35 of UK’s Top 100 restaurant groups now loss-making – up 75% in just a year

  • Oversaturated market, minimum wage hike put pressure on restaurants
  • Another minimum wage rise just weeks away

35 of the UK’s Top 100 restaurant groups are now loss-making, up 75% from just 20 last year, shows research by UHY Hacker Young, the national accountancy group.
UHY Hacker Young says that trading conditions have become increasingly difficult for restaurant chains dealing with oversaturation in the market as well as rising costs.
The firm adds that this research comes on the back of the high-profile struggles of several major restaurant chains in recent weeks, including:

  • Jamie’s Italian, started by Jamie Oliver, which has closed 12 branches as part of a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) to restructure its £71.5m debt
  • Byron, the burger chain, which may close up to 20 of its 67 branches following a period of paying reduced rent
  • Prezzo, the Italian chain, which is expected to close some of its 300 branches as part of a restructuring
  • Strada, another Italian chain, which closed 11 branches over the festive period
  • Barbecoa, another Jamie Oliver chain, which entered administration in mid-February
  • EAT, the sandwich chain, which was rumoured in early February to be considering closing some of its 100 branches

UHY Hacker Young says that pressures of competing with numerous similar ‘fast casual’ restaurants in an overcrowded high street are a major driver of many large restaurant groups registering losses over the past year.

It adds that the National Minimum wage, which has risen by an above-inflation 19% to £7.50 per hour over the last five years, has added a substantial cost burden to large restaurant chains. From April 2018, the minimum wage will rise even further to £7.83.

Peter Kubik, Partner at UHY Hacker Young, comments: “More than a third of the biggest companies in the restaurant sector are losing money, and there is little respite on the horizon.”

“Pressures on the restaurant sector have been building for years, and the last year has pushed a number of major groups to breaking point.”

“With Brexit hanging over consumers like a dark cloud, restaurants can’t expect a bailout from a surge in discretionary spending.”

“Consumers only have a finite amount of spending power when it comes to eating out, and the oversaturation of the market means that groups that fall foul of changing trends can very easily fail.”

“The Government has ratcheted up costs with a series of above-inflation rises in the minimum wage, and we are just weeks away from another 4.4% rise in April. That will be tough for a lot of restaurants to absorb.”

About UHY Hacker Young:

 The UHY Hacker Young Group is one of the UK’s Top 15 accountancy networks with 110 partners and more than 620 professional staff working from 22 locations around the country. The offices within the Group provide a wide range of accounting, tax and business advisory services, with a reputation for integrity and reliability within the financial community, and particularly with London’s Stock Markets. UHY Hacker Young are also ranked 15th in the ARL Corporate Advisers Rankings Guide amongst other UK audit firms for advising London Stock Exchange listed companies.

UHY Hacker Young is a founder member of the UHY International network with offices in every major financial centre in the world. Further information can be found at www.uhy-uk.com



How restaurants are reacting to Vegetarian Month

March is vegetarian month. Recent news shows that an estimated 29% of evening meals in the UK are vegetarian or vegan. These numbers only seem to be increasing, but just how is the hospitality industry reacting? Wayne Redge reports

Reports show that sales of meat-free ready meals were up by 15% in January compared to 12 months before. Vegan numbers went up from 150,000 in 2006 to 540,000 just a decade later, with 1.2 million vegetarians in addition to this in the UK. Not only that, but there has been an uprising of ‘flexitarians’, those who reduce their meat consumption by choosing to have meat-free days. As a result, evidence shows that 25% of people in Britain have cut back on how much meat they eat. With all of these figures on the rise, the transitions to a meat-free way of living aren’t just a ‘fad’.

Signs of the hospitality industry acknowledging these statistics has come with many different reactions. Nando’s, the Afro-Portuguese chain restaurant known for its chicken, has been consistently adding to its range of vegetarian and vegan options over the past few years. The spiced chicken giant has now announced that two more vegetarian dishes will be added to its menu: golden brown halloumi sticks served with a pot of sweet chilli jam dip to start, alongside a new main of Veggie Cataplana (a South African inspired stew dish.)

A host of vegetarian restaurants are also popping up, giving people who have adopted this lifestyle a lot more options. Run by former mentee of Gordon Ramsay, Minal Patel, “Prashad” is a 2 rosette and Bib Gourmand standard Indian cuisine restaurant. The personalised and crafted menu boards created by Smart Hospitality encase an all vegetarian menu that has been the talk of popular review site, Trip Advisor, since the restaurant opened its doors. Receiving the “Most Talked About Restaurant On Trip Advisor Award” and a “Certificate of Excellence” on the site, it is proof of the popularity that a vegetarian restaurant can receive by focusing its efforts towards a collective audience.

January of this year saw a mass of high-profile restaurants trying out full vegan menus or dishes for ‘Veganuary’. Harvey Nichols brought a full vegan menu to its OXO Tower restaurant in the shape of a three course vegan meal and vegan wine list. Upon opening their menu cover, guests were welcomed by the sights of Grilled Tofu with Miso and a Poached Pear and Blackberry Dessert.


