Customers launch petition to stop Benugo chain taking over Parliament Hill Cafe

A petition has been launched to keep Alberto D'Auria running the Parliament Hill Cafe

A petition has been launched to keep Alberto D'Auria running the Parliament Hill Cafe - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Furious customers of the Parliament HIll Cafe have set up a petition to stop the family who have been running it for 33 years being kicked out for catering chain Benugo.

Parliament Hill Cafe

Parliament Hill Cafe - Credit: Nigel Sutton

They are also calling for people to boycott the cafe on Hampstead Heath when the multi-million-pound chain takes over in May.

As the Ham&High revealed exclusively this week, the move by the City of London Corporation to award the lease for the much-loved Heath cafe to Benugo has been slammed as “as bad as if it were to become a Costa coffee.”

Customer Naomi Peck today urged people to sign the petition to support Savoy-trained chef Alberto D’Auria and his family who are being kicked out in May after running the cafe since 1982.

She said: “It is a wonderful and affordable family run cafe that has been dishing up pasta and cuppas for years. If they had consulted, they would have found out that people do not want another overpriced Benugo outpost with their lah-di-dah exorbitant approach.

“Benugo will be boycotted if the plans go ahead. Say no to ‘Be-Nogo’”

The petition says: “Parliament Hill Cafe has been family run for more than three decades, offering generous sized, freshly prepared meals to their customers without breaking their budgets.

“Family man, father of four and Savoy trained chef Alberto D’Auria has become a loved member of this community and at 70 years old is not ready to hang up his apron yet as he still has the same passion for providing a cost effective service as he has done for the past 33 years.

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“Too many small businesses are failing in favour of large corporates, when we, as the general public should be encouraging and supporting those smaller businesses who are providing an a-star customer service over solely having the emphasis on profit margins. Therefore, help us to help Alberto maintain his position within Parliament Hill and to continue providing a great service loved by, not only local residents but visitors alike.”

Alberto D’Auria said he was overwhelmed by his customers reaction: “Our customers have been coming in to say they don’t want us to go and are starting this petition.”

“I am very angry and sad at the way we have been treated after so long and that its taken six months for them to decide. We have been improving our service and keeping prices low and keeping local people happy.

Making the decision over the Benugo bids behind closed doors the City of London Coporation has been accused of ignoring the unique nature of Hampstead Heath and the social needs of the community in awarding the lucrative contract to the most economically advantageous bids.

Highgate ward councillor Sally Gimson, who sits on the committee and voted against the Benugo bid on Monday, said: “It was a close vote at seven to six and some of us are really cross.

“Essentially the Parliament Hill Cafe has been handed to a large chain. It’s almost as bad as if it were a Costa coffee. Benugo is gradually taking over all British institutions, from Regent’s Park to major museums and galleries in London.

“The procurement department did not take into account the special nature of the Heath and the social value of having a local company run the cafe.

“I have warned the committee there is likely to be an enormous backlash from the local community.”

Benugo was also given the leases for the cafe in Highgate Wood and in Golders Hill Park.

The chain runs catering facilities in Regent’s Park, the Barbican Centre, Lincolns Inn Fields, and museums throughout London.

But Sue Ireland, director of green spaces at the Corporation, said: “We have a duty to run our services in the most cost-effective manner as it is only by doing so that we can invest ?£5million a year into Hampstead Heath.

“We have ensured throughout this process that the winning tenders will be able to demonstrate not only high quality refreshments, but also that they can offer a service which is at the heart of the local community.”

The petition is here.