If success in the restaurant industry was measured solely by year-on-year trading comparisons, the 2013 balance sheets of many operators may not make for pleasant reading.
High-profile events in 2012, not least the Jubilee, Euros and the Olympics, gave a welcome sales opportunity to pubs and restaurants – either at the time of the events or later as a result of the subsequent ‘feel-good’ factor that they generated.
This means that achieving positive like-for-likes might be challenging in a year somewhat lighter on the mass celebrations front.
With the economy predicted to remain flat, and the spectre of the UK falling into a triple-dip recession still hovering – twinned with the likely freeze in households’ disposable income and rising food inflation and utility costs – it is going to be another tough year for restaurant businesses.
Soaring food inflation, in particular, promises to be one of the greatest challenges the industry faces.
According to supply-chain experts Prestige Purchasing’s annual Food Inflation Report, the rate of inflation for vegetables, including potatoes, hit 5.5 per cent in 2012 and is expected to rise further. What’s more, across all categories of food and drink the inflation rate will increase by more than a third, from 3.3 per cent in 2012 to 4.5 per cent in 2013.
“We’re seeing a surge in inflation that will continue into 2013,” says chief executive David Read. “We may even be heading back towards 2008 levels where food inflation peaked at more than 8 per cent. This would have quite an impact on the catering and hospitality trade.”
However, through the current downturn the eating-out market has proven itself to be surprisingly resilient, especially in the UK’s major towns and cities.
There was an unprecedented level of restaurant openings in the capital in 2012, and 2013 is set to follow in its footsteps with some big launches on the cards. It’s not just players at the upper echelons of the dining scene either that will make their mark, there are fast-casual and mid-market operators that are worth keeping an eye on this year.
These include eight-strong burrito chain Tortilla, which has netted £2.25m in new bank financing and signed on its first two sites outside London, with more to come.
Café-bar company Loungers has a busy year ahead, with 12 likely new additions in 2013. Bakery and pâtisserie chain Peyton & Byrne is also one to watch after it secured a £6.25m investment from the Business Growth Fund, which will accelerate its roll-out programme.
The prevailing dining trends of 2013, meanwhile, are likely to be those that came to prominence in 2012, not least a continued shift away from smart formality towards relaxed but sophisticated eating environments, evidenced in forthcoming openings such as Balthazar, Brasserie Chavot and Rainer Becker's new opening at The Shard.
Expect a rollout of Soho House’s Chicken Shop – a second site is set to be installed under Pizza East in east London’s Shoreditch – as well as more of its Dirty Burger format.
Talking of burgers, will Gondola sell its Byron chain this year? A sale has been on the cards but 2013 seems a likely time for the Pizza Express operator to cash in its chips.
Opening statements - A new year round-up of significant restaurant launches confirmed – or slated – for the year ahead:
- Brasserie Chavot - Charismatic chef Eric Chavot returns after a three-year absence with a much-anticipated 70-cover brasserie in Mayfair’s The Westbury Hotel at the end of the month.
- Hartnett Holder & Co - Chic country-house hotel Lime Wood in the New Forest unveils a new flagship restaurant under the guidance of Angela Hartnett and head chef Luke Holder next month.
- Balthazar - Brit-abroad restaurateur Keith McNally finally brings his iconic New York brasserie to London in partnership with Caprice Holdings; the doors on Russell Street open in early February.
- Ametsa with Arzak Instruction - World-renowned father-daughter chef duo Juan Mari and Elena Arzak’s first foray outside San Sebastian lands at London’s The Halkin hotel in Belgravia in February.
- The Clove Club - Young Turk Isaac McHale and his partners take up residence in Shoreditch Town Hall from late February following their successful ‘crowdfunding’ process.
For a full list of some of the venues set to open in 2013 which Restaurant has previewed, check out the January issue of the magazine.
Great expectations - A mini-forecast of 2013 food-related trends:
- High-quality pizzas – undoubtedly due for further premiumisation/trendification treatment, and – significantly Russell Norman has plans for a pizzeria. See: Franco Manca, Pizza East and Pizza Pilgrims
- Unusual doughnuts and meringues – move over macaroons, the sweet-tooth brigade has moved on. See: Electric Donuts, St John Bakery and Meringue Girls
- US sandwiches – we’re talking the likes of ‘French-dipped’ and baloney numbers. See: Hawksmoor, Electric Diner and MeatMission
- Steak-frites – quick but substantial one-coursers are the new business lunches. See: Flat Iron, Cau, and the return of Chez Gérard
- Vegetables and pulses – partly a health thing (in response to all of the above); partly a reaction to the scarcity/unsustainability/cost of good meat; partly chefs showing off their kitchen gardens. See: Bruno Loubet in King’s Cross, L’Enclume/Roganic and Alexis Gauthier’s upcoming Vegetronic cookbook
- Crispy chicken skin – flimsy it may be, but flavoursome and fashionable it certainly is too. See: an ambitious young chef’s menu near you…