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Grand Cafe Restaurants Struggle with Mounting Losses

Villandry investors are looking for a buyer in the face of rent increases

Eggs benedict at Villandry, a pair of grand cafe restaurants in London struggling with market downturn Villandry/Instagram

Villandry, the pair of grand café-styled restaurants on Fitzrovia’s Great Portland Street and in central London’s St. James’s, is in search of a buyer in the face of mounting losses, as originally reported by the Sunday Times.

Accounts made up to March 2017 show that Bicester — lost to the site’s landlord in return for a “substantial payment to the company” — made up 47 percent of the group’s entire sales annually. Paired with a 100 percent rent increase at Great Portland Street and a 16 percent increase at St. James’s, losses amounted to almost £1.5 million, compared to £683,564 the previous year.

The directors’ report attached to the document set out four “principal risks and uncertainties”, three of which examined market conditions:

  1. The decline in spending in mid-market restaurants and the continuing growth in new entries to the London market;
  2. The rising food and drink costs caused by the pound’s fall;
  3. Rising labour costs due to the shortage of experienced staff. (The prospect of Brexit exacerbates the labour shortage.)

The news comes as former owner Jamie Barber (the restaurateur now behind Hush, Hache Burger Social, and Cabana) said that the “marching rise of minimum wage” has had a negative impact on restaurant operations. He told City A.M. that: “The minimum wage in a funny way is counter productive because it just makes the restaurant owner try and work out how to remove labour from their businesses rather than employ more people and surely that can’t be a good thing.”

His alternative is a “separate minimum wage” for restaurant workers to account for a disparity in tipping between sectors. How this would account for disparities in service charge policy across U.K. restaurants is undefined. Barber also suggested that millennials — in their fickle wisdom — are partly responsible for restaurant downturn, as “they want something new.”

In the last week, steak restaurants Gaucho and Cau have been lined up for sale, while burger chain Byron admitted that its finances were in serious trouble despite wholesale changes to operational strategy. Villandry, open since 1998, has introduced “pizza and prosecco” and bottomless brunches in an attempt to improve sales, but the news suggests that these innovations aren’t doing enough to account for such a sharp rise in costs.