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UK burger restaurants suffering losses, but is it good news for mobile caterers?




There was surprising news from the casual dining sector this week as it was reported that the main three main UK gourmet burger chains are struggling to maintain previous years' profits. Sky News reported that the owner of burger chain, Byron, is considering selling the chain which has 70 restaurants throughout the UK. The company which is owned by investment firm Hutton Collins has now launched a strategic review of the business.


Byron placed four sites on the market earlier this year in a cost cutting exercise as it became evident that the casual dining sector, despite having enjoyed unprecedented growth in recent years, is now struggling with financial pressures as a result of the national living wage and rising food costs.

Byron’s two core competitors, Handmade Burger Co and Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) have also experienced major setbacks; Handmade Burger Co announced in July that it had collapsed in to administration, whilst GBK has now confirmed it will be scaling back on its expansion plans following poor sales. Not to mention rising competition from the mobile catering industry.


In contrast, US burger chains such as Fatburger, Five Guys and Buffalo Express are all on track for expansion, which may mean that UK diners are as emphatic about the American burger as ever, only now they’re going straight to the source.

This appetite for authenticity is in keeping with what we’re seeing industry wide; customers are increasingly passionate about supporting independent businesses in their search for bona fide, honest, sustainable grub. Indeed, in areas such as Birmingham, London and Bristol where American burger chains are thriving, local foodies have long had an appetite for high-quality, American burgers thanks in no small part to traders such as Meat Liquor, Bleeker, The Meat Shack and Original Patty Men whose fresh, creative approach is in contrast to the gourmet burger trend of the early noughties; the gourmet burger trend in the UK, whilst undeniably revolutionary at the time, is now somewhat outdated and not in keeping with the public’s desire for innovative, thoughtful food.

In contrast to the UK burger restaurants currently in decline, acclaimed mobile caterers such as Bleeker, Original Patty Men and The Meat Shack are also on track for expansion. All three have experienced growth in recent months; the Meat Shack opened its first fixed site restaurant in Birmingham’s Southside in July 2017, Bleeker is set to expand its London sites and OPM will be opening a bar next to its widely successful restaurant in the not too distant future – a welcome addition no doubt for the many Brummies who happily wait in line for a taste of Brum’s premier burger every week.



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