The difficulties within the restaurant sector have been well documented in recent press coverage.
Particularly affected is the mid tier, multiple site operators, the so called "Casual Dining Market". A couple of the bigger names in particular are restructuring/struggling, such as Byron Burger and Jamie’s Italian. The latter have announced plans to shut 12 of their 37 restaurants to ensure the brand is "in good shape for the future". Whereas Byron, one of the forerunners of the now over-full (excusing the pun!) burger offerers, announced plans this month to close around 20 sites, likewise stating that the closures would allow it to "re-focus the business on a smaller, more profitable core estate". So why are operators such as these, the previous darlings of the high street or high class shopping centres struggling in the current climate?
Many commentators think it is largely down to brand fatigue, the age group who eat out most frequently and particularly at this price point in the market are those in the 18-24 age group. The younger generation now prefer eating out to drinking out but are looking for a variety of faster fashion alternatives and want different options and different cuisine from different countries. There is only so much you can do with a burger!
The operators are struggling with staffing because of the uncertainty of Brexit affecting their recruitment, the minimum wage affecting their wage bill, enormous rates bills and the weak pound making ingredients more expensive, yet consumers constantly expecting special offers and deals.
However, it is not necessarily all doom and gloom, because with the closure of what are often great locations there is room for new operators to come in and take over a previously ailing site. We have a great example on our doorstep here in Tunbridge Wells with the Ivy Brasserie taking over the Jamie’s Italian at the end of last year, or for the independents to get a foot in the door and be able to compete with these chains for the right site.
Despite the negative press and scaremongering, when speaking to our clients and contacts they are largely upbeat and feel that, for those producing good quality and competitive offerings with motivated and well rewarded staff in whom they have invested, there are some fabulous opportunities for successful restaurants.