Even Michelin Star chef, Tom Aitken took part in his Tom’s Kitchen restaurant . Teaming up with vegetarian burger company, The Vurger Co, he served up a hoisin glazed mushroom patty with pak choi, red cabbage and crunchy spring onions ( pictured above). Due to the success of this vegan burger, he has adopted a vegetarian burger to his main menu since then.

The amount of vegan festivals has seen a massive increase too, with at least 75 festivals lined up for 2018 in the UK alone. The festivals are a celebration of the natural lifestyle whilst also introducing its participants to new vegan restaurants and foods that they may not have tried before. Restaurants are creating pop ups at these events to promote themselves to the vegan following and gain some new supporters.

So, with the popularity of no-meat lifestyles on the rise, it is clear that restaurants have an opportunity to increase their offerings and enable themselves to appeal to a wider clientele. If 25% of evening meals being eaten are meat free, would restaurants do well to make 25% of their offerings meat free? It might even serve as a cost effective alternative whilst not compromising on quality.

Wayne Redge is marketing assistant, Smart Hospitality Supplies

Quotas for female managers?

On International Women’s Day (8 March), Serena von der Heyde FIH MI makes the case for affirmative action to achieve greater diversity in the boardrooms of the hospitality industry19 Serena von der Hyde FIH

Like a lot of people, I don’t like quotas – I don’t think they are fair – but recently I have started to think again. Nearly 60% of the UK workforce in our industry are women yet only just over 20% of our managers are women, and these figures have been almost static for more than 20 years.  We know that businesses with more women leaders are more successful and more profitable, so why aren’t companies rushing to develop and promote them?  The benefits of diversity are proven, but still progress in achieving diversity is glacially slow.

We want a fair workplace for our young women and men, and optimum performance for our businesses, and yet a compelling business case has failed to bring about change; then should we consider quotas?

Quotas have been shown to get results, and fast.  They have been used across Europe to promote women in politics and business since Norway started in 2003.  Many countries including Iceland, France, Spain and now Germany have followed suit, and the numbers of board-level women have risen in those countries. What’s more, there is some evidence that where quotas have been in use for some time, diversity becomes self-fulfilling. The culture and infrastructure has changed to the extent that women and men are coming through to leadership levels in equal numbers. In Belgium, the quota system states that both sexes must be represented for applications for roles in politics, and recently it is male applicants that have been hard to recruit. For quotas to work, they need to come with strict repercussions. In France, businesses were threatened with de-regulation if they failed to meet quotas. In Spain there were no sanctions for not meeting quotas, and as a result Spain has been far less successful. Quotas without teeth are ineffective.

One of the main arguments against quotas is that they prevent promotion on merit. We want the best leaders for our businesses regardless of gender. But I challenge the notion that our meritocracy is working. If it was, wouldn’t we already have more women leaders? The truth is that our societal and cultural background is failing to provide a level playing field for our aspiring women leaders.  More women than men are graduating from our universities, and, on average, women have better grade degrees, but still we overlook their talents.  It is becoming clear that we have to learn diversity – it takes time for a culture to genuinely believe in the value of diversity, and then to implement processes that nurture it.

There is a difference between quotas and targets, in terms of delivering change; quotas enforce where targets incentivise. Personally, I believe that people learn better and change more when they can set their own agenda. Every business will have different issues affecting diversity, and real change is most effective when a strategy is developed specifically by the team for that business.  When regulations are imposed, teams spend half their efforts working on strategies to sidestep the new rules, and quotas can result in alienating the team.

For my own business, where we need to develop male leaders to ensure diversity, I will be:

  • Ensuring full and ongoing commitment to diversity from the leadership
  • Leading the development of our diversity strategy and targets
  • Publishing gender pay differences, and recording gender balance across the team and our leadership team

This type of approach gives businesses time to develop a pipeline of talented women (or in our case men), so that they can make quality appointments and showcase successful women within the business. I believe that hospitality businesses should be recording gender balance, monitoring gender pay gaps and publishing their own targets and strategy for diversity.  However, if these initiatives prove inadequate, then it is time to consider resorting to the faster, but blunter tool of quotas.

Serena von der Heyde FIH MI is the owner of The Georgian House Hotel, London

Sign up to the Diversity in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure Charter here.

Single-use plastic-free hotel launches in Bangkok


With over 8 million tonnes of plastic thrown away each year and and the existence of the Great Pacific garbage patch, the world is waking up to the dangers of plastic waste.

Whilst supermarkets plan for plastic free aisles and coffee brands ditch the cup lids, Akaryn Hotel Group plan to become a single-use plastic free hotel group by 2020. The newest opening, akyra TAS Sukhumvit Bangkok, launching May 2018, is set to lead the charge in this initiative.

