Singapore will lose its only three Michelin-starred restaurant when the iconic Joel Robuchon Restaurant closes for good at the end of this month.
Its sister outlet, the two-starred L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, will also close, although it may be resurrected at a different location.
The two restaurants are the jewels of the cluster of fine-dining restaurants at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), and were among the first crop of stars to be awarded in the influential Michelin Guide’s Singapore debut in 2016.
When contacted, RWS confirmed the closure and said that a joint statement between RWS and the renowned French chef – who runs a string of fine-dining restaurants under his brand name around the world – would be released soon.
The restaurants will serve their last meals on June 30, shortly before Michelin Guide unveils its list for 2018 on July 25. It is unclear how the new development will be reflected in the guide. RWS is also the host venue for the event.
Contract issues are said to be the reason for the parting of ways between the two. The current contract between the Joël Robuchon group and RWS ends on June 30 and the former decided not to renew because “RWS did not offer the conditions to maintain the quality of fine dining restaurants”, says an industry source.
The closures will be a blow to the local fine-dining industry, which has already lost the two-starred Restaurant Andre, which bowed out of the scene in February when chef-owner Andre Chiang decided to return home to Taiwan.
Joel Robuchon Restaurant and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon had just installed new head chefs last November – Kim Joinié-Maurin and Vianney Massot respectively. Since they are part of the Joel Robuchon Group, they will likely be transferred to other restaurants within the group. The Robuchon group may look for a location in Orchard Road to re-open L’Atelier and Yoshi, Mr Robuchon’s Japanese concept restaurant from Monaco.
However, even if that happens, it takes at least a year to get everything in place, which means they’re unlikely to open anything before mid-2019.
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Hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng of the Unlisted Collection and co-owner of Restaurant Andre, reacted with shock to the news. “Still, I’m not that surprised, as the restaurant hasn’t been doing particularly well. It’s not good news for Singapore’s restaurant scene and it’s not a sign of a healthy industry. I hope this does not presage more closures, but high-end dining in Singapore is very hard indeed.”
Sebastien Lepinoy, chef of the two-starred Les Amis, said the F&B industry in Singapore “will be less strong compared to Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai”, but it also reflects how tough it is to run a restaurant of such calibre.
“Your payroll costs are so high because you need a lot of staff to maintain a consistent standard, plus food and maintenance. Even if your restaurant works in terms of customer numbers, it doesn’t mean you’re making money. Just breaking even is already a good result.”
Wee Teng Wen of the Lo & Behold Group, which includes the two-starred Odette, adds that “it’s a constant reminder that the industry and diner preferences are ever-evolving and that we need to be fully invested in creating timeless concepts and enduring experiences to remain relevant.”
Beppe de Vito of the one-starred Braci believes that the Sentosa location may have played a role in the closure. “It’s a pity to lose such a well-recognised brand. It may send the wrong message to other world-class chefs who may have been thinking of setting up shop here. On the other hand, we may now have a Singapore brand that can achieve the coveted three stars.”
This article was originally published in The Business Times.