Flipping heck! Is the UK losing its appetite for gourmet burgers?

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

Byron burgers could be put up for sale

Related tags: Hamburger

The owner of Byron is considering putting the business up for sale in the latest sign that the UK is losing its appetite for gourmet burgers.

Sky News​ has reported that a potential sale is on the cards after the 70-strong chain, which is owned by investment firm Hutton Collins, launched a strategic review of the business.

Byron declined to comment on the plans when contacted by BigHospitality​, but sources close to Sky​ said the review is likely to result in it offloading either a substantial number of sites or the whole company.

The source said Byron was still focusing on growth, with a restaurant in Bath expected to open next year.

Founder Tom Byng opened the first Byron in Kensington High Street in 2007 in a bid to bring US-inspired ‘proper hamburgers’ to the UK.

The business was sold to Hutton Collins for £100m​ in 2013 when it had just 34 sites, and it has since doubled its estate to over 70. 

Byron placed four sites on the market earlier this year in a cost cutting exercise as the casual dining sector struggled with a headwind of financial pressures, including the introduction of the national living wage and rising food costs.

The group has also faced beefed up competition in the restaurant market, though its rivals are not faring much better. Handmade Burger Co collapsed in to administration in July,​while Meatcure has closed four of its five sites​this year.

Byron’s main competitor Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) has also confirmed it is scaling back its expansion plans following disappointing sales.

BigHospitality​’s sister website MCA​ reports that the chain will only open eight of a planned 10 sites before February after recording its first drop in in like-for-like sales (-2.6%) in almost six years for the 22 weeks to 30 July.

Byron's rival GBK has also seen sales slow

The group also reported pre-tax losses of £872,000 driven by costs associated with the opening of 15 sites over the last year.

GBK chief executive Alasdair Murdoch told MCA​ the chain had been hit by ‘significant competitive growth’ in the better burger sector. He said within two years of opening a Glasgow restaurant Byron, Five Guys and Handmade had all opened within walking distance.

Despite the struggles of UK brands US burger chains appear to be thriving. Fatburger and its sister brand Buffalo Express are set to launch another 15 sites across the UK,​ while Five Guys is also on track for growth.

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