Restaurants have been described as having the worst start to the year they have ever seen.
Restaurants owned by Simon Rimmer, the TV chef known from the Sunday Brunch show, and the former MasterChef finalist Simon Rodd have been forced to close this past week. The growing cost of rent, energy bills and ingredients have been cited as the reasons for closure. The closure of Rimmer’s vegetarian restaurant Greens in Manchester came after being open for more than three decades.
Simon Rodd has closed his restaurant Copper and Ink in south-east London. He and his wife have blamed the news on the financial pressures caused by the pandemic, together with the cost of living crisis and increased energy and supplier prices.
Manchester’s Nightlife Tsar, Sacha Lord, has said that the closures are just the “tip of the iceberg” and called on the Government to cut VAT for the hospitality sector.
Kate Nicholls from UK Hospitality has said that “in 25 years working in hospitality, I have never seen as many closures coming through in such a short time and so quickly after Christmas.”
Restaurant owners are also braced for the increased National Living Wage which is due to come into force in April.
It’s not all bad news though, as in London, restaurant launches are almost back to pre-pandemic levels.
253 new restaurants opened in the capital in 2023, 4% more than in 2022, and 13% more than 2021.
However, the majority of new openings were expensive, upmarket establishments; almost half were in the W1 postcode which includes Fitzrovia, Mayfair and Marylebone.
Clearly the cost of living crisis has not affected diners at Aragawa in Mayfair, where wagyu steaks can cost up to £900. Mayfair is said to be experiencing a “boom in terms of hospitality and leisure”.