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Brexit Could Close 20% of UK Restaurants

New market report presages dark times in the industry

Warnings Given As April Business Rate Rise Threatens UK High Streets Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Research from accountancy firm Moore Stephens has shown that 20% of the UK’s restaurants are at risk of closure thanks to Brexit, as reported in The Independent.

The figure, which amounts to 14,800 individual sites, indicates that the “challenging period of market correction” first presaged in MCA’s annual Restaurant Market report can be firmly upgraded from its former “looming” to “biting.” Hard. More sobering news comes with the announcement — from Moore Stephens’ research — that restaurant insolvency is up 13% since the referendum in March 2017.

Eater London has reported and broken an increasing number of Brexit stories in recent times: qualified staff are too many years away; high-quality ingredients from the continent grow ever more expensive; CEOs & MDs step away from established chains on a near day-to-day basis. With news this morning that Chimichanga CEO Morag Freathy has stepped down, following a slew of departures from Byron and Jamie’s Italian, it’s clear that the theories proposed by research of this ilk are being reflected on the ground, to worrisome effect.

The question on everyone’s lips: what does a Brexit-proof restaurant look like? While Moore and Stephens have their own ideas: “a restaurant not completely on top of market trends is going to struggle in this environment,” these “market trends” may lie outside the immediate realm of food and drink — not what people eat, not ingredients chosen and styles developed, but rather where and how the restaurant experience takes place. Consider the following: a Facebook page has just opened a delivery-only restaurant; London empire-builders JKS Group joined the Deliveroo Editions Brigade, and their latest MOTU site in Islington is the most successful to date. Small chains are out-performing the big players. If Brexit could indeed close 20% of the country’s restaurants, the axe will fall on those slow on the uptake.