Tag Archives: Catering business
While this will be our last blog for a while due to the impacts of coronavirus, we are still open for key sites with our core crew. If you’ve had to close please follow our Rational oven close down tips below.
So, if you’re a hospital, care home or an off-site food company with a maintenance contract with AC Services you’re still covered for any breakdowns that occur. If this does happen please call the normal number 01454 322 222 and speak to Helen. She will arrange for our engineer to visit to repair the breakdown.
If you’re already a connectedcooking kitchen, we are able to remotely monitor and identify the fault, which can minimise the time we need to spend with you.
If you’re a not a regular AC Services customer, but have a breakdown on a Rational oven in the area we cover of South West England and Southern Wales; we might be able to assist you if you are a key site such as a hospital or care facility.
As we’re sure you understand, we are prioritising our established client base and responding to their breakdowns. This unfortunately means we cannot promise to assist you as promptly as normal and may mean our engineer will be diverted elsewhere. But for key facilities, we will try to help repair your Rational breakdown if we can.
Continuing Business and Key Sites
Obviously, we need to continue to operate within the guidelines issued by the government to minimise the spread of coronavirus. We are considering what impacts this has on the need to regularly service Rational ovens to prevent breakdowns and how we can deliver this over the longer term.
In the meantime, we’d urge customers to ensure that the weekly and daily maintenance routines are adhered to using the approved products. These are available from our on-line shop if your stocks are running low.
Rational Oven Close Down Procedures
If you have closed your kitchen then please do the following for your Rational oven close down.
- Find the water supply and isolate the unit.
- Use the Handshower until it is empty.
- Power off unit and leave door partially open
When returning unit to operation, return power and water
- Use hand shower to rinse water feed system
- Run unit in steam for 30 minutes
- Run short cleanjet
Or for Rational CareControl SG range
- Find the water supply and isolate the unit.
- Use the Handshower until it is empty.
- Follow instructions above to empty tank. If this does not work with the door closed, repeat with door open
- Power off unit and leave door partially open
When returning unit to operation, return power and water
- Use hand shower to rinse water feed system
- Run unit in steam for 30 minutes
- Run short cleanjet
Keeping in Touch
While there won’t be any blogs for the next few weeks, please follow us on Facebook for any updates. Or if you are spending time creating a new strategy for your business why not check out our earlier blogs on trends in catering businesses and show reports.
No one needs telling that we’re living in desperate times when the government orders the closure of catering businesses.
Those who are offering a takeaway or distribution service are currently exempt.
But when the likes of MacDonalds, Costa and Nando’s voluntarily decide to close to protect staff; it’s time to see what has been put in place already for Covid19 and catering businesses.
Government Specific Help for Catering Businesses
Following the Chancellor’s announcements there is some useful information on covid-19 support on the government’s pages . Check this out for the latest info and updates.
The government’s interventions are primarily about continuity so that when the crisis ends pubs, restaurants, hotels, mass catering and leisure facilities are still around to begin trading again.
The first is for staff under the Coranavirus Job Retention Scheme. Here a grant will cover 80% of retained but non-working employees pay. This is capped to a monthly salary of £2,500 equivalent to £30,000 pa. It’s backdated to March 1st and will in the first instance run for 3 months to the end of May. It could be extended. Now is a good time to have an open and honest conversation with staff about balancing pay and a future job. And then getting a grant for the majority of that cost.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme focuses on the business who turns over under £45M. This provides a government-backed guarantee for 80% of the loan amount. The government will pay the first 12 months interest. The maximum term of the loan is 6 years.
Here the government is enabling catering business to access loans where previous the answer would be no and giving an interest holiday. The full loan amount will need to be repaid. Consider what essential items could benefit from being covered by a loan; and then how you would be able to pay it back from 2021.
Covid-19 Tax and Reclaim Breaks
With immediate effect, all VAT is deferred to the next quarter so the next payment date for any outstanding is the end of June. But treat this carefully as the VAT will need to be paid at that time. And with limited or no income coming in, it will be difficult to replenish that pot.
