Wriggle Set For Expansion After Successful Crowdfunding Drive

A company responsible for a restaurant booking app is planning to expand across the UK on the back of a crowdfunding drive which has raised more than £600,000.

Wriggle, which currently operates in Bristol, Cardiff and Brighton, has its sights set on a move into Birmingham in September, with other towns and cities also on the horizon.

The company was founded in 2014 as a solution to food waste for local independent businesses in Bristol, and now generates more than 20,000 transactions per month for restaurants, cafes, pubs and street food stalls.

The company has so far raised £669,000 with crowdfunding platform Seedrs.

Founder Rob Hall said: “We’re delighted with the public’s reaction to the crowdfunder – it was particularly great to see so many Wriggle users investing to claim a bit of Wriggle for themselves, and a real reward for all the hard work the whole team have poured into Wriggle.

“Having the backing of our own users and clients as well as other investors makes us feel even more confident as we embark on the next stage of our adventure, launching in new cities in 2019 and 2020.

“We’re thrilled that we smashed our initial target within the first two days, but we’re not resting on our laurels.

“We’re absolutely buzzing to continue Wriggle’s work in supporting the best local food and drink businesses across the country, and reclaim the nation’s high streets from the bland chains that sadly dominate these days.

“The key differentiator is that, on Wriggle, users purchase their products through our platform, rather than getting vouchers.

“That makes us a direct revenue-generating platform for our partner restaurants, but also means that we start gathering invaluable data on customer purchasing preferences (what they order, how much they’re willing to pay, what cuisines they’re looking for) – which we can give back to restaurants to help them optimise performance.

“The other key point is that we’ve built a sustainable profitable business model. In this space, we’ve seen a variety of competitors enter and then fall away, because they didn’t get a handle on the unit economics: you have to be adept at building large local audience cost efficiently.

“Wriggle has stayed focused on a few cities to do this – building thriving local city units – and we’re now in an excellent position to scale up.”Source: Insider Media Limited


March sunshine boosts trade for pubs and restaurants

March sunshine saw a 3.8% year-on-year boost in like-for-like sales for chain pubs and restaurants after the Beast from the East hit trade in 2018.

The sharpest year-on-year uplift was seen in London, which recorded a 5.5% increase, while the rest of the country saw sales increase by 3.3%, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker.

Karl Chessell, director of CGA – the business insight consultancy that produces the tracker in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM, said: “March last year was a month to forget when snow brought much of the country to a standstill. Both pubs and restaurants felt the effects with like-for-likes across the board down 3.1%, so these latest figures will be a relief as the sector regains lost ground.”

Pub groups outperformed restaurants in the period seeing a boost of 4%, while restaurant chains enjoyed an uplift of 3.6%. The majority of the increase for pubs was seen in drinks, where sales rose by 5.7% compared to 2.7% for food.

Chessell added: “The big test, of course, will come with the results for April and the Easter holidays. Last Easter was a bumper time for the sector with sales ahead 5.9% on the holiday weekend the year before, boosted by the fact that many people didn’t go out in March. The pressure to match that this time is now on.”

Trevor Watson, executive director of valuations at Davis Coffer Lyons, added: “These results show that revenue levels across the sector returned to March 2017 levels last month. The market remains challenging for many casual dining operators who continue to face unprecedented levels of competition. The wide variety of choice including the popularity of food halls, markets and pop-up street food offers around the country continues to draw custom away from conventional restaurant and pub outlets and are increasingly the social meeting place of choice for younger consumers.”

