Monday, September 12, 2022 3:20 p.m.
Restaurants that shift to more seasonal menus could be the “silver lining” for soaring food prices, said Gaucho boss Martin Williams.
Hospitality venues have been forced to contend with rising vegetable and protein prices this year, on top of energy bill hikes which bosses say pose an existential threat to the sector.
However, the chef of Rare Restaurants – which owns steak restaurant chains M and Gaucho – said CityA.M. these pressures can push chefs to make more eco-friendly menu decisions
Restaurants forced to be more aware of seasonal produce were “not necessarily a bad thing,” Williams said. CityA.M.
The restaurateur pointed to the French model, “where you’ll have asparagus two months a year” and said the world needs to “stop eating so many avocados” anyway.
If high prices pushed the industry to be more environmentally conscious, then it was “at least a silver lining” of the current pressures facing venues.
“This is a time when the industry needs to be brave,” Williams said, praising the restaurant industry’s progress toward net zero over the past two years.
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However, eco-friendly options won’t be the “key to success” for businesses, with headwinds rising to record highs, Williams added.
Pubs have reported increases of around 400% in their energy bills, with many forced to switch to emergency day rates due to difficulties negotiating affordable long-term contracts.
Martin echoed calls from industry for increased government support as the colder months approach, such as a reduction in VAT, relief from business tariffs and a relaxation of green levy payments to ease the burden of rising energy prices.
Energy prices were rising to such a large level that it “basically wipes out any profitability for restaurants that haven’t frozen or been lucky enough to get fixed rates for a long period of time,” said Williams.
Prime Minister Liz Truss said last week that there would be a six-month program providing support “equivalent” to that provided to households, who will benefit from an energy price cap.
However, industry bosses have said they are awaiting more details on this scheme and have called for additional support measures as sites try to recover from the side effects of Covid lockdowns.
Rare Restaurants fixed energy prices at 22 sites but would otherwise have suffered a £3.5million drop in profitability.
“To maintain margins, that would mean steak prices would have to triple over £100,” the Gaucho boss said earlier this month.
Financial pressures have led consumers to “eat out less, but when they do, they eat out better,” Williams said.
Rare’s restaurant estate, which has just seen a new M venue open in Canary Wharf, had been a ‘beneficiary’ of diner premiumisation.
Diners were eager to prioritize quality and seasonality, making a “conscious decision” to opt for a carbon-neutral steak, he said.
However, the sector as a whole was facing a slowdown in consumer spending that would continue due to high wage inflation, the restaurateur acknowledged.