If you are having tax payment difficulties, the best advice is to call 0800 0159 559 to discuss the Time to Pay scheme. Do this at the earliest opportunity, not at the last minute.
If staff are unfortunate to catch Covid-19 then with an isolation note from NHS111online, as an employer you can reclaim 2 weeks statutory sick pay.
Local Authority Support for Covid19 and Catering Businesses
Some catering businesses have opted to provide or expand their takeaway meals services. This is a good way to liquidate stock or to maintain limited supply from key suppliers. Some local authorities have been quick with suitable advice such as Monmouthshire .
More significantly there are a number of business rate measures that will be enacted by your local authority. These require no action on your part. Business rates for those in hospitality, retail and leisure have been abolished for the Tax Year 2020-2021. A new statement will be issued by your local council.
Local councils will also administer the Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme and notify you directly. This is based upon rateable value:
- If your rateable value is up to £15,000 you can get a cash grant of £10,000
- For those between £15,001 and £51,000, the grant is £25,000
- Farm shops and micro businesses are not left out. If you are in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief; there is a one-off grant of £10,000.
Cashflow is King
For catering businesses cashflow has always been king. Now more than ever, owners and managers need to look very carefully at their budgets and costs. Work out what is necessary, deal with people honestly and respectfully and access what is available to help for covid19 and catering businesses.
At AC Services Southern we look forward to working with you in any way we can; so that your business can revive when this crisis is over.
There really is only one topic of conversation at this time – the coronavirus pandemic.
This global issue is everyone’s business and unusually, there is very little solid advice or predictions about the future.
Indeed the advice changes daily and the impacts are increasing substantially. Events have been cancelled or postponed, airlines have folded and the streets, especially in Italy, are deserted.
So what does this mean for the UK food and drink industry? The answer is simple. We don’t know. None of us. Yet. The only thing that is certain is that the sector has to respond to current and future circumstances…and fast.
First, let’s debunk a few myths. We are not going to run out of toilet paper. Antibiotics have no effect on the virus; neither does spraying your body with alcohol, eating garlic, taking cold or hot baths; or avoiding Chinese takeaways. As a virus, it is airborne, therefore it can be carried anywhere by the air and therefore, it’s inevitable.
Cleanliness is being urged. This message is getting through as we can see from the global shortage in hand sanitisers. While some branches of KFC are already removing its ‘finger-lickin’ good’ slogan to support the cleanliness message.
On a more serious note, the food and drink supply chain will inevitably be affected. A major outbreak of the virus could result in permanently empty shelves, panic buying and food riots in a worst case scenario; but retailers have ready-made plans in place. For example, Tesco has been practising ‘multiday simulation’ exercises with different teams preparing responses to a flu pandemic. There will be a priority list of products drawn up by the supermarkets to ensure that, again, in a worst case scenario, staple food groups will be available to all. On the plus side, the frozen food industry is benefiting: sales of frozen food have seen notable increases.
Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said “at this stage, supply chains have experienced disruption; but there is no evidence of significant disruption to food supplies. UK food and drink manufacturers have robust procedures in place.”
The industry will be more affected by the cancellation of events. The food and drink sector relies heavily on revenue from outdoor concerts, festivals and other events. The loss of this revenue will hit hard. Plays on Broadway in America have already been cancelled; theatres in the UK are clsoing. Sporting events are being postponed and football matches are being played in closed stadiums.
Coming on the back of the excessive flooding experienced earlier this year in many areas, pubs are feeling the pinch. According to Coffer Peach Business Tracker, pubs saw a decline in both food and drink sales, down 3.9% and 4.6% respectively, with managed pub groups also seeing collective like-for-like sales fall 4.2%. The sector, as a whole, saw like-for-like sales dip 3.3% compared to February last year.
