It’s true, independents cannot match the strength of brand of the ‘big name chefs’ or the corporate operators, but they do have many potential qualities that cannot be equalled by their peers. Independent restaurants can provide the personal touches that brands cannot provide, and it is on this that they should focus. They can also deliver fine food (but not fine-dining) at a price that is affordable to a greater number of people. And with the personal touch comes the propensity for repeat business. The other element that’s likely to favour independent restaurants is their locality. There were indications in 2011 that ‘neighbourhood’ restaurants were making a return to favour. In addition to the personal service they were able to offer, they had the added advantage of being in the location that their customers increasingly demanded. With the purse strings tightened, many consumers ditched the trip to the edge-of- town and out-of-town restaurant in favour of the ‘restaurant down the road’. Even where the restaurant chains offered voucher deals, the travelling cost increasingly made the offer redundant. It is likely, in a market that is still liable to suffer in the face of the poor economic climate, that 2012 will see yet more local restaurants springing up. Generally, as costs go up, revenues decline and margins tighten, 2012 is likely to see a more diverse restaurant sector, with an increasing number of smaller players competing for a share of a still-tightening purse. The very nature of this will see winners and losers – and we may witness more administrations in 2012 – but with competition fierce, the biggest winner is likely to be the diner.
Late in 2011 Christie + Co was instructed to market 19 sites of the roadside restaurant chain Little Chef to let. Little Chef is conducting a review of its estate and has identified a number of sites it is seeking to let. Those available include eight closed Little Chefs and 11 former Burger King restaurants in locations on which Little Chef continues to trade.
Acting on behalf of administrators Begbies Traynor, Christie + Co marketed for sale nine restaurants and bars operated by Principle Leisure Group – consisting of eight leaseholds and one freehold. The nine sites in Nottingham, Sheffield and the North-East of England were in either prime city centre locations or highly-desirable provincial residential areas. Amongst those sold were a package of restaurants, including Popolo in Sheffield (above) to former Principle Leisure Managing Director Stuart Young.
The Restaurant Group
Brunning & Price
Christie + Co was instructed to sell three bar/restaurants in the south of England by The Restaurant Group. The three restaurants occupied prime locations — in Shepperton (Bar & Grill pictured above), Guildford and Fareham — in characterful properties. High quality opportunities were a rare commodity in the restaurant market in 2011.
The Restaurant Group also instructed Christie + Co to find suitable ‘character properties’ to expand its Brunning & Price pub/restaurant business. The first find was The Little Manor in Thelwall, Cheshire. Originally built in 1642 for a General in Oliver Cromwell’s army, The Little Manor retains much of the original character – one of the distinct requirements of Brunning & Price. It was sold by Punch Taverns at its asking price.
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