A manager at one of Nottingham’s most popular restaurants said the lockdown had pressed the reset button for the entire hospitality industry – and new independent operators could be the ones to reap the rewards.
Daniel Griffiths, who operates Annie’s Burger Shack alongside business owner Annie Spaziano, said the pandemic “has sent shockwaves” through the UK hospitality sector, with successive closures sending a host of large operators and little names on the wall.
One of the hardest-hit places in the whole country was Nottingham, which suffered a 12% drop in the number of restaurants compared to the pre-pandemic days of March 2020, according to the Local Data Company (LDC).
Among the outlets that have permanently closed are well-known brands such as Carluccio’s, Byron Burger and Frankie and Benny’s, all of which have been hit hard by the pandemic.
These closures have left a number of empty premises across the city and, with the end of the foreclosure, Griffiths said in some cities, especially those with fewer independent operators, it provides an opportunity for any independent operator looking to start your own restaurant or cafe.
Not only are many of the venues located in sought-after, high-traffic locations, but they also benefit from the catering equipment and seating already in place.
Landlords will also be more open to offers from potential tenants. So, as long as they’re not hard to use someone else’s decor, new owners can be up and running in just a few weeks.
And that, says Griffiths, could usher in a host of new names, exciting dishes and innovative dining concepts.
Griffiths said: “It is very visible that the big brands owned by private equity firms were among the first to go as their business models were unable to withstand the shock wave of the pandemic and lockdowns.
“What you’re left with is space in the kind of great locations that independent operators could never have rented or developed because they didn’t have the capital behind them and landlords avoided them.
“Now the situation is different because there is a surplus of these sites, all of which will still have all the expensive equipment and fittings they need because they have been literally abandoned.
“Owners will be paying business rates at these venues, so they will want to bring someone in as soon as possible. They’ll be happy for someone to come and get up in a few weeks, and I think that means we’ll see a lot of new faces, new ideas, and great, interesting food that we may not have seen before. that.”
Griffiths said Annie’s Burger Shack, which operates a restaurant in Broad Street as well as a branch in Derby, survived the pandemic through a combination of planning, the ability to switch to a home delivery model and the program Eat Out to Help Out from summer 2020, when restaurants were allowed to open to customers for discounted meals.
Griffiths added: “The pandemic has been extremely difficult and now people’s habits and expectations have changed, while we are also facing steep price increases, so there are still many, many challenges.
“Nottingham is a wonderful food city, but everyone in our industry relies heavily on their city center employees, so it’s heartening to see them returning to their offices.”