Executive director Trevor Watson believes there may be a redistribution of trade with local pubs and restaurants seeing trade sustained as people stay local. “People will not shut themselves away indefinitely and will see smaller scale local pubs and restaurants as less of a health risk,” he predicts.
But as of 16th March even this prediction may fall flat; with the advice to stay away from pubs and restaurants. But with no government ban on this, various insurances have not been triggered that might allow the business to deal with no trade for longer.
The coronavirus impacts food and drink supply chains and global trade but to what extent, we are unsure. It goes without saying that panic buying will only make things worse. We have lived through and survived other viral infections and we will survive this one however severe it becomes.
Hospitals will be increasingly in the news over the coming months as the country copes with coronavirus. AC Services Southern already maintains a number of hospitals’ Rational equipment to ensure that their kitchens are fully functioning, whatever the demands.
We were particularly pleased when Rational UK decided to film conversations with the Royal United Hospital Bath about the reasons why they choose to go with Rational. Find out about the savings, HACCP benefits, ConnectedCooking and improved product for their 46,000 meals a month on the video.
What the video doesn’t show is the support provided by ourselves on a service contract as the local certified Rational Service Partner. This support is both regular service and maintenance calls and through alerts generated through the ConnectedCooking functionality. This combination enables the Rational equipment to deliver consistently high standards with lower stress for the chefs.
Looking after Catering Staff during the Coronavirus Crisis
Hospital resources will be stretched with potentially 1 in 5 of the workforce affected. Thankfully most of these will be mild cases, but they will still be contagious. The official advice is if you have a cough, a high temperature or shortness of breath then phone the doctor. Don’t attend in person as this potentially increases the spread of the disease amongst those least able to cope.
For catering businesses themselves, then good food hygiene practices are key to reduce the potential to spread coronavirus. Hopefully already catering staff are:
- catching sneezes and coughs in disposable tissues and then washing their hands
- avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth
- washing hands regularly ideally with soap and water for 20 seconds as though they were a surgeon preparing for an op. So, no touching of taps without a paper towel afterwards.
A change in the routine might be the provision for staff of anti-bacterial hand gel to keep service flowing. This is less effective than soap and water, but for those handling crockery and cutlery allows more regular use. Be aware though that repeated use of hand gel can dry skin; out so perhaps provide some end of shift hand lotion. Alternatively, now might be the time to resurrect waiters in white gloves!
Please don’t be surprised if your AC Services engineer asks to wash his hands on arrival and just before leaving your business. We’re already planning how to minimise contagion so that we can give our hospital and catering clients the service they need at this critical time.
The Office for National Statistics confirmed last year what British beer drinkers have been complaining about for the past decade. Over the last ten years, the price of a pint has risen by more than 30%.
In May 2009, you could buy a pint for £2.81 and as of March 2019, the price was £3.67 on average. However, this varies from city to city: a beer in London was more than double in 2019 (55%) of the price of a beer further north.
A survey by St Austell Brewery’s Proper Job IPA also revealed that the perfect pint should:
- have a head of 9mm,
- be served in a ‘proper’ pint glass preferably at 5.30pm on a Saturday,
- with a partner or best mate in a beer garden accompanied by a bag of crisps and
- a singular lack of mobile phones!
However, this may all be academic in light of various issues encircling the brewing industry. The first is climate change: over the past few months globally we have seen severe drought, rising temperatures and epic floods. All have a substantial effect on barley yields worldwide impacting the supply used to make beer. They also affect all the other key ingredients.
Don’t think you’re safe if you drink wine…combining long-term records with global data, researchers have suggested that if temperatures rise by 2°C, the regions suitable for growing wine grapes could shrink by as much as 56%. Stoke that up by a further 2°C and 85% of those regions would no longer be able to produce good wine.
In addition, there has been an ongoing constant battle with the tax burdens facing the pub industry. UK Hospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls spoke about the issue of rising prices overall across the trade. She commented “costs continue to increase for businesses. So it is no wonder that the average price of a pint continues to climb. Even with the scrapping of the beer duty escalator, many businesses have no choice but to pass costs on to customers.”
