Azzurri Group, Wagamama and The Ivy Collection were amongst those named as the UK’s best pub, bar and restaurant operators at the Casual Dining Awards yesterday.

Azzurri Group took best casual dining group of the year for the second year running, whilst Wagamama, The Ivy Collection and Dishoom won restaurant brand of the year (51+ sites, 20-50 sites and 1-19 sites respectively).

In the pub and bar sector, The Alchemist won brand of the year 2-49 sites, and Loungers were recognised for two 50+ sites awards: best brand and employer of the year.

Other winners included Franco Manca, best family dining experience, Nando’s for brand marketing and Caravan and Wagamama were both awarded for menu innovation.

The New World Trading Co., Vardo and Bill’s Restaurants were commended for outstanding individual sites, whilst Kate Nicholls from UK Hospitality and Mowgli founder Nisha Katona were recognised for their efforts in the industry.

“Despite the headlines and the challenging market, scores of restaurants, bars and pubs across the UK’s high streets are thriving, with their teams working tirelessly to deliver an all-round incredible casual dining experience,” said Eva Ellis, event manager at Diversified Communications UK. “The Casual Dining Awards are for them. Recognising and rewarding the best in the business.”

On presenting Nicholls The Special Award, Chris Brazier, Casual Dining’s group event director, described her as “a much-needed powerful voice representing the broad hospitality sector, someone who is completely rational, reasoned and passionate about hospitality in the same breath.”

“She can talk in jaw dropping depth, and equally can simplify the biggest, most complex issues that affect us all, so that the wider world, including the government, understand how hospitality contributes to this country,” he said.