Independents v chains: Are big brands ‘ruining’ the high street?

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fast food

Joshua Kahn hopes his new restaurant, Bread Butter & Grill, will provide an antidote to Watford's mainstream High Street
Joshua Kahn hopes his new restaurant, Bread Butter & Grill, will provide an antidote to Watford's mainstream High Street
The co-owner of a new restaurant in Watford has said the domination of branded restaurant chains and fast food outlets is making it increasingly difficult for independents to stay afloat and contributing to Britain’s obesity crisis.

Joshua Khan, who opened Bread Butter & Grill on Watford High Street yesterday (3 July) and co-founded the Lawn Bistro in Wimbledon, says the increased prominence of major brands like Pizza Express, Nando’s and Zizzi have taken the ‘elegance’ and ‘sophistication’ out of dining for Generation Y.

“Watford High Street has 29 Italian restaurants, two McDonalds, two Nando’s and various other branded concepts,” Kahn told BigHospitality.  “It’s places like this that are ruining the industry making our generation obese.

“The councils are to blame for allowing the market to become so saturated and there is no realisation of how dangerous it can be; young people are not being directed towards healthier meals.”

“It’s just a case of ‘money talks’. Small restaurants like mine cannot take a lot of losses but the chains are able to handle the burden. Areas like Watford need a major revamp to bring some sophistication back into dining.

Market share

Watford is in fact undergoing a £4m regeneration scheme at the moment, with elected Mayor Dorothy Thornhill hoping to draw more business into the town centre. But Khan says the problem of branded chains wining market share from independent operators has become too widespread, and it is even beginning to affect his French fine-dining restaurant in Wimbledon Village.

“The Lawn Bistro makes £20,000 - £25,000 a week,” he added. “But there are so many chain restaurants there in Wimbledon too. As a result, we’re struggling.”

And the issue shows no sign of abating. According to a recent report by Allegra Strategies, the branded restaurant market is predicted to grow by £5.6bn to £22bn over the next five years. Turnover among the branded sector has risen by 35 per cent since 2007 and is expected to hit £16.4bn this year through expansion and positive like-for-like performance. Allegra believes this share of the market will increase to 43 per cent by 2018.

Bread Butter & Grill

Bread Butter & Grill opened on Watford High Street yesterday (3 July)

However, Khan is confident that his new restaurant, Bread Butter & Grill, will provide an antidote to Watford’s chain-driven High Street and has the right business model to compete with the branded casual concepts. The 45-cover restaurant is a family affair, with Kahn’s brother and wife both involved with the business.

Offering ‘a bit of everything’, dishes include smoked duck salad; rib eye steak with hand-cut chips; and a signature homemade bread and butter pudding. Set menus for lunch at priced at £18.95 for three courses, with a three-course dinner coming in at £24.95. Wines are sold by the glass, carafe and bottle with prices starting from £3.25.

Bread Butter & Grill’s interior exudes that of a modern French bistro, with a downstairs private dining area with space for 24 and an outside terrace launching on 15 August, adding another 20 covers.

“I hope this concept will work, it has all the ingredients to do so,” added Kahn. “The price-point is exactly right - it’s not too ‘fine-dining’ but it’s not too low. If this is successful then who knows what I will do next. The sky’s the limit.” 

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Watford Italian

Posted by Steve Smith,

Guido's Restaurant,L'Artista Restaurant,
Carluccio's, Zinco Sapori d'Italia, Ask Watford, Pepe Rosso, ZAZA, Ponti's Restaurant, Buon Cibo, NORTHWOOD PIAZZA, VA Pensiero Italian Restaurant, and tons of pizza pasta places. I have to agree we need a change to our dining style. I welcome privately owned restaurant rather then chains.

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Watford never has 29 Italian restaurants in its High Street

Posted by Mike,

Nowehere near that amount.
A few brands have recently moved to Watford High Street and together with the current independents - its exactly what the town needed.

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