Rise of Independents Affects Style
Also affecting British beer consumption is consumers shifting from mass-produced, low flavoured lagers from well-known, well-established beer companies to quality independent beers from craft brewers. A recent report points out a considerable growth of the no- and low-abv category. This registered a massive 381% sales increase compared to its market share only two years ago.
Traditional British beer styles such as mild, bitter and golden ale are experiencing challenges with overall production dropping from 14% in 2016 to 5% in 2019 and the percentage of featured producers brewing these styles decreasing accordingly, from 44% in 2016 to 31% in 2019.
Finally, the drinks trade has warned that the UK government’s announcement this week to deny visas to low-skilled workers is set to cause a massive challenge to the UK’s pub, bar and restaurant sector.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said the points-based immigration system would present significant challenges for the pub sector. She commented “many pubs rely on workers from overseas. So it is hard to see how they will cope with such fundamental changes coming into effect in just ten months. Pubs will especially struggle with the costs and complexities of becoming a sponsoring employer in order to take on staff from outside the UK.”
Billed as the biggest and best trade show in the South West for the food and drink sector; the Source Trade Show 2020 took place last week at Westpoint in Exeter.
Here visitors sampled speciality foods and quality drinks and were inspired by ideas for hospitality and corporate entertainment. More than 200 exhibitors gathered from far and wide with 45 first-time exhibitors. It’s not just local produce on offer. Exhibitors also included innovative cooking equipment, venue furniture and the latest EPoS systems as well as advanced business services.
Among the new exhibitors were BeeWraps. This is a natural way to wrap food without the fear of any toxins leaching into the food. With zero waste, and made from 100% cotton, beeswax, pine rosin and a touch of jojoba oil; the wraps are ideal where plastic is usually used, for instance, sandwiches, fruit, cheese, fresh bread. They are also reusable.
Drink and Be Merry
For those who enjoy a little tipple, British Mûre Liqueurs exhibited small batch liqueurs from the winner of the UK Masterchef, Mat Follas. Their liqueurs on offer included Just Blackberry, Blackberry Gin, Marmalade Whisky, Roast Coffee and Rum and Properly Bitter Lemon. All of the products are made with no artificial colours or preservatives with minimum sugars used.
Still with the alcohol, Deck Chair Gin was on display with its award-winning smooth, light and refreshing 3D London Dry Gin. This is created in the heart of the English Riviera. It is crafted with seven botanicals using pure Dartmoor spring water, sweet on the tongue with a refreshing zesty orange finish. The gin is created in small batches using traditional methods and modern technology.
Cocktails All Round
New for 2020, Cocktails and Charcuterie went down a storm. Obviously, a collaboration between Somerset Charcuterie and Ginjar, the feature offered innovative flavour pairings between award-winning charcuterie and refreshingly twisted gin. Participants enjoyed pairings such as air-dried duck with burnt orange gin; black pepper salami and burnt orange gin and fennel salami with rhubarb and ginger gin.
Not Just Drink
The Innovation Kitchen brought together a variety of inspiring chefs and passionate artisans. The South West Chef of the Year winners demonstrated their winning dishes amongst other features. The programme included talks on food allergies and intolerances with Richard Valder, owner of @Angela’s in Exeter. As a small restaurant it can be tricky adapting menus to suit lots of specific dietary needs. Richard shared some of his tried-and-tested methods.
There were also demonstrations from Jim Fisher, head chef and co-owner of Exeter Cookery School. He served up a range of techniques to simplify breakfast. This included tips and tricks on how to serve the perfect poached egg time after time. He also demonstrated how to plan and produce the perfect picnic.
Ash Hamilton of The Curious Kitchen explained how to handle vegans, vegetarians and allergies; and how he creates an atmosphere that welcomes all kinds of eaters. His menu includes a whole host of fantastic dishes that focus on local, high-quality ingredients first and foremost.
