The global recession is hitting the European restaurant sector from all sides, with both top-end restaurants and family-friendly chains facing a struggle, experts have warned.
The French restaurant market has been hit especially badly, with turnover at Michelin-starred restaurants dropping by as much as 50% in the first three months of this year, an industry group revealed last week.
The Syndicat des Hôteliers, Cafetiers, Restaurateurs et Traiteurs (Synhorcat) said income at French restaurants had fallen between 20% and 50% from January to March, with Michelin-starred and high-end restaurants suffering the most serious decline.
"Traditional restaurants have been the worst hit and, at the top level, the turnover has fallen by a half," Synhorcat said. "Business meals have been sacrificed to reduce costs, but also because of the tense social climate."
A separate report on the UK eating out sector, released last week, revealed that 75% of British families would be less likely to eat or drink out over the next 12 months. Buckingham Research, which carried out the survey of 600 consumers, said restaurants should focus on value for money to continue to attract the important family market, a point echoed by the British Hospitality Association.
However, while many top-end UK restaurants have seen a drop in trade, the sharp fall in turnover at French restaurants is unlikely to happen here, according to restaurant consultant Roy Ackerman.
"Takings falling by 50% is extraordinary and perhaps reflects more about France itself than the trade," he said. "The comment referring to ‘tense social climate' also reflects the difference in mentality between the French and the British. People here may not be spending as much as they were, but the worst I have come across in the past three months is a reduction of 8-10% at the top end."
By Kerstin Kühn
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