Oxford hospitality school restaurant to close next year, despite protests

Oxford Brookes University has confirmed its Brookes Restaurant will close in 2020.

News that the restaurant, which provided a place for its prestigious hospitality school students to train, was met with widespread consternation earlier this year, and a petition to ensure it remained open was signed by thousands.

However, staff at the university said the restaurant had lost an average of £280,000 over the last four academic years and was an unsustainable enterprise as the school faces increased financial pressure.

While the facility operated as a restaurant, it only opened at lunch times and for special events, with heavily subsidised prices for diners.

A Brookes lecturer, who asked not to be named, told Harden’s: “This is a short sighted decision that will negatively impact hospitality graduate employability with major industry employers.

“The university and Oxford Brookes business school have not treated the Brookes Restaurant facility as a technical skills training lab in the way it funds labs in other subject areas. In the past, before the £9000 fees were introduced the government funding agency HEFCE used to give the university substantial additional funding to cover the costs of such facilities on these courses.

“This was not recognised in the university budget allocations since the funding changes and hence the comments about operational losses.”

A university statement, which has been contested by some in the industry, said: “Following a formal consultation process and careful consideration, the university has taken the decision to close Brookes Restaurant at the end of the current academic year.

“Brookes Restaurant has maintained an excellent reputation over a number of years, reflecting  the quality of its service. However, despite a number of initiatives over the past decade, the restaurant has consistently made a significant annual operating loss. Over the last four academic years the restaurant has lost an average of £280,000 per year on direct operating activities.

“Staff affected by the decision will continue to be fully supported, including exploring opportunities for alternative employment within the University.”

“A misconception which arose from those outside of the University during the consultation period was that Oxford Brookes teaches catering courses at undergraduate or postgraduate level, which is not the case. However, we remain committed to providing world class education which prepares students for successful careers in the international hospitality industry.

“Undergraduate hospitality management students already undertake placements outside of the University during their second year. Only 4 of the course’s 24 modules are directly associated with Brookes Restaurant and work is underway to ensure that alternative measures are put in place. Our ambition is to develop and expand our programmes in hospitality management and associated areas.

“The University recognises that members of the wider community have enjoyed using the Brookes Restaurant over many years and will be saddened by this announcement. As a publicly funded institution, however, the University ultimately has a duty to ensure that all of its activities are financially viable. Oxford Brookes continues to operate a wide range of catering outlets across its campuses which remain open for everyone to use. 

“A proposed closure date for the restaurant has provisionally been set for 1 May 2020.”

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