The Source Trade Show 2020 demonstrated the great opportunities to learn from others in the South West on how to stay abreast of current trends.
There’s good news for a change. Reports published today show that for the first time in a decade, UK pub numbers have risen. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number rose by 0.8%. And the main reason is down to food sales.
In 2003, four in 10 employees within the UK pub industry worked behind the bar and three were employed in the kitchen; but today, the story is very different. Pubs and bars across the UK now employ 457,000 people and of this, food staff make up 43.8% of employees.
It seems that going for a pint has transfigured into going out for a meal. This is very good news for the industry. Despite the significant closures seen over the past few years, there has been an increase in jobs. With 7,000 (an increase of 16%) more jobs in the sector in 2019 compared with 2018.
There is no doubt that our consumer habits are changing with pubs having to diversify to accommodate these changes. It may come as a surprise that one of the largest chains, J D Wetherspoon, serves more coffee than any other restaurant, except for Costa.
But the chain has proved it can put its money where its mouth is. It announced last month that would inject £200m into the business over the next five years, with the creation of 10,000 new jobs and new pubs.
In the same vein, independent and smaller pubs are serving coffee, tea and breakfast to attract a different demographic such as women and families.
These changing habits are further reflected in a report just out. This confirms vegan food to be on the increase, with sales of meat-free foods expected to exceed £1.1bn by 2024.
In 2019, more than one in four new food product launches were labelled vegan. Last year, a smorgasbord of meals and snacks aimed at vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians went on the market. The uncontested leader of the pack being the outrageously popular Gregg’s vegan sausage roll.
14% of Britons consider themselves flexitarian, meaning they consume meat occasionally but their diet is mainly plant-based. This is twice as many as vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians combined. And those cutting down on meat soared from 28% in 2017 to 39% in 2019. Sales of meat-free foods rose to an estimated £816m in 2019, up 40% from £582 million in 2014.
Still Pressure for Smaller Pubs
It was also reported that the number of micropubs, small pubs and bars in the UK saw a rise in 2019 by 0.4%, the first time in over 15 years that the net figure has increased. This category is defined as those with under 10 employees, however, it is also under a great deal of strain faced with challenges such as business rates, beer duty and price matching with the big chains.
Hugh Stickland, senior statistician at the ONS, said: “While smaller pubs have been struggling to survive in recent years, bigger pubs have been growing in number. We’ll have to wait to see if this marks a revival for smaller ‘locals’.“
2020 has arrived and with it comes the promise of a huge year of sport as can be seen in AC Services 2020 calendar for catering businesses.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games take place in Tokyo.
Football fans are eagerly awaiting the start of Euro 2020.
And with two Twenty20 World Cups, cricket fans also have the inaugural season of the new The Hundred competition to look forward to.
- 3-12, Tennis, ATP Cup, Australia
- 12-19, Snooker, the Masters, Alexandra Palace, London
- 20 Jan-2 Feb, Tennis – Australian Open, Melbourne
- 25, Chinese New Year
- 1, Rugby union – Men’s Six Nations:
- 1, Cricket – Australia v England women’s T20, Canberra
- 2, Rugby union – Women’s Six Nations
- 7, Cricket – India v England women’s T20, Melbourne
- 9, Cricket – Australia v England Women’s T20, Melbourne
- 12-16, Cricket – South Africa v England T20, East London
