The overall number of casual dining restaurants that closed their doors last year was actually less than in 2018, new figures suggest.
Although 2019 saw the likes of Jamie’s Italian, Patisserie Valerie and Giraffe close dozens of outlets, the number of branches shut for good fell by more than a fifth from 1,188 to 922.
The data, from the Centre for Retail Research, shows that total job losses in the sector rose by 8%, however.
It recorded a total of 11,280 job losses across the entire casual dining sector in the UK during 2019 versus 10,413 in 2018.
Experts said that maintaining quality standards had proved difficult, leading to the need to cut costs caused by the sector’s over-expansion, greater competition and weak consumer demand.
Alex Probyn, president of UK expert services at Altus Group, said: “There had been huge growth in the casual dining market but restaurant numbers were still up 16% compared with 2010.
“The race for space pushed up rents impacting on rateable values which came into effect in 2017. Extra tax for business rates coupled with rising food prices and staff costs through increases in both the national and minimum wages created a lethal cocktail as margins were squeezed.”
In 2018, that squeeze saw the likes of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Carluccio’s, Prezzo, Chimichanga and Byron all shut outlets, with a total of 622 chain-operated restaurants closing. That fell by 46% to 337 in 2019.
The balance of the closures came from independents, according to the CRR, which predicts that the main problems in 2020 are likely to be found among the independents, which often lack the resources to reinvest or change their business model.
Small independent restaurants in England, those with a rateable value of less than £51,000, will be given a helping hand, seeing their business rates bills cut in half on 1 April 2020 with the government increasing the retail discount from 33%.
Altus Group says the average small independent restaurant will save £10,624 in tax during 2020/21.