Incipio Group

Press Pergola

Evening Standard: Feast Canteen review: The belle of the mall

The chains are stuffed — and not in a good way. For the past half-dozen years, often fuelled by private-equity takeovers, they’ve been expanding into our high streets, chasing the growth in casual dining. In 2016 a YouGov survey confirmed that eating out is now Britain’s favourite leisure activity.

What could go wrong? Over-saturation, lack of originality, failure to maintain quality, cost-cutting to maximise returns — and recent rises in food and staff costs, rents and rates, while consumers have ever less to spend. That’ll do it.  

Jamie’s Italian, Byron and Prezzo are among the chains scrambling to close branches and “re-structure”. A sobering report on this phenomenon in The Guardian last week was remarkable for the number of comments it attracted — 2,472. Nearly all were complaints of bad meals and poor value. 

The pattern is familiar: the creation of a new restaurant, with initial growth more or less maintaining quality, followed by investors backing expansion, leading to the restaurants becoming travesties of themselves, soulless experiences, within just a few years.

How to break this cycle? A group called Incipio, created in 2014, is attempting this by creating sites that temporarily host a variety of new independent restaurants in funky, under-utilised and presumably low-cost locations. It began with Pergola on the Roof at Television Centre in White City in 2016. It attracted 90,000 visitors in 21 weeks.

In its prospectus for landlords looking to work with it, Incipio boldly promises near-miracles to anxious developers. “We can go into pretty much any area and create hype. We elevate areas with our offer.” Righty-ho.

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