Restaurant trade prepares to get burned

This year looks set to be a busy one for specialists in the hospitality
industry as consumers cut discretionary spending.

The grim trading conditions claimed a high profile casualty last week when
Antony Worrall Thompson, one of Britain’s best known TV chefs, said he had put
four of his six restaurants into administration in the latest sign of the tough
trading conditions facing the hospitality industry.

He said more restaurants will close this year as businesses struggle to get
credit from their banks. Swindon-based BHG Chartered Accountants have been
appointed to act as administrators of the business.

Speaking to Accountancy Age, Worrall Thompson, who presented the
BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and was a contestant on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of
Here, says: ‘There’s definitely more [restaurants] to go under. You hear things
from suppliers ­ who they’re worried about and there’s quite a lot out there to
be worried about,’ he says.

Worrall Thompson is having to use his own savings to keep two of his six
restaurants afloat. He blames the collapse of his other restaurants on the
refusal of his bank, Lloyds, to extend his overdraft following the acquisition
of a delicatessen last year .

‘The banks undoubtedly have a lot to answer for. I’m seething about the
banks,’ he says. ‘We thought we were a strong brand. We went into administration
making a profit so we can only blame the bank.’

Lloyds declined to comment.

Elsewhere in the hospitality sector, the outlook for hotels, bars and clubs
is also grim.

The sector has been hit hard by the recession as customers save money by
eating at cheaper restaurants or getting premium range supermarket food to eat
at home.

Restaurant insolvencies increased by a third in 2008, while 151% more pubs
and bars went bust in the fourth quarter of last year than the same period a
year earlier, according to a recent report from PwC.

‘In addition to a number of expected high-end restaurant failures, those
mid-range restaurants that do not focus on either a value for money or a unique
dining experience have been disappearing from our streets since last summer.
This trend is likely to accelerate,’ says Stephen Broome, hospitality and
leisure director at PwC.

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