BellaBot in each of four restaurants in Liverpool, St Helens, Bolton and Wigan, to serve food to diners in place of humans

When the buffet re-opened after the last lockdown, the restaurant chain decided to serve food to people at the table, ordered via an app, rather than allow them to serve themselves

When the buffet re-opened after the last lockdown, the restaurant chain decided to serve food to people at the table, ordered via an app, rather than allow them to serve themselves

In their testing stages, staff at The Chinese Buffet found that Bella covers 67 miles per week on average, while moving around the restaurant. 

Bella has four shelves meaning she can serve four tables at once and even talk to diners in the process.

Customers place their order using The Chinese Buffet app, and the food arrives on Bella’s shelves at the table – coming out ‘tapas style’.

‘You order a number of dishes and it’s an unlimited dining experience. You order in lots of three, then you can order again and again,’ explained Mr Ramsden.

‘The order goes to the kitchen via the app. Prior to robots, the order would be put together and the waiting staff would take it to the table.

In their testing stages, staff at The Chinese Buffet found that Bella covers 67 miles per week on average, while moving around the restaurant

In their testing stages, staff at The Chinese Buffet found that Bella covers 67 miles per week on average, while moving around the restaurant

Bella has four shelves meaning she can serve four tables at once and even talk to diners in the process

Customers place their order using the Chinese Buffet app, and the food arrives on Bella's shelves at the table - coming out 'tapas style'

Bella has four shelves meaning she can serve four tables at once and even talk to diners in the process

ROBOT MASSAGE TABLE SHOWN AT CES 

Massage and comfort played a big part in the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), including the launch of a fully automated massage table. 

Unveiled by Massage Robotics, the full body massage robot was designed to be placed in a massage salon and help those resistant to a human masseuse.  

The startup built the robot with two arms, covering a seven square foot area to understand verbal commands. 

It has a neural network that allows it to exchange data in real time and respond to the needs and demands of the user.

The robots arms can operate in 6-axis and work together to create an ideal massage routine for the person on the table, drawing from a database. 

It can control location, duration, path, speed and force based on the needs, including removing knots from the back. 

Users will also be able to share their favourite routines, and select the ones they want to use from a library on a smartphone. 

It does come with a hefty price tag, as it is aimed at the commercial, rather than home market, with a base model costing $310,000 (£228,000). 

‘Now, there are four shelves on Bella. You can programme it so she goes to table 57, table 43. A different order is on different shelves.

‘When she gets to the table, she says ‘table 52, please take your food from the shelf with the blue light’. The shelf lights up to show which is your food.’

He said that while the robots are serving tables, it frees up staff time to interact with the customers and address their ’emotional issues’.

This includes complaints, or additional needs, including dietary requirements. 

‘I was in Wigan on Sunday evening talking to the managers there and they wouldn’t do without them now,’ Mr Ramsden said, adding ‘they were skeptical to start with but since they’ve had them, they make a massive difference.

‘When I talk to people, there are two challenges. People say they don’t want to be served by robots, they want to be served by people.

‘Of course, we all do, but just because the robots are there it doesn’t mean the humans aren’t. It eases pressure on the staff and they can stay on the restaurant floor and interact with the customers.’ 

‘In trials, the robot did 67 miles a week,’ he said, adding ‘that’s 67 miles that staff would be walking’ if the robot wasn’t in the restaurant.

‘It’s primarily to solve the staffing crisis but that’s the catalyst for it. It was a short-term solution for the staffing crisis but the reality is, it’s making such a difference to the restaurant,’ said Mr Ramsden.

‘If you go to Tesco now, you get the zapper and go to the automatic check out. This AI and robotics is coming.

‘It’s really timely and a good short-term solution to the staffing problem now, but it will become much more commonplace.

‘They are Chinese manufactured and they’re being used to some degree in Germany, Holland and Spain at the moment, and even in Slovenia, but nobody had actually brought them over here to the UK [before we launched them in November].

‘We’re now importing the robots and providing them to anybody that needs them – with hospitality being the initial target market.’

Could a robot take YOUR job? Waiters, shelf fillers and retail assistants are most likely to be replaced with automated systems – but doctors and teachers are safe for now 

Waiters, shelf stackers and people working in retail are the most likely to be replaced by automated systems in the future, according to new research into AI employment.

The study, funded by trade electrical suppliers ElectricalDirect, found that while manual and repetitive tasks were easy to replace with robots, doctors and teachers were safe ‘for now’.

The jobs most at risk from automation, according to the study, are waiters, shelf fillers, retail assistants, bar staff and farm workers.

