Champagne + Fromage co-founder: "We'll be the first to be hit by a 'hard' Brexit"

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

Champagne + Fromage restaurant Brexit Comptoir + Cuisine
The co-founder of French bistro brand Champagne + Fromage says he is no longer looking to open restaurants in London as the costs in the capital are too high.

Stefano Frigerio says the group’s strategy is now to move outside London where it is cheaper and he believes there is still strong interest in the cheese and champagne concept.

However, he admits he is ‘very concerned’ about what the possibility of a ‘hard’ Brexit could mean for his business, which imports all of its produce from France.

Champagne + Fromage has four London sites and opened its first regional location in Liverpool earlier this year. Frigerio told BigHospitality​ he is eyeing Bristol for its next opening, and is interested in Brighton and Cambridge despite the high cost of sites.

The group recently launched a sister brand, Comptoir + Cuisine, as part of its opening in Bath last month. The new concept offers tapas-style French sharing plates, and all the furniture and homeware in the site – the majority of which is imported from France - is available for customers to buy.

“Champagne + Fromage has the possibility to be developed in other cities,” he says. “It is early days for Comptoir + Cuisine but we could develop the two concepts in parallel or together, depending on the city.”

Future concerns

The business is entirely self-funded and run by Frigerio and his wife, alongside another couple. He says they have not ruled out seeking outside investment through equity, loans or franchising in order to accelerate growth, but remain uncertain about the future.

Champagne + Fromage has already struggled in the aftermath of the EU referendum, according to Frigerio, who says the fall in the pound has already seen the group take around a 15% hit on its profits due to the high cost of produce.

“Overall we make less money because sourcing products is more expensive, and it’s more difficult to find people working for us,” he says.

“It’s becoming less interesting for young people to come here, with the exchange rate so bad the salaries are quite low while [the] cost of living is high.”

He adds that the concern is not just about expanding, but maintaining the existing business in the event of a 'hard' Brexit.

“I try to be positive but it can be difficult. We’re a family business, we don’t have the capacity to stockpile products. We’ll be the first to be hit in a situation like this.

“We bring the cheese every week from France. That’s our concept. What if we don’t have produce anymore? We’re in a niche segment that’s still considered expensive. If I have to sell a glass of champagne at £15, who’s going to buy it?”

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