Total sales across the 52 companies in the tracker were ahead 6.1% compared to March 2018.Source: The Caterer


All the bars, restaurants and cafés Bristol lost in 2018

Running a successful and profitable business has never been tougher. Faced with soaring rents, business rate hikes and a shrinking customer base as people look to save money, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a profit in hospitality or in the night-time economy.Although Bristol’s food and drink scene is one of the best in the UK and frequently attracts praise, we’ve still lost an alarming number of restaurants, pubs and bars since the turn of the year. A number of chains in the city have struggled, while some independent restaurants have also shut up shop either as a result of tight finances or to pursue other interests completely.We take a look at the business we’ve said goodbye to in 2018. Hopefully the trend slows down next year…Kate & Kim’s Kitchen
The Bierkeller
Star & Garter
The Eating Room
Salt Cafe
Jamie’s Italian
Big Juice
Le Poivrot
The Smoke Haus
The Parlour
Pi Shop
VelindreSource: Bristol Live


UK restaurant closures reach ‘epidemic’ levels

The number of restaurants filing for insolvency in the UK has nearly doubled over the last eight years, according to accountancy firm Moore Stephens, with the uncertainty over Brexit and rising business rates contributing to a cocktail of pressures.

The number of restaurants filing for insolvency in the UK has nearly doubled over the last eight years.

Accountancy firm Moore Stephens says in 2017/18 there were 1,219 restaurant insolvencies, up 24% on the year before and nearly double the rate seen in 2010/11. It blamed overcapacity at a time when Britons are eating out less.

Corroborating a steady decline throughout the restaurant sector, last week a report by Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners revealed that the number of restaurants in Britain fell by 2% in 2018, the equivalent of more than 10 closures a week.

Up until 2018 the dining scene had shown a year on year increase, with the number of restaurants totalling 26,892 from January to September 2018. From January to September 2018, 539 restaurants in Britain have closed.

Of those closures, independently-owned restaurants bore the brunt, with numbers falling by 2.6% from the start of 2018 to September, with family-owned Chinese, Indian and Italian restaurants seeing the most closures.

As reported by Sky News, Jeremy Willmont, head of restructuring and insolvency at Moore Stephens, said closures in the restaurant sector were now at “epidemic” levels, and at their highest level since it began tracking the sector in 2010.

“The impact is visible on almost every high street of a major town or city,” he said. “In the wake of Brexit uncertainty and interest rate rises, it seems consumers are tightening their belts and discretionary spending is the first thing to go.”

In 2018, a spate of big restaurant chains were forced to strike rescue deals – known as company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) – with their creditors as they faced unsustainable debts.

Jamie’s Italian, Strada and Byron have all closed branches amid challenging trading conditions, while the Gourmet Burger Kitchen has said it would shut 17 sites. Carluccios is shutting 34 outlets, while Prezzo has said it would close 94, as well as all 33 outlets of its Tex-Mex brand Chimichanga.

Willmont blamed an influx of private equity investment into restaurant chains leading to some opening too many sites which fail to break even for the over saturation of the cast-casual market, as well as a general slow-down in consumer spending.Source: The Drinks Business


Restaurants fail for many reasons – don’t try to pin this on millennials

The charge against millennials is harder to stand up. A report in the Times yesterday blamed the collapse on “fickle diners”, who prefer pop-ups or high-concept new restaurants to high-street chains. These fickle diners were previously known as “discerning customers” – especially at free-market loving newspapers. From a market perspective, young people are flexible, curious and well informed. Eating out is expensive; it’s hardly a surprise they are picky.

Where their parents might return to the same average curry house or ersatz brasserie, a new generation has grown up on cheap travel around Europe, easy recommendations through social media, and the ability to quickly check on their phone if there is somewhere better round the corner. There is almost always somewhere better than Jamie’s Italian.

While it is tempting to see the collapse of the high street as a one-off, partly it is an ancient tale of oversupply. Thousands of restaurants have opened in recent years. Many, including some of the high-profile failures, have been fuelled by speculative private equity funds. These investors travel the country looking for “concepts” to “roll out”. The logic is obvious. Restaurants cost a lot to outfit and open. A large cash injection allows for rapid expansion, while scale offers savings on cost. Inevitably some will fail. Looking at the fallen, it is hard to feel too sad. Gaucho, Byron, GBK and Carluccio’s have been sorry experiences for years. If Brexit or millennials have played a part in the demise of these chains, that’s entirely in their favour.

