Edinburgh restaurants ‘suffocated’ by chain invasions

David Ramsden says St Andrew Square is particularly badly affected
David Ramsden says St Andrew Square is particularly badly affected
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INDEPENDENT restaurants in the Capital are being suffocated by the growing presence of chains in the city centre – according to the owner of a top-rated Edinburgh eatery.

David Ramsden says a “proliferation of chains and pop-ups”, particularly in the area around St Andrew Square, is forcing a number of restaurateurs to consider their future as they struggle to make ends meet.

Argentine steakhouse Gaucho became the latest brand to open in the new £90 million development of the Standard Life building back in November, joining the likes of Italian restaurant Vapiano and Bombay-style café Dishoom at the renovated site.

However, Mr Ramsden, who owns popular Hanover Street bistro The Dogs, said the “over-provision” of outlets in the area was stifling the Capital’s culinary offering.

He said: “What we are seeing really is a perfect storm in a lot of ways.

“We have this proliferation of pop-ups and chain restaurants, a complete over-provision especially around St Andrew Square, but at the Charlotte Square end too. Then we have people with less money in their pocket, so they are more inclined to go for cheaper food that they recognise.

“Our takings over Christmas and New Year were probably among the lowest they’ve ever been. We have scaled our 
pricing back to the levels they were at in 2009 – that’s the lengths we are having to go to in order to stay here.”

Mr Ramsden launched the original Dogs at its current location in 2007, with three others opening across the city, though they have since closed.

He also previously owned the highly-rated Morrison Street eatery Rogue, on Lothian Road, before the restaurant closed its doors in late 2004.

Asian restaurant Wagamama and Drake & Morgan-owned The Refinery were among the others to take over premises in the St Andrew Square development, while celebrity hotspot The Ivy opened in the autumn.

In October, upmarket Italian deli Valvona and Crolla signed an exclusive deal with Aberdeen Standard Investments – the investment arm of Standard Life – to provide thousands of workers in its city centre office with their own private on-site café closed off to members of the public.

However, dozens of additional food outlets make the square their temporary home for a few months of the year during the Edinburgh Festival and Christmas period as pop-ups look to cash in on some of the Capital’s busiest visitor periods for a limited time.

Mr Ramsden added that “a lack of trade associations representing independent restaurants” meant they were more likely to suffer from rapid expansion by chains without any support.

He also revealed concerns over the impact of the current St James Centre redevelopment, adding: “When you look at what is happening around us with the St James centre project, how many licences have been granted for there, it is one of those things where it looks like the problem will only get worse.”