Supporting Manchester’s Restaurant Industry

Supporting Manchester’s restaurant industry is one of our prime motivations at Manchester Bites. There’s never been a more critical time for the industry than that at present. Businesses have clung on by their finger nails through covid and then the cost of living crisis.
The start of 2024 has seen the closure of more restaurants in our city and it’s not just the smaller operations. Here we take a look at what’s been happening and perhaps what we can do to help.

A Worrying Start to 2024

Manchester has been known for many things in it’s history. Birthplace of industry and home to some of the best music bands and sports teams in the country. More recently the city has gained a reputation as having some of the best dining outside of London. From uber trendy sushi joints to the Instagramable names of The Ivy and Sexy Fish, no longer is Manchester a backwater for the discernible diner.

We are blessed with some serious local talent. Simon Martin at our very own Michelin recognised Mana, Michael Clay just down the road at Elnecot and now Tom Barnes with his exciting opening of Skof mean that Manchester is a force to be reckoned with on the dining scene of the UK. Add to this the countless smaller businesses and locally run food heroes and we’re really lucky to have such a scene.

Unfortunately, the start of 2024 has seen a very worrying pattern not emerge but grow. Restaurant closures. This has been happening since Covid but perhaps now it seems more worrying with big names and long-term businesses shutting up shop.

We’re not just talking about the smaller operations. Just last month the doors closed on a south Manchester institution Greens in Didsbury. Helmed by TV chef Simon Rimmer, the restaurant has been a go to in the city’s vegetarian community for 33 years and introduced unique flavours to herbivores and carnivores alike. On the closure of his restaurant Rimmer said

“Our landlords have increased our rent by on the region of 35%. The cost of raw materials, the cost of heat, light and power, employing people and generous food costs had meant that the business unfortunately has become unviable”

Just this week we have lost a restaurant and deli that was well loved by guests on our Canals to Canapes food tour. Lily’s deli in Ancoats (pictured) closed it’s doors for good on 13th January. Whilst it’s original branch in Ashton and the Chorlton branch are still open, we will miss the staff and of course the food at this little gem of a place. Another locally run business that just couldn’t justify remaining open.

Why is This Happening ?

The closure of restaurants in Manchester is also reflective of evolving consumer behaviors, with a growing preference for food delivery and takeout services. The convenience of ordering from the comfort of home, has prompted a shift in how some people choose to enjoy their meals. As a result, many restaurants, especially smaller establishments without robust delivery infrastructure, have struggled to adapt to this changing landscape.

Additionally, the rise of virtual kitchens and ghost kitchens has added a new dimension to the competition, further squeezing traditional dine-in restaurants. These establishments, operating without a physical storefront, can often offer lower prices and a more streamlined operation, posing a formidable challenge to brick-and-mortar restaurants in Manchester.

Rising Rents and Property Prices:

Manchester’s urban landscape has been undergoing a transformation in recent years, with gentrification driving up property prices and rents. This has placed an additional burden on restaurant owners, especially those located in popular and trendy neighborhoods. As property values soar, many restaurants are faced with the difficult decision of whether to absorb the increased costs or pass them on to consumers in the form of higher menu prices.

For smaller, independently owned restaurants, the rising cost of real estate can be particularly detrimental. The closure of such establishments not only diminishes the city’s culinary diversity but also erodes the unique character that these smaller ventures bring to Manchester’s neighborhoods.

Business rates, VAT, food costs, wages. Everything is up. Last year in a local news article Sud pasta (now Rigotonis) explained what the costs were involved in their “house pasta”dish. The dish cost £16.50 and after all costs the restaurant made 50p. Think about that for a moment. If you had to get up every morning and work hard to keep your standards high, your reputation in tact and your staff all employed. Wouldn’t you want more than 50p per dish for your efforts?

Community Impact

Beyond the economic implications, the closure of restaurants in Manchester has a profound impact on the community. These establishments serve as social hubs, contributing to the city’s identity and fostering a sense of local pride. The loss of these gathering spaces creates not only a void in the culinary landscape but also a gap in the social fabric of the city.

We pride ourselves on being a friendly city. This is so apparent with the warm welcomes we receive on a daily basis when taking our food tours into businesses such as The Butcher’s Quarter on Tib street or This n That café. We feel almost like family and the community spirit that is created amongst the restaurant industry seaps into every customer.

When restaurants close we don’t just loose a place to eat we loose familiar faces, friendly smiles and a genuine pillar of the communities. We lose a place to come together, celebrate special occasions, or simply enjoy a meal with loved ones. The closure of these establishments resonates beyond economic statistics, touching the hearts of residents who have forged memories and connections within the walls of their favorite restaurants.

The worrying surge in restaurant closures in Manchester is a multifaceted issue rooted in economic challenges, changing consumer behaviors, rising costs, and community impact. As the city grapples with these closures, it becomes crucial for stakeholders, including local authorities, business owners, and residents, to collaborate in finding sustainable solutions to revive and support the beleaguered hospitality industry.

What can we do?

The resilience of Manchester’s culinary scene lies in the ability to adapt, innovate, and collectively work towards ensuring that the city’s diverse dining experiences continue to thrive. We have amazing people, doing amazing things and getting little if any reward. This won’t continue. We all need to be supporting Manchester’s restaurant industry.

We can all do a little bit to help this year. Have that lunch catch up you’ve been meaning to have for months, celebrate that milestone, order take aways directly from the restaurant and if possible, go and collect. All small things but if we all do them, we can help.

Prices will increase but you can be guaranteed that every restaurant owner and manager will be doing their upmost to make sure that service is on top form and that your experience is reflected in those increases. We speak to countelss business owners in the industry and one thing that ties them all together is the reluctance to pass these costs on to the end customer. But needs must and if we’re to keep enjoying Manchester’s food and nightlife economy as we all love to, we need to be aware of this.

Of course, the main people who really can make a difference here are the government. Ending ridiculous business rates and giving tax breaks to an industry which employs over half a million people directly and millions more indirectly.  The restaurant industry has been battered more than most in the past few years and the help from above is pitiful.

How many more loved restaurants need to close before our communities are just a generic copy type full of Starbucks, Pizza Express and Nando’s?

A group of food tour guests visit Lily's in Ancoats. Now sadly closed.