- 21-8 March, Cricket – Women’s T20 World Cup, Australia
- 22, Boxing – Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury heavyweight world title
- 25, Pancake Day
- 1, Football – Carabao Cup final, Wembley
- 10-13, Horse racing – Cheltenham Festival
- 13-15, Athletics – World Indoor, Nanjing, China
- 22, Mothers’ Day
- 2-5, Women’s golf major – ANA Inspiration, Mission Hills
- 4, Horse racing – Grand National, Aintree
- 9-12, Golf – Masters, Augusta National
- 12, Easter Sunday
- 14-19, Swimming – British Championships, London
- 16-19, Gymnastics – British Championships, Liverpool
- 18-4 May, Snooker – World Championship, Sheffield
- 26, Athletics London Marathon
- 8, May Day and VE Day Bank Holiday
- 9, Football – FA Women’s Cup final, Wembley
- 14-17, Golf – US PGA Championship, San Francisco
- 22, Rugby union – European Challenge Cup final, Stade de Marseille
- 23, Football – FA Cup final, Wembley
- 23, Rugby union – European Champions Cup final, Stade de Marseille
- 24-7 June, Tennis – French Open Roland Garros, Paris
- 27, Football – Europa League final, Gdansk
- 28, Cricket – first round of T20 Blast group matches
- 30, Football – Champions League final, Istanbul
- 4-7, Women’s golf major – US Women’s Open, Houston, Texas
- 6, Horse racing – The Derby, Epsom
- 12-12 July, Football – Euro 2020 various venues, Final at Wembley
- 16-20, Horse racing, Royal Ascot
- 18-21, Golf – US Open, New York
- 20, Rugby union – Premiership final, Twickenham
- 20, 21, Longest day then Fathers Day
- 25-28, Women’s golf major – PGA Championship, Pennsylvania
- 29-12 July, Tennis Wimbledon
- 4-5, Athletics – Anniversary Games, London Stadium
- 16-19, Golf – The Open, Royal St George’s
- 17-15 August, Cricket – The Hundred
- 18, Rugby league – Challenge Cup final, Wembley
- 24-9 August, Olympic Games, Tokyo
- 14, Cricket – The Hundred women’s final, Hove
- 15, Cricket – The Hundred men’s final, Lord’s
- 20-23, Golf – Women’s British Open, Royal Troon
- 25-6 September, Paralympic Games, Tokyo
- 31-13 September, Tennis – US Open, New York
- 31, August Bank Holiday
- 5, Cricket – T20 Blast Finals Day, Edgbaston
- 6-13, Cycling – Tour of Britain
- 10-13, Golf – PGA Championship, Wentworth
- 19, Cricket – One-Day Cup final, Trent Bridge
- 25-27, Golf – Ryder Cup, Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin
- 10, Rugby league – Super League Final, Old Trafford
- 18 Oct-15 November, Cricket – Men’s Twenty20 World Cup, Australia
- 2-8, Tennis WTA Finals, Shenzhen, China
- 7, Rugby Union – Autumn internationals, England v New Zealand
- 8-15, Tennis – ATP Finals, London
- 15, Cricket – Men’s Twenty20 World Cup final, Melbourne
- 23-29, Tennis – Davis Cup finals , Madrid
- 24 Nov-6 December, Snooker – UK Championship, York Barbican
- TBC, Darts – PDC World Championship, Alexander Palace, London
- 26, Horse racing – King George VI Chase, Kempton
So a packed year of opportunities for events targeting those interested in sport and those trying to avoid it for catering businesses in AC Services 2020 calendar.
The Birmingham NEC played host to the latest BBC Good Food Show Winter from 28 November to 1 December 2019. Hugely popular and one of the most attended shows at the venue, the show was a triumph for exhibitors and visitors.
As usual, the Good Food Show presented a huge range of activities, from the Big Kitchen and Festive Kitchen to the BBC Good Food Stage and BBC Good Food Workshop. Visitors enjoyed the Travelsphere presents: A Taste of Italy & Croatia; CAMRA’s Great British Beer Experience and La Cuisine de Maille Tasting Theatre. While the new QVC Kitchen, featured host Katy Pullinger demonstrating top tips and hacks for mastering Christmas Day lunch. Real inspiration for perfecting the ultimate seasonal desserts and party food.
Food demonstrations from the country’s favourite chefs took place every day. These featured Rosie Birkett, Tom Kerridge, Rick Stein, Michel Roux Jr, Nadiya Hussain, the Hairy Bikers, Ainsley Harriot and Mary Berry.
