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Ambitious Discount Trial Can’t Save City Steak Restaurant

Zelman Meats in St. Paul’s will close today

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Zelman Meats, the steak restaurant brand in the prestigious Goodman London group, has announced the closure of its site in St. Paul’s. Its final service will be today (Friday.) It is understood that the two other Zelman sites, in Soho and Knightsbridge will continue to trade.

Dave Strauss, the group operations director, who in April gave a very candid interview about his efforts to confront the testing headwinds faced by the industry in 2018, had emphasised that “he would rather lose money with a full restaurant than an empty one” and had introduced a significant discounting initiative designed to stimulate trade.

Today, in a call with Eater, Strauss said the group had decided to do what others have done: “Bite bullet and work on businesses that work a bit better.”

“We banged out some great food, had good reviews, and nothing but positive feedback,” he said. “[But] we did not have enough sales to make it work.”

He said that in a different market the decision-making process might have been different if the market wasn’t so testing. “One and half years ago, we would have carried on and tried to turn around. But in the current market, there are other things to concentrate on,” he said.

Regarding the timing, he said that because the staffing is low going into the month of August, it meant they have been able to close the site without having to make any redundancies. “We’ve got a great team, and all the people will stay with us,” he said. “All financial cost has been borne by us.”

“To carry on trading, would have required hiring more people,” he added before making the point that he was unwilling to make new appointments which required him to falsify the reality of the business. “I couldn’t get a great general manager and try and sell the story that it’s a great role, and a great career move. We’ve always told the truth.”

Asked whether the discounting trial just simply didn’t work, he said that it increased covers a bit, but not enough (since the volume was higher, but the margins were lower.) The volumes, in other words, were not significantly higher.

“What we found having spoken to others in the industry is that what we’re all looking for is a formula that works — whether it is a high volume of sales, and high food costs, or good rent ... there are lots of successful restaurants that don’t do hundreds of people; [this] formula didn’t work.”

“The team is like a family; super close [so] we made the decision as quickly as possible.

“Although it’s not ideal, it could have been a lot worse.”

We would like to thank all of our guests for supporting us throughout this year. Tomorrow, on Friday, we are closing our doors at Zelman Meats St Pauls. You are always welcome at Zelman Meats Knightsbridge and Soho.

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