The researchers found an obvious geographical trend as well, with the north, particularly Wigan, Doncaster and Sunderland at the greatest risk from robots

At the other end of the scale, with those in the most ‘secure from automation’ roles are doctors, teachers, dentists, psychologists and physiotherapists. 

The researchers found an obvious geographical trend as well, with the north, particularly Wigan, Doncaster and Sunderland at the greatest risk from robots.

The south fares significantly better, with London, Watford and Oxford the least at risk of job losses due to mass automation as AI and robotics improve. 

By analysing 20 million jobs from around the country, the team discovered that roles with repetitive and routine tasks will be the first in line for automation, with some industries, such as manufacturing, starting this process decades ago. 

The rise of AI poses an existential threat to the UK jobs market, as it starts to make a large number of jobs a thing of the past. 

It’s an inevitable and controversial change to the way our economy works, which has only been sped up by the forced automation brought on by Covid, as businesses were limited in their ability to have customer-facing roles.

The data analysed 20 million jobs, looking at the risk of automation, by analysing whether repetitive and routine tasks would be carried out quicker by an algorithm.

Therefore, jobs that tend to need less human intervention, came out at a much higher risk. Location data is based on areas where jobs require the most training, thus lowering their risk of automation. 

Waiters top the list by having a 72.81 per cent probability of being replaced by robots over the coming years, a process likely to be sped up by the recruitment crisis.

 

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There are few gardens in the UK that come with a vineyard, wallaby enclosure and Michelin-starred restaurant, but then Leonardslee has always been special.

Found just outside Horsham in West Sussex, this creation of Victorian plant-collector Sir Edmund Loder was closed to the public in 2010, then allowed to run wild – until South African entrepreneur Penny Streeter bought it in 2017 with the aim of restoring both the landscaped gardens and its 19th Century country house to their former glory.

The UK’s first commercial Pinotage vineyard was planted here in 2018, and in 2019 the gardens were reopened. Streeter then persuaded renowned South African chef Jean Delport to set up Restaurant Interlude, which promptly won a Michelin star.

Annabelle Thorpe checked in to the 19th Century country house at Leonardslee, pictured above, which is set near Horsham

Annabelle Thorpe checked in to the 19th Century country house at Leonardslee, pictured above, which is set near Horsham

Properly comfy: Pictured is one of the lodge’s rooms - which boast ‘soft as marshmallow’ beds, according to Annabelle

Properly comfy: Pictured is one of the lodge’s rooms – which boast ‘soft as marshmallow’ beds, according to Annabelle

One of the wallabies and her joey at the Leonardslee enclosure

One of the wallabies and her joey at the Leonardslee enclosure

Her latest addition to the estate is ten sumptuous bedrooms in the renovated Victorian lodge, almost all with glorious views across the gardens and rolling countryside.

It’s carefully marketed as a restaurant with rooms, and checking in feels more like arriving for a weekend at Downton Abbey than at a hotel

Striking sculptural figures and a gleaming grand piano dominate the elegant central space, with pristine white doors leading into light, airy rooms given over to afternoon tea, a small residents’ bar and the Interlude restaurant.

Upstairs, rooms once used as offices have been converted into contemporary boudoirs with statement wallpapers, brushed velvet sofas and palatial bathrooms with seductive, claw-footed tubs. 

Everything is ruinously comfortable – the robes are butter-soft, the bed like a giant marshmallow cocoon and there’s a clear sense of ‘doing things properly’ – even the welcome letter comes with a hand-stamped wax seal.

The restaurant is arguably the biggest draw. 

Delport’s multi-course, hunter-gatherer experience places Leonardslee’s gardens front and centre, with many ingredients grown, gathered or foraged on the 240-acre estate. 

Ripe for relaxation: Pictured is one of the bathrooms, featuring a Victorian-inspired sink and freestanding bath

Ripe for relaxation: Pictured is one of the bathrooms, featuring a Victorian-inspired sink and freestanding bath

Striking sculptural figures and a gleaming grand piano dominate the hotel's elegant central space, pictured above

South African chef Jean Delport set up the Restaurant Interlude, pictured. Annabelle says that the restaurant is 'arguably the biggest draw' at the estate

Striking sculptural figures and a gleaming grand piano dominate the hotel’s elegant central space, pictured on the left. South African chef Jean Delport set up the Restaurant Interlude, pictured on the right. Annabelle says that the restaurant is ‘arguably the biggest draw’ at the estate

Every course comes with an explanation card and small map of the garden, pinpointing where each ingredient was harvested.