Effort has been made to source glass bottle containers and there are is no single-use plastic used in the bars. Stainless steel water bottles, which can be refilled anytime during their stay, are handed to guests on arrival. Self-service drinkable water will be conveniently located on every floor. Guests will notice that in the bathroom, toiletry products are presented in locally manufactured celadon containers filled with essential oils-based products. Bio-degradable bin bags are used in room and shopping bags can be borrowed from the wardrobes to encourage guests to refuse plastic bags when out shopping in Bangkok.

akyra_sukhumvit_BSC02886 web res


Why is the casual dining sector in trouble?

Byron is one of a number of casual dining chains that are shrinking their estates

Five years ago, the casual dining sector was booming. Private equity houses were investing large amounts of money into new chains of restaurants which quickly expanded their outlets, for example Byron, the burger chain, was bought for £100m.

Today, the sector is, to say the least, struggling. EAT is the latest brand to announce closures. Byron is going through a restructuring, Jamie’s Italian has entered into a company voluntary arrangement, and Strada is implementing a closure programme.

What has happened to bring about this sudden reversal of fortunes? Roger Gregory, partner at Pitmans Law, has the answers. Read on

Roger Gregory
Partner, Pitmans
D +44 (0)207 634 4634
M +44 (0)774 760 3864
E rgregory@pitmans.com

Pitmans Law is a Business Partner of the Institute of Hospitality.

Food additives are a cause of obesity, says Mike Duckett MBE FIH

Mike Duckett MBE FIH, centre, meets HRH The Prince of Wales

The hospitality industry has a responsibility to promote healthy eating habits, writes Mike Duckett MBE FIH, the ambassador for good hospital food and the former award-winning head of catering at The Royal Brompton Hospital, London.

“I have always worried about the amount of chemical additives added to food during manufacturing and the number of alien ingredients used to extend the colour and the shelf life of food, especially ready frozen meals. I have been very vocal in expressing my concerns which were confirmed recently when I visited the local hospital here in Surrey.

I was disturbed to hear of two eight-year-old boys who were hospitalised with severe pain from type-one diabetes. The senior nurse on duty told me that the main cause was their poor diet and lack of a variety of healthy food.

We therefore as the hospitality fraternity  have a collective responsibility to ensure that the food we serve is healthier.  We should persuade those who manufacture meals to be more aware of the steps needed to reducing high levels of obesity.

Statistics show that we are eating out more regularly and that we tend to eat more in a restaurant than in the home environment. This raises one important question. How safe is it to eat out these days? Recently we have heard that a major meat supplier was told by the FSA to stop supplying, a popular pub chain received a zero rating for hygiene,  and food factories change best before dates on food.  We also hear of customers dying from eating food that cause allergies. It makes you wonder if eating out is taking your life in their hands.

Hospitals, care homes, meals on wheels services and the general public are in the habit of purchasing  ready frozen microwave meals. These meals are high in fat, sugar and salt. Scientists have warned that emulsifiers – the chemicals widely used in processed foods including ice cream, bread and chocolate – may be a key cause of obesity. These emulsifiers are used to make smoother textures in foods such as peanut butter, sausages and mayonnaise. They are understood to be chemically active long after we digest them and they increase hunger and therefore we eat more.

If we are going to take the growing obesity epidemic seriously, we need an urgent look at what is being used in our food manufacturing and in the type of food and ready meals we serve our customers and campaign for the use of fresh local ingredients from as near the point of service as possible.”

HQ Magazine Autumn 2017 out now


Your autumn edition of HQ Magazine has arrived in the UK and been dispatched to the rest of the world. It is available to view on our website now.

In this issue, our cover feature is on how to close the gender gap in hospitality. Globally, 70% of hospitality and tourism workers are female, and yet men hold the vast majority of management and board positions.

More women than men gain university degrees and women earn more than men early in their careers. But the situation starts to reverse when people get into their mid-thirties. Sometimes the pay gap appears because women take time off to have children. Sometimes they get ‘stuck’ at a particular level.

Tracey Fairclough MIH presents brand-new research based upon interviews with 100 women from our sector and, most importantly, provides a new road map towards achieving greater equality.

We report from an Institute of Hospitality roundtable discussion of GDPR and present the best ways to prepare for the new data protection laws that come into force in May 2018. Our participants found that GDPR is actually a good opportunity to spring-clean their data and re-think their marketing strategies.

Other topics covered this autumn include preparing chefs for the open kitchen environment, job-jumping and what it means for career progression and the new health-conscisousness sweeping through hospitality.

Editor Ben Walker AIH says: “I am encouraged to see so many of our members taking the initiative to get in touch and contribute excellent articles to the magazine. The majority of our magazine is generated by members for members. My warmest thanks go to all of our marvellous contributors. A big thank you also to our designer Miranda Willan at H2O Publishing for an especially eye-catching cover.”

Members can view the magazine by logging into the members’ area of our website.

If you are not a member, please join the Institute of Hospitality now to receive your copy of HQ Magazine.
Here is a free download from the current issue:

Report from Institute of Hospitality Roundtable on GDPR