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December 7, 2017updated 19 Dec 2017 12:17pm

Is the ‘burger boom’ turning into a burger bust?

Love it or hate it, burger chain Byron has been a key yardstick in casual dining in the UK since 2010, appealing to families and millennial professionals alike. The ‘posh burger’ chain has formerly exceled at riding the UK’s casual dining and fast casual wave. However, headwinds in the sector are making the chain look increasingly vulnerable to the pressures of the fickle casual dining sector.

By Maria Bracken

The chain is currently up for sale, following a run of poor results and is expected to receive bids of around £25m. This represents a dramatic fall in value since 2013, when the company was purchased for £100m by investment company Hutton Collins, owner of pan-Asian chain Wagamama.

According to Sky News, around a third of Byron’s 70 sites are reportedly either loss-making or only narrowly scraping a profit. Locations in Gateshead’s Metrocentre and Manchester’s Corn Exchange are earmarked for closure already as of November 2017 despite being in prime, high-traffic locations in both these cities.

Byron’s fate echoes that of Handmade Burger Co. earlier in 2017, the difference being that Handmade Burger was bought out of administration and scaled back operations, closing around a quarter of locations. Byron is a larger chain with 70 sites in comparison to handmade Burger’s 23, and may struggle to scale back operations in the same manner. Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Byron’s closest rival in the sector, has also seen a run of poor results since being bought by South African company Famous Brands in 2016, including a loss of around £900,000 in the first six months of 2017, according to City AM.

The clear conclusion that can be made is that the dining sector is beginning to move on from high-priced burgers; foodservice consumers appear to be bored of Byron, GBK and Handmade Burger’s offering. Other operators should pay attention.

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