The question of what makes a good restaurant – whether it is a neighbourhood favourite or a global chain – is more complicated. Hospitality is an elusive quality. Partly it is in the details. Pret, Wetherspoons and McDonald’s are popular for much the same reasons as Rules or the Ritz or the pizza place round the corner: reliability. You know what you are going to get every time you go in. Other restaurants thrive on novelty: it is hard to imagine a branch of Otto’s, a restaurant in Clerkenwell where the proprietor crushes a whole duck in front of you in a silver press, on every high street.

Every restaurant, however, has had to factor in the rise of the delivery services Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Their success has contributed to the difficult trading conditions on the high street but created opportunities, too. In ordering from them, you get the same food as in the restaurant, at the same prices, but without the hassle of leaving the house or the risk that a waiter is having an off day. The atmosphere at home is always the same. This is self-fulfilling, in some places. An endless stream of helmet-clad delivery drivers traipsing through your favourite ramen bar can be offputting. But the range available through these apps highlights one of the key aspects of today’s market: whatever your price point, there is no longer any excuse for a bad meal.

For successful operators who want to spread their wings, the trick is how to grow while remaining hip. It is a tricky balance. Dishoom, the small Indian chain, routinely has queues for breakfast, lunch and dinner at each of its sites. For now, they have just about kept their cool, at least outside Hackney, but it will be interesting to see how long that lasts.

Not everyone seeks this kind of growth. One of my favourite local restaurants, Max’s Sandwich Shop in Crouch Hill, London, has a concept – delicious homemade sandwiches – that is eminently roll-outable. Its owner, Max Halley, has no doubt been deluged with offers, but the man won’t budge. “For me, the purpose of running a restaurant is for it to remain a joy, not become something bigger on a broader scale that has to have all its margins crushed to make any money at all,” he says. “Surely one busy restaurant is better than five less busy ones? I don’t understand why people do it to themselves.”

I remember the first time I went to Byron, in 2009 or so, around the time the restaurant woke up one morning and found itself famous. There were only a couple of sites. I had read the fawning reviews and was excited to try it. There was a buzz in the room. The staff were cool. The burger was delicious. I went back, but over the years it grew less and less reliable. The courgette fries, once hot and crispy, became increasingly slug-like. In time, I stopped going. Other, better burgers were available at the same price. Times are tough for British restaurateurs, but for diners they have never been better.

There are plenty of reasons restaurants are closing: oversupply, rates, rents, the cost of ingredients, staff shortages, diminished quality. They are not closing because of pop-ups, and nor is it the fault of the paying customers, millennial or otherwise. Perhaps more of these places would survive if they paid attention to the cardinal rule of hospitality: the guest comes first.Source: The Guardian


Eight restaurants, pubs and bars are closing every day

About eight restaurants, pubs and bars have closed every day for the last year, according to the latest edition of the Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners.

The monitor showed that Britain had 3,116 fewer licensed premises in June 2018 than it had 12 months earlier, marking a 2.5% decline.

The rate of closures appears to have almost doubled since the last edition of the monitor was published months ago.

Wales has seen the most pronounced decline, with 3% of licensed premises closing, while a 2.3% fall was seen in London. The smallest fall, of 1%, was recorded in the West Midlands.

The monitor showed that community pubs continued to account for the majority of closures, although restaurant numbers have started to fall following a period of growth that saw their numbers increase by 11% in five years.

Challenges in the restaurant sector, including fierce competition, flat like-for-like sales and escalating input costs, have claimed a number of casualties in 2018, although some ambitious fledgling brands have continued to expand.

The monitor reports that operators are increasingly looking to open sites beyond London and the south east. In the last year the number of branded restaurants outside the M25 increased by 5.9%, compared to 1.5% within it.