There were many innovative products showcased at the show, with Symphonia Gin making a big noise. Scientist Dr Ulrich Dyer distils his award winning gin in his County Tyrone distillery. The winner of the Irish Gin of the Year 2019 title, Symphonia No 1 Dry Gin was also awarded a silver medal in the prestigious International Wine and Spirits Competition awards and got two stars in the Great Taste Awards.
Staying with the Emerald Isle, Irish Black Butter has also received a number of awards and went down a treat at the Good Food Show. Irish Black Butter was thought up by Alastair Bell. He comes from Portrush and put together the innovative use of Armagh Bramley apples, cider, brandy and spices. Vegan and vegetarian friendly, the product is also free from dairy and wheat. The new Irish Black Butter Peanut Spread is a brand new product featuring peanuts.
The Pished Fish booze infused smoked salmon selection was chosen as one of the Food Champions at the show. Described as a “fillet of salmon that has been cured with high quality alcohol and botanicals and smoked in small batches over wood” the company offers the most diverse range of flavours. These range from Aquavit cured smoked Scottish salmon with beetroot, star anise and juniper berries to Augustus Gloop smoked salmon cured with blueberries and raspberry vodka. There is also one called the Designated Driver, with no booze, just cherry and juniper wood smoke
For those visitors who like their food spicy, Mr Vikki’s passion for Indian food and culture has over thirty products. While the company has won over 110 awards. From XXX Hot Chilli Jam to garlic pickle and Hell Hot Habanero and King Naga; Mr Vikkis also presents a Scotch Bonnet Fudge, not for the faint-hearted.
The BBC Good Food Show Winter yet again raised interesting ideas. It will return to the same venue in the summer.
Not so very long ago, the UK’s casual dining sector was booming. At one point, major chains were expanding at a rate of one new restaurant opening every single week in the UK. Popular high street food chains were winning awards for the quality of their food. Restaurants such as Zizzi, Jamie’s Italian, Pizza Express, Byron Burger, and Five Guys were springing up everywhere. They could be found on every high street in the country.
However, the trend turned sharply and unexpectedly. In late 2017, the UK witnessed a string of these casual dining chains beginning to struggle badly; with many top names, such as Jamie Oliver with his 25 restaurants entering full-blown administration. The number of restaurants falling into insolvency in the year ending June 2019 increased by 25% to 1,412. This is the highest number of insolvencies since at least 2014. Numerous factors have been blamed for the decline, with many chains experiencing accumulative issues which have left them in a financial mess.
When the trend for restaurant chain expansion was at its strongest, private equity companies were eager to invest. Billions of pounds were spent after 2013 on turning small chains into fixtures on every UK high street; with renowned restaurants vying for business in very concentrated spaces.
Now these investors want a return on their investment that simply is not available. This is due to heightened business rates (which have risen above inflation for four years), increased energy/labour costs and imported foodstuff costs. If we take into consideration the average wage of the majority of the UK’s working population; more and more of us have had to scale back on luxury spending.
Furthermore, quality has become a big issue and with many chains offering an unchanged menu from five years ago. People are beginning to realise that there are cheaper, fresher alternatives than the mass-produced pizza or burger. More vegan and vegetarian options have admittedly been introduced on menus but not much else has altered.
Meanwhile, over the last five years, new cuisines have become popular in the group restaurant scene. The Caribbean cuisine chain Turtle Bay now has 40+ restaurants in the UK, and shows a 143.8% five-year growth. Within the last 12 months, Indian group restaurants saw an 8.9% increase, bringing the total to 159.
Effectively, the current and alarming rate of restaurant closures shows that the eyes of these casual dining chains were literally bigger than their bellies. There were simply far too many to begin with. But although the UK chain restaurant industry may be in decline now; the right measures to reduce costs and a renewed focus on quality could yet revive these franchises. Diversity is key for the restaurant chains to bite back and entice customers to a better experience all round. There needs to be more diversification in the choice of menu and in the value of the meal as perceived by the customer.