Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is closing Bristol restaurant

Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is closing Bristol restaurant River Cottage Kitchen after seven years of trading as he becomes latest victim of ‘dining industry crisis’

  • Fearnley-Whittingstall, 55, is known for presenting his River Cottage TV series
  • The chef owned three River Cottage Kitchen restaurants in Bristol, Axminster and Winchester but has reluctantly decided to close the Bristol site altogether
  • The closure is yet another blow for Britain’s struggling high street food chains

Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is the latest high-profile restaurateur to close a business as the high-street dining crisis continues.

The demise of River Cottage Kitchen in Clifton, Bristol, after seven years of trading, has been blamed on ‘rising costs and challenging market conditions’.

The River Cottage Kitchen closure comes as the owners of other restaurants, such as Chiquito, Pizza Express, Frankie and Benny’s, and, most famously, Jamie’s Italian have all been forced to close outlets or go into administration. 

The closure of River Cottage Kitchen, Bristol again proves that even famous names don’t provide immunity against the high-street dining crisis. 

Jamie’s Italian, founded by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, went into administration last year owing £83million. 

The celebrity chef is best known for his River Cottage TV series and his successful cookbooks

Hugh, 55, expressed his disappointment at the closure of the Bristol restaurant (pictured) but said the move will enable the business to concentrate on its sites in Axminster and Winchester

More and more of Britain’s most familiar of brands are disappearing from the high-streets for good. Restaurant chains and department stores that were once household names and taken for granted are now fighting for their survival. 

Hugh, 55, expressed his disappointment at the closure but said the move will enable the business to concentrate on its sites in Axminster and Winchester, and an expansion of ‘River Cottage HQ’ in Devon.

In a statement on the River Cottage’s website, he said: ‘Following a full review of our business we have made the difficult decision to cease trading at our Bristol site.

‘We’ve had a wonderful seven years in Bristol and I am deeply saddened that we cannot find a way to continue trading here.

‘I have a strong personal connection to Bristol, having lived here just around the corner from the restaurant for most of the last 4 years.

‘I very much hope that River Cottage will return to the city in the future.

‘I would like to thank our amazing team who have worked tirelessly over the years making our restaurant a fantastic place to eat and drink.’ 

He added: ‘We will be open until 27 March and until then we very much look forward to welcoming guests as warmly as ever. Please come in and say goodbye. 

Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant chain was founded in 2008 and soon swelled the company’s presence to 40 outlets nationwide – but it collapsed last year owing a staggering £83million

River Cottage Holdings, the restaurants’ parent company, is expect to report significant losses for the second year in a row. 

In addition to holding the the three River Cottage Kitchen restaurants, the company also holds the licenses to the celeb chef’s cookbooks and cookery school.  

The company’s accounts filed with Companies House say a major shareholder loaned the company £3.1million as cash injection.  

But the the directors admit in the accounts that ‘further action may be required’ to stop losses. 

Rising staff costs and high business rates mean restaurateurs are finding it harder and harder to turn a living on Britain’s ravaged high-streets. 

Hours after the collapse of Jamie’s Italian, the celeb chef’s flagship London restaurant was cleared out by bailiffs

In 2019, Jamie Oliver closed all 22 outlets of Jamie’s Italian. Baliffs were seen clearing out the the celeb chef’s flagship London restaurant after liquidators announced it was unlikely creditors would get back up to £83million. 

Only three Jamie’s Italian restaurants remain. 

Several other restaurant chains are rapidly closing their least successful outlets to stave off going into administration or move their accounts back into the black. 

Prezzo, Byron, Carluccio’s, Gaucho and Gourmet Burger Kitchen have all made the decision to shut branches. 

Which restaurants are closing amid the high street dining crisis? 

The move to close Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito’s outlets comes amid a bloodbath which is sweeping Britain’s high street.

The most prominent collapse in 2019 was of TV chef Jamie Oliver’s chain Jamie’s Italian in May, which had run up £71.5million in debt.

Its closure led to the loss of more than 1,000 jobs, prompting the chef to say he was ‘devastated’ and ‘deeply saddened by the outcome’. 

The move to close Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito’s outlets comes amid a bloodbath which is sweeping Britain’s high street. Pictured: Jamie’s Italian collapsed in May last year

And in March last year,chains Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner revealed that their owner  plans to close a third of the brand’s sites.

Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) announced that a total of 27 out of its 87 restaurants would close. 

It bought Giraffe from Tesco in 2016 and combined it with Ed’s Easy Diner after acquiring the chain that same year.

Underlying losses of £1.6million that hit the combined entity were revealed in its most recently available annual accounts.

Giraffe (pictured) is among the casualties of the bloodbath sweeping the British high street

Last year, several casual dining brands closed sites amid rising costs and tougher competition.

Prezzo, Byron, Carluccio’s, Gaucho and Gourmet Burger Kitchen all shut branches. 

In November, creditors of Gourmet Burger Kitchen approved a plan to close 17 of the premium burger chain’s restaurants, putting around 250 jobs at risk.

South Africa’s Famous Brands, which acquired GBK in 2016 for £120 million, has previously unveiled stinging losses at the burger chain.

The firm said in October that it would take a pre-tax impairment charge of 874 million rand (£47.2 million) due to the brand’s sustained under-performance. Also in 2018, Prezzo announced that 94 of its 300 outlets will close.

KPMG found the number of restaurants experiencing significant financial distress was 11,091 in March 2018, up 8 per cent on a year earlier. 

 

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