There are now so many faux-Italian, pizza, and burger chains that it is often impossible to distinguish one from the other. Give me a local independent restaurant serving original food and providing good service any day of the week and I’d be happy to pay a decent premium.
There was a real cynicism to the land grab that occurred in many cases. Time and again, greedy owners, emboldened by the success of their first restaurant, become fixated with empire-building and creating “a brand”.
Too many make the fatal mistake of selling out to private equity, venture capitalists, or corporatisation – expanding too quickly, and inevitably sacrificing quality along the way, so that the characteristics that distinguished it in the first place are lost.
It is a soulless, commercialised version of cooking, barely a step up from Burger King in some instances, but many times more expensive and without the parking.
But as quickly as large numbers swept across the UK, seemingly opening a branch in every town they could find, swathes of sites may have to be abandoned just as quickly.
If everything favoured the big boom, now the opposite is true. Interest rates have shot up, ditto rents, and debt has become a lot more expensive, prompting a private equity retreat.
The pandemic delivered the first real major blow to a bloated industry, starving many over-stretched businesses of income.
Many city restaurants had been sustained by the office culture and workers on lunch breaks or eating out after work. With millions of people working from home, that trend is in danger of dying.
Meanwhile, weekend trade was propped up by people going out shopping but as the high street becomes increasingly hollowed out, there are fewer reasons for people to be on them in the first place.