Nearly 2,000 staff have been made redundant by high street behemoth Casual Dining Group (CDG), as it closes 91 of its 250 restaurants in a bid to push through a sale. 11 Las Iguanas bar-restaurants, 34 casual Italian Bella Italia restaurants, three low-key Belgian Belgo restaurants, and 31 of the faded, but influential French chain Café Rouge have closed immediately, alongside 12 airport sites, according to Propel.
The remaining 159 restaurants will remain open as CDG looks to find buyers. As with Byron Burger’s pending sale, it’s possible that only the restaurants and their assets, or only the brands, will be sold, meaning that there could be further closures as part of any deal.
CDG follows The Restaurant Group, which owns Frankie and Benny’s and Italian chain Carluccio’s in exiting restaurant groups focussed on high streets, leisure complexes, and cinemas, as coronavirus restrictions make trading impossible at sites that are reliant on the high volume of their surroundings. With the government furlough scheme expecting employer contributions from August, July is set to be a month that craters more and more companies in the sector.
The collapse, particularly of Cafe Rouge, taken alongside Byron and Gourmet Burger Kitchen, is also another data point in an increasingly familiar restaurant narrative: small, innovative groups getting noticed, acquired, sold, and acquired again by companies whose only objective is growth, before collapsing under the weight of their own inflation. While COVID-19 has made trading environments many magnitudes more inhospitable, the instability of such a model must also be taken into account.
More soon on the future of the remaining restaurants.