More Melbourne fine dining restaurants will close in 2019: industry expert

A number one restaurant marketing consultant has warned that extra Melbourne fine-dining institutions will close given native and international financial headwinds, following the demise of Prahran’s Woodland House this week.

Woodland House is the newest Melbourne fine diner to close in 2019, preceded by names together with Highline on the Railway Hotel and Ramblr.

Restaurant marketing consultant Tony Eldred stated monetary nervousness brought on by Australia’s sluggish financial system and the United States-China commerce stand-off had compounded the woes of fine dining eateries, which make solely modest income even in extra buoyant occasions.

Thomas Woods (L) and Hayden McFarland took over the area to open Woodlands House from their mentor, Reymond.  Photo: Darrian Traynor

“Yes, you can [expect more fine dining closures in Melbourne],” he stated. “The longer the financial uncertainty goes, the extra finer dining house owners  who’re simply hanging in there will drop off one after the other.

“Most of the top-end restaurants are literally struggling financially or making little or no. It does not take a lot to tip them over the sting.”

On Thursday Woodland House owner-chefs Hayden McFarland and Thomas Woods announced their restaurant would shut. They had purchased out their mentor, Jacques Reymond, in 2014.

The Mayfair quietly closed over the 2018-2019 summer.
The Mayfair quietly closed over the 2018-2019 summer time.  Photo: Simon Schluter

The grand gold rush-era Prahran property had been house to Reymond’s eponymous restaurant for 23 years.

“We held out as long as we could, hoping for a magic wand to be waved at us, but we couldn’t carry on,” McFarland stated.

“We just weren’t seeing the numbers through the doors in the function room upstairs … We’ve done our absolute best to ensure our small suppliers got paid.”

Eldred stated fine-dining restaurants have been typically propped up by the fortunes of decrease market eateries owned by the identical restaurateurs or buyers.

“Opening a single fine-dining restaurant is certainly not a way to get rich,” he stated. “They have huge costs involved from decor, to table setting, to salaries and ingredients. But they can’t proportionally charge to cover that, unlike in Europe where fine-dining restaurants command more money.”

However McFarland argued Woodland House’s closure didn’t sign the top of fine dining.

Ramblr, on Chapel Street, shut in March this year.
Ramblr, on Chapel Street, shut in March this yr.  Photo: Guy Lavoipierre

“But maybe people don’t want to do it in a 120-year-old mansion,” he stated.

Worrells Solvency & Forensic Accountants Matthew Kucianski stated they have been “seeing increasing pressures in the hospitality space and the stresses felt by Woodland House are not unique”.

The Reymond household nonetheless owns the property. A spokesperson says: “Jacques and Kathy are supportive of anyone with a vision who wants to do something amazing.”

CBRE meals and beverage property expert Zelman Ainsworth stated to be viable in Melbourne lately restaurants wanted to transcend delivering excellent meals and repair.

“Entertainment businesses like Funlab (owners of Holey Moley, Strike Bowling, Juke’s Karaoke Bar) fuse food and beverage with entertainment. Hoyts and Village Cinema are doing it too,” Ainsworth stated.

“That’s the next big phase – where you go out for dinner but there’s also another aspect. It isn’t just eat and leave; it’s eat and be entertained.”

Restaurant design is one other drawcard, with open kitchens and weird places comparable to rooftops, hidden laneways and secret doorways turning into a part of the expertise, he stated.

Ainsworth and Eldred agreed that the rise of premium-casual restaurants, which serve high-quality meals at decrease costs whereas turning over tables faster than fine-dining restaurants and at decrease costs, had modified the Melbourne meals scene over the previous 15 years.

Eldred cited restaurateur Andrew McConnell’s Flinders Lane all-day restaurant Cumulus Inc for instance. “It isn’t fine dining but is considered to be value for money. Places like that will be doing OK. Compare that to the fine-dining scene, the value for money is a lot better.”

Restaurant closures in 2019

Highline on the Railway Hotel, Windsor. Closed March 16. Now used as personal dining rooms.

Long Chim, Southbank. Closed July eight. Replaced by Ging Thai.

Ramblr, South Yarra. Closed March 2. Leo’s by the Slice pizzeria and bar is opening in the area in late July.

Rockwell & Sons, Collingwood. Closed June 2. New idea coming in late September.

Woodland House, Prahran. Closed July 10. Seeking a purchaser.

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