The Restaurant Group, owners of Wagamamas and a number of pubs around Britain, which previously said that 61 of its 80 branches of Mexican restaurant Chiquito's will remain permanently closed after lockdown restrictions are eased, delivered another blow to the stomach of the dining-out-nation on Wednesday when it announced that up to 120 of its outlets (such as Frankie & Benny's and Garfunkels) will not reopen.
The Group, one of the UK's biggest, informed members of staff on 3 June and said in a statement, "Many sites are no longer viable to trade and will remain closed permanently. "The Covid-19 crisis has significantly impacted our ability to trade profitably, so we've taken the tough decision to close these restaurants now."
Although the Group blamed the Covid-19 pandemic and its resultant restrictions they had announced in February that it would speed up plans to make closures across its dining portfolio. Is this a clear example of 'deadwood clearing' and 'business restructuring', delivering bad news during a period when the news around it is even worse? Initially it had planned to make 150 closures - which were first signalled in 2019 - over a six year period. It then said it would close 90 restaurants by the end of 2021. Wagamamas and some of its pubs had announced increased profits prior to March and members of staff, understandably devastated by the news, claimed to feel let-down by the Group and victimised by the decision-making of the senior team.
But could they be victims of uncreative business practices during the lockdown period, when they failed to improvise with takeaway menus and inventive alternative dining solutions? Is this just the beginning of a re-work of how and where us Brits eat out?