Bella Italia has published a Notice of Intention to appoint administrators.
The chain was one of the high street’s most prominent places to eat, serving classic Italian cuisine at a time when credit was easy and demand was high. As lockdown reaches its second month in the UK, Bella Italia is now set to become yet another victim, with the chain on the brink of complete collapse.
The restaurant sector has been one of the hardest hit by the continuing lockdown first implemented in March 2020, in order to halt the spread of COVID-19. Owned by the Casual Dining Group (CDG), which also holds Café Rouge and Las Iguanas, Bella Italia has a total of over 90 restaurants.
As consumers spend more time indoors with interest and availability of takeaway food limited, Bella Italia is another high-profile chain which will require a helping hand to keep it from vanishing altogether
Curtains for another chain?
The CDG issued a Notice of Intention, published on its own website, detailing its plans to work in concert with is advisors, as they plan out the next steps for Bella Italia, alongside Las Iguanas and Café Rouge, whose futures are also in doubt.
Bella Italia’s owners expressed a belief that the current situation is “very much business as usual”, before adding that the CDG looked forward to finally being able to reopen its restaurants. Unfortunately for many chains, time is no ally, and the longer lockdown goes on for, the less likely they are to survive without outside assistance.
The plight of Bella Italia follows on from the pre-existing trend of fewer chains in operation. Jaimie’s Italian famously disappeared from the UK high street altogether in 2019, having amassed high levels of debt, with menus judged to be uncompetitively priced relative to rival chains. High business rates could be a factor which has already been pushing some restaurants out of business, but lockdown could simply by the final straw for some.
Hope for Bella Italia
Bella Italia has faced a rollercoaster ride over the years, with controversy erupting in 2009 over the way the chain handled tips for waiting staff. In addition, the chain initially faced criticism for a lack of sustainable sourcing of seafood. However, by 2017, Bella Italia bounced back, changing its practices, ensuring that it ranked second in Fish2Fork’s guide on fish sourcing.
Bella Italia flourished as a name on the high street, at a time when it was cheaper for chains to set up business with low interest rates and easy access to the credit needed. If Bella Italia is to make a recovery following the lockdown, the level of business rates is sure to be a factor determining its fortunes for the coming years.
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