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Fall of restaurant chains 'opens door to independents' says Ipswich restaurateur

PUBLISHED: 16:01 10 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:01 10 June 2019

Peter Gwizdala,  managing director of bar, café and dining venue Arlingtons  Picture: ELLEN WIDDUP

Peter Gwizdala, managing director of bar, café and dining venue Arlingtons Picture: ELLEN WIDDUP

Ellen Widdup

The closure of a raft of chain restaurants could present an opportunity for independents which are more adaptable and can keep a tight rein on their costs, the owner of an Ipswich dining establishment says.

Peter Gwizdala, who owns Arlingtons in Museum Street, said chain restaurant closures across the UK's high streets, including Prezzo, Chimichanga and Giraffe, and the recent collapse of Jamie Oliver's restaurant group, show an inability to react to change.

All restaurant businesses are under pressure from food prices, which have risen dramatically over the past few months and national minimum wage increases, he said, but argued independents are better able to absorb the added costs.

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"It's sad for all those who worked at Jamie Oliver's restaurants, but I hope that some independents may be able to take on a few of the trained staff," he said.

"As I see it, his restaurants were built upon the fact and hope that his name would bring in the business, and perhaps it did at the start, but at the end of the day restaurants have to be led by people who not only have a passion for food, but who can react to changes in costs and tastes. Independents have that ability."

He added: "It is when there is a gradual and constant increase that the bubble bursts which is what, it seems, has happened to Jamie Oliver's chain."

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Restaurants are operating in a competitive market, and have to cope with changing consumer trends, including a move towards ordering takeaways and eating at home, he said.

But independents like his know what goes into their food and are able to change their menus regularly to reflect the food available on the market, he said.

Businesses like Arlingtons, which is set in a Grade II-listed building, can also keep a tight rein on costs, unlike chains which struggle to be as responsive to volumes and food trends, he pointed out.

"The chains just cannot compete - even with their mighty buying power," he said.

"I went to a mid-range high street chain recently and had the carpaccio of beef which was really very good.

"When I asked the waiter what cut of beef it was, having asked the chef, he replied: 'I don't know guys, it didn't say on the packet'."

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