CGA vice-president Peter Martin said: “Given the multitude of challenges facing the sector at the moment, it is no surprise to find that the pace of licensed premises closures is increasing.

“People continue to eat and drink out, and new and exciting restaurant, pub and bar brands are still achieving impressive growth. But competition from these dynamic start-ups, rising costs and the fickle nature of many consumers are combining to turn up the heat on established restaurant brands. In the current climate, standing still is simply not an option.”

AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith added: “The monitor tells the story of a market responding to current pressures. Restaurant expansion is still on the agenda for some companies, particularly in those locations across the UK that have previously been under-served by casual dining operators, but management teams and investors need to carefully consider their opening strategies.

“When it comes to pubs, operators with a well-executed food offer remain attractive, and those who add accommodation to the mix are under the spotlight of investors looking to businesses with more diversified revenue streams and broader trading windows.”Source: The Caterer


51% of Chefs added vegan dishes to their menu in 2018, study finds

As an increasing number of people adopt plant-based diets around the world, restaurants and chefs are eager to cater to the growing trend by creating vegan menu options.

In 2018, 51 per cent of chefs in the United States added vegan items to their menus, according to a new study by food industry insight company Foodable Labs.

The 31 per cent rise in plant-based menu items from last year may be partly due to the influence of social media food-bloggers, the study found.

According to the study, tagged and shared photos of vegan foods have increased by 79 per cent in the last year and nearly half of influencers have requested more plant-based options at restaurants.

But apart from giving customers what they want, the move to add more vegan food is also profitable – as the last year has seen a 300 per cent increase in the number of people who identify as vegans in the US.

In just one year, restaurant owners saw a 13 per cent increase in business in response to adding vegan options.

The trend of eating foods solely made from plants has also extended to ordering in – GrubHub, the nation’s leading takeaway delivery service reported that vegan dishes saw a 17 per cent increase in 2017.

For suppliers of meat-alternatives, the change in perception of a vegan diet from uncommon to mainstream has resulted in an ever-increasing demand.Source: The Independent


More than a third of UK’s top 100 restaurant chains are losing money

More than a third of the UK’s top 100 restaurant chains are now loss-making, underscoring the intense fight for survival faced by some of the sector’s best-known names.

Data compiled by accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young has found that 35 of the UK’s top 100 restaurant groups are in the red, marking a 75 per cent surge on the equivalent number this time last year, with no sign of respite.

On Friday, Prezzo announced it would close 94 restaurants. Also in recent weeks, Jamie’s Italian and burger outlet Byron have both launched rescue plans that will lead to branch closures and lower rents being negotiated with landlords. Strada closed 11 sites in January while another Jamie Oliver venture, Barbecoa, collapsed into administration in mid-February.

Britain is oversaturated with “fast casual” dining chains on overcrowded high streets, UHY said. A rising minimum wage, apprenticeship levies, a weak pound and surging popularity of delivery services have also crippled balance sheets.

Peter Kubik, a partner at UHY Hacker Young, said there was “little respite on the horizon” for restaurant chains. “Pressures on the restaurant sector have been building for years, and the last year has pushed a number of major groups to breaking point,” he said.

“With Brexit hanging over consumers like a dark cloud, restaurants can’t expect a bailout from a surge in discretionary spending,” he added.

He said that “consumers only have a finite amount of spending power when it comes to eating out” and that the “oversaturation of the market means that groups that fall foul of changing trends can very easily fail”.

“The Government has ratcheted up costs with a series of above-inflation rises in the minimum wage, and we are just weeks away from another 4.4 per cent rise in April. That will be tough for a lot of restaurants to absorb,” Mr Kubik added. The news follows research from Moore Stephens that found 20 per cent of restaurants, or 14,800 outlets, are threatened with closure. The number of restaurants declaring insolvency has rose by 13 per cent in the year ending March 2017, according to the study.Source: The Independent

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