According to end of year figures from the Centre for Retail Research, there were a total of 10,413 job losses across the UK casual dining sector last year - and thousands more could follow.
Jamie’s Italian, Byron, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Prezzo and Carluccio’s were among those which shut sizeable chunks of their restaurant estate in 2018 amid rising costs and competition.
Real estate adviser Altus Group says business rates for restaurants in England and Wales rose 23.3% to £564.7m in 2018. This marks an increase of £106m since April 2017, when rates were reassessed for the first time in seven years to bring them more in line with property values.
“There had been huge growth in the casual dining market with restaurant numbers up 16% overall since 2010,” says Alex Probyn, president of UK expert services at Altus.
“The race for space pushed up rents impacting on rateable values which came into effect in 2017. Extra tax for business rates coupled with rising food prices and staff costs through increases in both the national and minimum wages created a lethal cocktail as margins were squeezed.”
Under measures announced by the government in the Autumn Budget, from April 2019 restaurants with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will have their business rates cut by a third over the next two years.
Despite these measures the Centre for Retail Research predicts a further 10,950 jobs will be lost across the sector in 2019, with independent restaurants bearing the brunt.
“Many of the large chains have already made cuts and, in 2019, we expect the smaller and independent restaurants to bear the weight of the losses,” says Professor Joshua Bamfield, of the Centre for Retail Research.