We ate nettle and wild garlic, powdered pine needle and autumn radishes, hazelnuts and elderflower, along with locally sourced venison, beef and parmesan. Each course was artfully presented, until we arrived at the petits four and had to ask, weakly, if we could take them away.

It was an extraordinary meal, and it felt delightfully smug to slip upstairs while other guests waited for taxis.

Describing her meal at Interlude, pictured, Annabelle says: 'Every course comes with an explanation card and small map of the garden, pinpointing where each ingredient was harvested'

Describing her meal at Interlude, pictured, Annabelle says: ‘Every course comes with an explanation card and small map of the garden, pinpointing where each ingredient was harvested’

A night at Leonardslee gives access to the gardens (pictured) before they open to the public, Annabelle reveals

A night at Leonardslee gives access to the gardens (pictured) before they open to the public, Annabelle reveals

'At 8am the shimmering lakes and flame-hued trees were ours alone,' says Annabelle

‘At 8am the shimmering lakes and flame-hued trees were ours alone,’ says Annabelle

Serene: Double rooms at the estate, pictured, cost from £350 a night

Serene: Double rooms at the estate, pictured, cost from £350 a night

But there was one final treat. A night at Leonardslee gives access to the gardens before they open to the public. 

At 8am the shimmering lakes and flame-hued trees were ours alone, and we walked among the sculptures and billowing rhododendron bushes that blaze with colour in the spring, and prepared to indulge in the goodies tucked into the breakfast basket that had been left outside our door.

By the time we drove away, the estate had families peering through the fence at the wallabies and the cafe was open for business. It was just an ordinary day at Leonardslee – after a truly extraordinary night. 

TRAVEL FACTS 

Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens, West Sussex. Double rooms cost from £350 a night, including a breakfast basket. Dinner at Interlude costs £145pp (leonardsleegardens.co.uk).

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Trendy London seafood restaurant has stuffed DUCK NECK with turnips and lentils on its menu for £18… as social media users say ‘no that’s too much’

  • Westerns Laundry, in Highbury, revealed the creation on Instagram on Thursday
  • Image showed duck’s head and neck on plate with piece of string tied around it
  • Featured on menu alongside  mackerel, smoked eel, pollock and cuttlefish










A trendy North London seafood restaurant has ruffled feathers online after posting an image of its latest dish – stuffed duck neck.

Chefs at Westerns Laundry, in Highbury, which has received rave reviews for its up-market dishes, startled Instagram users on Thursday when they revealed the £18 creation.

An image showed a duck’s head and neck on a plate, with a caption describing it as having been stuffed with turnips and lentils.

A trendy North London seafood restaurant has ruffled feathers online after posting an image of its latest dish - stuffed duck neck. Chefs at Westerns Laundry, in Highbury, which has received rave reviews for its up-market dishes, startled Instagram users on Thursday when they revealed the £18 creation

A trendy North London seafood restaurant has ruffled feathers online after posting an image of its latest dish – stuffed duck neck. Chefs at Westerns Laundry, in Highbury, which has received rave reviews for its up-market dishes, startled Instagram users on Thursday when they revealed the £18 creation

A separate photo listed the price of the dish on a menu which also featured mackerel, smoked eel, pollock and cuttlefish creations.

Reacting to the post, one shocked Instagram user wrote: ‘No that is too much’. However, others were more enamoured with the culinary experiment, with one chef simply saying ‘Yum’.

The duck dish was the third most expensive of the ones listed on Thursday’s menu, with the priciest being ‘duck breast, pommes anna, cabbage and bacon’ at £26.

A separate photo listed the price of the dish on a menu which also featured mackerel, smoked eel, pollock and cuttlefish creations

A separate photo listed the price of the dish on a menu which also featured mackerel, smoked eel, pollock and cuttlefish creations

The second most expensive option was ‘pollock, three cornered leeks and mash’ at £24.

The restaurant, which opened in 2017, was positively reviewed in The Guardian by well-known critic Jay Rayner, who said the venue was a ‘class act’ and described it as a ‘smart, skilled kitchen with some tables attached’.

However, Mr Rayner did also take aim at the allegedly expensive wine list. A menu on the venue’s Instagram page showed prices for a bottle ranged from £27 to £72.

The restaurant, which opened in 2017, was positively reviewed by well-known critic Jay Rayner

The restaurant, which opened in 2017, was positively reviewed by well-known critic Jay Rayner

Mr Rayner did also take aim at the allegedly expensive wine list. A menu on the venue's Instagram page showed prices for a bottle ranged from £27 to £72

Mr Rayner did also take aim at the allegedly expensive wine list. A menu on the venue’s Instagram page showed prices for a bottle ranged from £27 to £72

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