One of Australia’s most popular restaurant chains has announced two more locations will go out of business just days after three other stores closed – while the CEO unveils new plans to transform the venue.
Hog’s Breath Cafe, a restaurant known for its juicy steaks and curly fries, announced that two southeast Melbourne restaurant franchises – Dandenong and Karingal – will close their doors permanently.
The announcement comes just days after it was announced that locations in Tuggerah and Coffs Harbor, New South Wales, as well as Gladstone, Queensland, had been liquidated, angering fans of the Australian east coast chain.
In a statement released on Friday, Hog’s Breath Café said the Dandenong branch had to close due to ongoing health issues from the franchisee and problems renewing the lease at the site.
Meanwhile, the Karingal store was closed due to the ongoing impact of renovations at a nearby mall that “decimated the food district.”
One of Australia’s most popular restaurant chains has announced that two more locations will close (pictured a Hogs’ Breath Café in Logan, Queensland).
Two Hogs’ Breath cafe franchises in Melbourne’s south-east – Dandenong and Karingal – will be closing their doors for good this week (pictured the restaurant’s famous curly fries).
“The restaurant has been able to do business despite Covid-19 and ongoing closures, but rent deferrals and increased competition in the new food district mean business is no longer viable for the franchisee,” the statement said.
HOW MANY HOG’S BREATH CAFE FRANCHISES ARE THERE?
Western Australia: 2nd
South Australia: 1
Hog’s Breath CEO Steven Spurgin was quick to dismiss reports that the company was struggling financially as he revealed plans for the chain’s future.
Mr Spurgin said the company was already looking at new locations for smaller restaurants, as well as replacements for Coffs Harbour, Tuggerah and Gladstone.
New restaurants will be based on a smaller floor plan to reduce rent, gas and electricity costs and ensure restaurants are adequately staffed.
In the rendered images of the new restaurants, customers are seated at long metal and wood tables with modern, light-colored furniture.
Mr Spurgin said this is in line with a global trend towards downsizing due to staff pressures, but would also create a more intimate dining experience that is now preferred by the majority of customers.
“The changes implemented, including a new restaurant size and interior design, will ensure the sustainability of the franchisees and the brand,” he said.
“We have many successful restaurants and happy franchisees and are very confident that under new leadership, with our new interior design and restaurant size, the brand will continue to expand and we continue to innovate in a post-Corona world.”
New restaurants will be based on a smaller floor plan to reduce rent, gas and electricity costs and ensure restaurants are adequately staffed (pictured, rendered plans).
In rendered images of the new restaurants, customers are seated at long metal and wood tables with modern, light-colored furniture (pictured).
While a smaller venue would save costs, it would also provide a more intimate dining experience, which is now preferred by the majority of customers, said Hog’s Breath Café CEO
Hog’s Breath Café owners Don Algie and Ginger White have run the restaurant chain for over 34 years in a “challenging business environment”.
The owners recently bought back the business in October 2020 from HBCA, which operated the franchise as Hog’s Australia’s Steakhouse.
They’ve spent the last two and a half years planning how the chain will withstand the next three decades, with the goal of hitting the restaurant’s peak again in 2016, when it had 86 locations across Australia.
Mr Spurgin said a crackdown on franchisees would inevitably lead to more closures.
The chief executive said that if laws and regulations are not followed in the workplace, a franchisee risks having their franchise agreement terminated.
“Unfortunately, this may result in more closures, but we will do whatever we can to remain open and sustainable, however we are committed to acting within the framework of the Franchising Code of Conduct and complying with all requirements of running a business .” in Australia, including compliance with business and tax laws,” he said.
If a franchise were to close, the company would work closely with employees to ensure they were aware of the process and their rights, the CEO said.
“Our head office team works extremely hard to provide our franchisees with the tools they need to be compliant, including training, financial audit, operational support and business development.”
The restaurant chain has had to close nearly half of its outlets over the past decade, with 12 Hog’s Breath locations across Australia closing in the last year
The restaurant chain has had to close nearly half of its outlets over the past decade, with 12 Hog’s Breath locations across Australia closing in the last year.
Pandemic pressures resulted in the closure of venues in Palmerston, Carindale, Albury and Canberra Civic between December and February 2021.
There are only 32 stores left, most of them in Queensland. The closures symbolize the end of an era when customers valued simplicity and familiarity over a dining “experience”.
What such chains lacked in panache they made up for in value for money; It is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver as rising wages, rents and electricity prices are passed on to the end user.
2GB radio host Ray Hadley said cafe Hog’s Breath has always been an affordable place to eat, but the service was lacking at his local franchise.
“Maybe that’s why people don’t go there as often as they used to,” he said.
A growing awareness of healthy eating has also eroded the popularity of the old all-you-can-eat restaurants, and while convenient takeaway options like McDonald’s and KFC aren’t going away, customers who dine there are now shunning carb and sugar offerings of yesterday.
Wayne Flower, chef and founder of food consultancy Pestle & Mortar, said chains like Hog’s Breath and Sizzler are a little “dated and unhealthy”.
But he pointed out that there will be a variety of reasons for their collapse, beyond mere food supply and changing consumer demands.
“They’re often very large venues, so filling them is a challenge in itself,” he said.
“There will be a lot of variables that we don’t see.” Has Covid killed them to the point that they could never get back on their feet? Does the franchise model charge more? Were there any staffing issues? It may not just be the food they serve.”
There are only 33 Hog’s Breath cafes left, most of them in Queensland
Suresh Manickam, executive director of the Restaurant and Catering Association (RCA), said they counted no franchises among their members.
However, he outlined the problems the hotel industry is currently facing.
“The pressure on the cost of living is increasing,” he said.
“We’ve had one rate hike after another; We had adverse weather events that negatively impacted food prices. In addition, there is a shortage of skilled workers and we have not yet reached the level of employment before the pandemic. So all these factors come together and make it very difficult for the industry.”
Mr Manickam said some RCA members have reduced their opening hours to survive in the current climate.
“Things are tough, there is no other way,” he said. “But our members are a pretty resilient bunch and keep going.”