News > Venues

City Centre Rates force Blanc out of Brum

By Alan Lodge , 15-Feb-2008

Related topics: Venues

As Brasserie Blanc announces it is to close its Birmingham restaurant, blaming high rents on the decision to pull the plug, we ask just how bad this nationwide problem could get.

City Centre Rates force Blanc out of Brum

BRASSERIE Blanc has announced its intention to focus on its branches serving local communities outside of city centres.

The move came as the chain was forced to pull the plug on it`s Birmingham restaurant due to the city`s high rents.

 

Brasserie Blanc - named after famed international celebrity chef Raymond Blanc- is to close its Brindleyplace restaurant after selling it to the Individual Restaurant Company, who will renovate and reopen the venue as an Italian diner.

 

Brasserie Blanc issued a damning statement blaming high rents for the Birmingham outlet`s demise, which had forced the group to try to "push water uphill".

 

John Lederer, a Brasserie Blanc executive, said: "This sale reflects our intention to focus our attention on the new style Brasserie Blanc concept serving local communities away from the high rent attached to major city centre sites.

 

"The reputation of Le Petit Blanc suffered as a consequence of the administration in 2003 of that company and we have found the repositioning of the restaurant in Birmingham to be a particularly unfulfilling task.

 

"Rather than continue to push water uphill we have decided to focus on growing the Brasserie Blanc business in those old locations that are trading excellently and in our new ones."

 

Staff at the Brindleyplace eaterie have been told that jobs will be available at the new Piccolino`s restaurant when it opens for trading in April or May.

 

Brasserie Blanc general manager Steve Gething said: "The restaurant has been sold by Brasserie Blanc to the Individual Restaurant Company and it will be converted into an Italian restaurant.

 

"We are just waiting for the landlord to agree to the transfer and then we will get a date for closure which will be within the next five to seven days.

 

"There is sadness at the closure - some of the staff have been here a long time - but it is also the start of a new chapter for the restaurant. It is not going to be left an empty shell.

 

"Raymond was still heavily involved here in planning the menus. Myself and the head chef saw him three weeks ago."

 

The Brindleyplace restaurant has had a chequered history, with its parent group collapsing into administration in 2003 after group debts of £1 million, owed to around 200 creditors, piled up.

 

The restaurant and its sister UK eateries were later sold to Loch Fyne Restaurants and again changed hands in October 2005 following a £21.8 million takeover deal.

 

The problem of high rent rates in city centres has dogged the industry for years. In November last year, Restaurant magazine examined the perils of opening in Manchester city centre.

 

Paul Wootton, restaurant editor, said at the time: "Rents are high and there`s only a small city centre population, which makes pulling in punters from Monday-Thursday a difficult game.

 

"Of course, there are plenty of success stories, but these tend to be smaller operations with lower costs, that pitch themselves just above the high street offering and `not too poncey`, as a Manchester friend of mine put it." 

 

The move by Blanc to pull out of Birmingham is symbolic of the nation-wide march of identikit city centres - awash with Starbucks, Wetherspoons, Nando`s and Wagamama, yet lacking in individual outlets which provide some local character and identity to these heaving masses of concrete.

 

The obvious fear is that by inflicting such high costs on small or independent restaurants in city centres we could be stifling an entire generation of chefs.

 

Talented cooks who come to the bright lights of the city brimming with ideas and enthusiasm could soon find their main job requirement is to microwave a stodgy carbonara which has just been unloaded off the back of the branded delivery trucks to keep costs to a minimum.

 

It`s not just the city consumers who miss out when restaurants are forced to close, it`s the chefs themselves.

 

You can read Lucy Britner`s interview with Raymond Blanc in the next edition of PubChef magazine out Thursday March 6.

  • Are high rates forcing restaurant`s out of city centres? Is there a danger that this could force independent or small restaurant groups out into the sticks? Let us know.

 

BigHighlights

Michael Warren on heading up Harbour Hotels, his Hotel du Vin experience and why no two days are the same in hospitality
Small talk

Michael Warren on heading up Harbour Hotels, his Hotel du Vin experience and why no two days are the same in hospitality

Michael Warren spent 17 years at Hotel du Vin and Malmaison, helping with the development and expansion...

People on the Move in Hospitality: August 2014

People on the Move in Hospitality: August 2014

We've rounded up some of the latest movers and shakers in the hospitality industry, with the past...

60-Second Skill with Nigel Haworth: finely chopped onion

60-Second Skill with Nigel Haworth: finely chopped onion

Being able to chop finely is an essential skill if you want to make sauces or stocks...

Dish Deconstucted: José Pizarro's roasted monkfish with Serrano ham, black olives and thyme

Dish Deconstucted: José Pizarro's roasted monkfish with Serrano ham, black olives and thyme

At the recent Estrella Damm Gastronomy Congress, chef and restaurateur José Pizarro revealed the method behind a dish full...

Infographic: How to handle angry customers

Infographic: How to handle angry customers

Dealing with angry customers can be one of the most difficult, stressful and challenging parts of working...

Joanne Barratt: Pearls of Wisdom
Pearls of Wisdom

Joanne Barratt: Pearls of Wisdom

QHotels’ group operations manager talks about how important a strong team culture is in maintaining excellent standards...

Find us on Facebook

Digital Edition - Restaurant Magazine

Access to the Restaurant Magazine digital edition