TV chef Gino D’Acampo has joined the debate about how restaurants in Harrogate can compete and survive against difficult trading conditions, arguing that restaurants need to take charge of their own destiny and ‘stop blaming everybody else’ for their struggles.
Speaking to the Harrogate Advertiser at his restaurant on Parliament Street, Gino said: “The problem we’ve got at the moment is everybody is blaming the recession, everybody’s blaming Brexit - that’s rubbish, that is just because people don’t want to be honest about it - they cannot run restaurants, there is no point in blaming everybody else.
“If I were to give a supporting hand to everybody - instead of blaming, instead of closing down, now is the time to reinvest - it’s the other way round. A lot of people, they cut down staff, they cut down the menus, they cut down everything. I, on the other hand, I’m investing more because that’s what the country needs now.
“We should stop blaming, and sit down - re-think, reinvest, and everything’s going to be OK.”
Referring to business rents and rates as one of the reasons shops and restaurants struggled to stay afloat, Gino said it was tough, and sad to see places closing in Harrogate and other towns and cities.
He said: “Nowadays there are a lot of empty units, pretty much everywhere - because the restaurants at the moment, everybody has troubles.
“I have to be honest, not me, but I see a lot of friends of mine who have restaurants and they have troubles. And also landlords, I think they have got a little bit too greedy in the last 10, 15 years. The rents are very high, the rates are very high.
“Running a restaurant is not an easy business to do. We have a lot of expenses, a lot of staff, there’s a lot of things to take into consideration, and it’s sad to see a lot of places close, very sad.”
Speaking about Harrogate’s restaurant scene, Gino said: “You have a lot of different restaurants here, what I haven’t seen yet is a proper Italian restaurant.
“I haven’t had any chance to see them, I mean on the street here I haven’t seen anyone apart from mine. Yes, you find the usual chain or you call them Italian - Prezzo, Pizza Express, we don’t really classify them as Italian, many people do.
“But I love the scene here, I always encourage people to open more restaurants - I’m never afraid of competition. I think by opening more restaurants, you bring people on the high street.”
Gino returned to Harrogate to host an evening with 150 guests, where a four-course meal was served.
He did a Q&A session, shared stories of his time growing up in Italy, and talked about his journey as a chef, and why the dishes served on the night were amongst his own personal favourites. Gino said: “It is great to be back in Harrogate, I always look forward to my visits.
“The people here are fantastic and full of Yorkshire hospitality - they have welcomed my restaurant with open arms and it is brilliant to be able to celebrate with them tonight. I’m looking forward to many more amazing and prosperous years here in Harrogate.”
“Harrogate has always been a special place to me. I’ve said it before I came here about 25 years ago, and I’ve always liked the fact that it feels like a beautiful village.”