Panic on the High Street – are restaurant chains a dying breed?


November 9, 2018

Britain’s High Streets are under siege. They’re jam-packed with unhealthy food outlets and cluttered with closed-down retail units. And, it’s not just fashion that’s become unfashionable. The casual dining sector has seen brands like Gaucho, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Prezzo, Byron and Jamie’s Italian all take a steak knife to their estates; cutting as close to the bone as possible to keep what’s left alive.

Matthew Richards, a director at Grant Thornton, explains: “The casual dining trading environment in the UK remains extremely challenging, driven by a change in dining behaviour, long-term consumer trends and increased competition.”

Mark Edwards, a partner at accountants BDO, talking about Byron Burger agrees: “the restaurant sector was under increasing cost pressures including the National Living Wage, the apprenticeship levy, a squeeze on consumer spending, and higher import costs”

But, why is the casual dining sector suffering so badly?

Whist this is very true, these are pressure being felt across all industries! The fact is, there are many other factors affecting the casual dining sector. Recently the Times reported on the current downturn in the casual dining market

“Diners seeking to impress friends by photographing themselves eating at trendy “pop-ups” have contributed to the collapse of more restaurant businesses in the first nine months of this year than the whole of 2017.”

The BBC sight “pop-up” examples like specialist Monsieur Le Duck of Spitalfields, which will be open for 6 months and is inspired by the food & wine of Gascony; with a simple menu of duck, chips, salad and wine. A novel concept with a limited menu is great for attracting the curious but less likely to create a sustainable business. And, of course, the beauty of the pop-up concept is – they don’t have to!

There are, however, brands that are bucking this trend. CDG brand, Las Iguanas, have invested in creating vibrant restaurants. The interior design draws in customers, perfectly blending a fun cocktail bar with a buzzing restaurant. The food & drink menus cater for a wide range of traditionally tricky customers to please, including vegans and coeliacs. What’s more, they’re never static, so there is always something new to try & the staff are very engaging, delivering a great Latin fiesta experience…

“Experience” is the key! Diners want more than a nice meal. In a fiercely competitive market, people are drawn to the restaurants that deliver a theatrical environment.. people want to be entertained.

Another great example is Nando’s who have taken a very simple concept of a chicken restaurant & created a cultural icon! They have a good balance of an appealing offer at a reasonable price in a fantastic environment. Each restaurant has a unique design, but the overall eclectic feeling IS the brand.

It’s a trend that people want to be able to document their experiences, they want to be seen in “cool” places, so restaurants need to be “Instagrammable”. Both Nando’s & Las Iguanas have excelled at this.

This is where ABDA can help you! We create interiors with a WOW factor! Recently we carried out a number of project redesigning bars & restaurants for DoubleTree by Hilton. They wanted to transform their typical non-descript bars & restaurant into destinations.

We created spaces where people wanted to be seen, with strong backdrops for Instagram selfies. After all, if you’re publishing your night out for the world to see and you want your lifestyle to look like something out of a movie – the restaurant you visit needs to look like the set of a movie too!



Blog Archive