Chain faces backlash from locals over catering contract

The Wellcome Cafe

A public meeting is set to take place in London tomorrow in response to a café chain’s takeover of a Hampstead Heath site run by the same family for more than 30 years.

Parliament Hill café has been operated by the D’Auria family for three decades, with Savoy trained chef Alberto D’Auria (pictured below), who currently runs the business, becoming a well-known member of the local community.

But customers are up in arms after the City of London Corporation awarded the contract for running the café to foodservice chain Benugo. It operates cafes in a number of public spaces around the capital.

According to a Change.org petition, which has gained almost 13,100 supporters, a meeting will take place tomorrow at 7.45pm at Highgate Civic Centre where the matter will be discussed. Campaigners want the City of London Corporation to rethink their decision.Alberto D’Auria, Parliament Hill cafe

The petition claims that the current operators have a long history of offering generous sized, freshly prepared meals to their customers without breaking their budgets and that 70-year-old D’Auria 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.

“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 A-star customer service over solely having the emphasis on profit margins,” the petition states.

Tomorrow’s meeting is expected to be attended by representatives from the City of London, Benugo and consultants Boyd-Thorpe, which advised the CofL.

Members of the D’Auria family, representatives from Golders Hill, Keir Starmer MP and Cllr Sally Gimson have already confirmed their attendance.

Supporters of the D’Auria family also plan to hold a “picnic protest” this Sunday at the café.

Last month a spokesperson for Benugo told London newspaper the Evening Standard that it was “very mindful” that in some cases it would be inheriting established food operations, but said it remained confident that its “vision, plans and menus for these spaces will be embraced by these local communities”.

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