Tunbridge Wells restaurants ‘hurt by mid-market over-saturation’

Tunbridge Wells restaurants 'hurt by mid-market over-saturation'

Independent restaurants are looking for new ways to attract lunchtime customers in the face of ‘mid-market over-saturation’.

Owners have reported a fall in covers during the day, which some have put down to customers having too much choice or overly-similar options.

Tunbridge Wells-based law firm Thomson Snell & Passmore published a survey last week which showed 67 per cent of restaurant owners who responded thought ‘over-saturation’ was hurting the industry.

Local restauranteurs told the Times that owners are considering coupon schemes and special offers to stay competitive.

Mark Harper, Owner of Rendez-Vous in Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells, said: ‘People are eating out more and they have got more choice, but this is not helping independent restaurants.

‘Lunchtimes seem to be quieter and it is something I have been talking about with other independents.

‘Chains are suffering more because of this. We have seen Strada move on and there are more restaurants than ever.

‘Business is diluted. It means we are still busy at lunchtimes, especially at weekends, but there has been a decrease on weekdays.

‘We have been down [on numbers] year on year recently, although we did have a better year last year.’

Thomson Snell & Passmore also said 83 per cent of respondents answered ‘yes’ to the question: ‘Do you see opportunities for your business emerging from the casual dining crunch?’

Mr Harper added: ‘Colleagues have used Groupon [a website where restaurateurs can offer customers deals] but I have resisted this.

‘We have our regulars and we work through it.’

As well as Strada, Jamie’s Italian has also recently closed in the town.

It has also been reported that mid-market chain Carluccio’s may also be closing stores.

But despite this, Magdalena Szczerbova, Manager of The Warren in High Street, Tunbridge Wells, believes chains are still at an advantage.

She said: ‘This year we have got less customers throughout the week and more at the weekend.

‘I think it is a shame there are so many chains in Tunbridge Wells who are able to force prices down. They are not going away any time soon.

‘To try and compete, recently I have brought in a deal where customers have the offer of having unlimited Prosecco for one hour.’

Alisa Sweeney, of Thomson Snell & Passmore, said: ‘The key takeaway from this survey is that, despite the challenges, local independent restaurants see room for revival and opportunities for their businesses.

‘The survey findings, especially the responses from the restaurant operators, are very positive and show that it’s not all doom and gloom.

‘The shifting sector is paving the way for smaller independent restaurant operators to establish themselves in the marketplace.’

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