EXCLUSIVE: Losses led Spur Corporation to axe UK business

RBW Spur

Mounting losses and excessive competition in the market it chose to launch a new foodservice concept contributed to the Spur Corporation’s decision to close its UK restaurant business, FEJ can reveal.

As reported HERE last week, the South African restaurant giant notified customers through its UK website that its local operations had “permanently closed” despite launching a new counter-service concept called RBW Spur less than a year ago.

The concept was seen as a more manageable and cost-effective alternative to its traditional UK restaurant model and, at the time, Spur indicated it was looking to roll-out the brand to multiple locations after opening a flagship branch site in Corby, Northamptonshire.

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But Spur’s Dave Strydom, who is overseeing the administrative aspects of the UK closure, admits the business struggled to hit the numbers it was seeking.

“We pinned a lot of our hopes on the rebranding and the restructuring, and it is very easy to look back in hindsight and say that this is where it went wrong but possibly the Midlands wasn’t the [right] place for us to be launching a new brand. And coupled with ongoing losses throughout the brand, throughout the country, the company just got to the point where it couldn’t keep pumping in and a call had to be made.”

Mr Strydom said that when he stepped into the role he was surprised to learn that there were 96 food outlets listed on TripAdvisor in Corby alone. This, coupled with the uncertainty around things such as Tata Steel and BHS, had impacted business in the region and made it harder for independents and smaller chains to thrive.

“I think all the larger food brands like McDonald’s had probably weathered that storm, we just couldn’t in that location. You can manage your cost of sales and labour to a point, but you need minimum labour to run a business. You eventually get to a threshold that you can’t go below and we had been operating at that level for about two or three months.”

RBW kitchenMr Strydom confirmed that administrators had been appointed to manage the closure of the UK business. He remains the link between them and the mother company in South Africa, but said he would be looking for a new role based in the UK once that process is complete.

He refused to rule out the prospect of Spur returning to the UK market at some point in the future. “We are certainly not closing any doors – we hope that as part of our international expansion we will back in the near future and this is just a false start. We would like to thank everyone over the years who has supported us and given us their business and it is really, truly appreciated.”

Parent company Spur Corporation yesterday issued its first statement on the closure of the UK business since the news broke last week.

It said the decision “follows a strategic move for the group to focus on alternative international markets, namely Africa, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand” and confirmed that its restaurants in Staines, Dublin, Belfast and Corby had all ceased trading this month.

Pierre van Tonder, CEO of Spur Corporation, said: “We would like to thank our many customers for their loyal support and patronage over the past years. It was our pleasure to serve you and share in the special moments with your family and friends. It marks the end of an era for the Spur brand in the UK, but we look forward to bringing that great Spur taste to other parts of the world.”

Founded in 1967, the Spur Group is one of South Africa’s biggest restaurant franchisors and an international footprint with more than 500 restaurants worldwide, covering Africa, Mauritius, Australia and New Zealand. The brand family comprises Spur Steak Ranches, Panarottis Pizza Pasta, John Dory’s Fish Grill Sushi, Captain DoRegos, The Hussar Grill, RocoMamas and Casa Bella.

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Andrew Seymour

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