One of Australia’s most beloved restaurant chains has announced two more locations will cease operations just days after three other stores were shut down – as the CEO reveals new plans to revamp the venue.
Hog’s Breath Cafe, a restaurant known for its juicy steaks and curly fries, announced two franchises in Melbourne’s southeast – Dandenong and Karingal – will close their doors for good.
The announcement comes just days after it was announced locations in Tuggerah and Coffs Harbour NSW and Gladstone, Queensland had entered liquidation, devastating east coast fans of the Aussie chain.
In a statement released on Friday, Hog’s Breath Cafe said the Dandenong store had been forced to close due to ongoing health problems experienced by its franchisee and issues with extending the lease at the location.
Meanwhile, the Karingal store was closed due to ongoing impacts of renovations at a nearby shopping centre that ‘decimated the food precinct’.
One of Australia’s most beloved restaurant chains has announced two more locations will cease operations (pictured, a Hogs’ Breath Cafe in Logan, Queensland)
Two Hogs’ Breath Cafe franchises in Melbourne’s southeast – Dandenong and Karingal – will close their doors for good this week (pictured, the restaurant’s famous curly fries)
‘The restaurant was able to trade through Covid and continued shutdowns but the deferred rental and increased competition in the new food precinct means the business is no longer sustainable for the franchisee,’ the statement read.
HOW MANY HOG’S BREATH CAFE FRANCHISES ARE LEFT?
New South Wales: 7
Western Australia: 2
South Australia: 1
Hog’s Breath CEO Steven Spurgin was quick to hose down reports the company is struggling financially as he revealed plans for the future of the chain.
Mr Spurgin said the company was already looking for new sites for smaller restaurants, as well as replacements for Coffs Harbour, Tuggerah and Gladstone.
New restaurants will be modelled on a smaller floor plan to reduce the cost of rent, gas and electricity and ensure the restaurant’s are adequately staffed.
In rendered images of the new restaurants, customers are seated on long metal and wood tables with modern light furnishings.
Mr Spurgin said this was in line with a global trend of downsizing due to staffing pressures, but would also create a more intimate dining experience, which was now preferred by the majority of customers.
‘The changes being 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 we’re very confident in the further expansion of the brand under new management, with our new interior design and size of restaurant, and our continued regeneration in a post-Covid world.’
New restaurants will be modelled on a smaller floor plan to reduce the cost of rent, gas and electricity and ensure the restaurant’s are adequately staffed (pictured, rendered plans)
In rendered images of the new restaurants, customers are seated on long metal and wood tables with modern light furnishings (pictured)
A smaller venue would save on costs, but also provide a more intimate dining experience, which was now preferred by the majority of customers, the CEO of Hog’s Breath Cafe said
Hog’s Breath Cafe owners Don Algie and Ginger White have managed the restaurant chain for over 34 years during a ‘tough business environment’.
The owners recently bought the company back from HBCA in October 2020, which ran the franchise system as Hog’s Australia’s Steakhouse.
They have spent the last 2.5 years planning how the chain will withstand the next three decades, with an aim to return to the restaurant’s peak in 2016 when there were 86 locations across Australia.
Mr Spurgin said a crackdown on franchisees would inevitably see more closures.
The chief executive said that if workplace laws and regulations weren’t being followed, a franchisee risked their franchise agreement being terminated.
‘Unfortunately, we may see further closures as a result of this, but we will do all we can to keep open and sustainable, but we’re committed to operating within the Franchising Code of Conduct, and meeting all the requirements of running a business in Australia, including abiding by business and tax laws,’ he said.
When a franchise was closed down, the company would work closely with staff to ensure they are 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 remain compliant, including training, financial review, operational support and business development.’
The restaurant chain has been forced to close almost half of its venues in the past decade, with 12 Hog’s Breath locations across Australia closing in the last year
The restaurant chain has been forced to close almost half of its venues in the past decade, with 12 Hog’s Breath locations across Australia closing in the last year.
Pandemic pressures saw the closure of venues in Palmerston, Carindale, Albury and Canberra Civic between December and February, 2021.
Just 32 stores remain, with the majority in Queensland, with the closures symbolising the end of an era when customers valued simplicity and familiarity above a dining ‘experience’.
What such chains lacked in panache was made up for with good value; something becoming increasingly hard to deliver as rising wages, rents and electricity rates all get passed onto the end consumer.
2GB radio host Ray Hadley said Hog’s Breath cafe had always been an affordable place to eat but that the service had been lacking at his local franchise.
‘Maybe that’s the reason people don’t go there as much as they used to,’ he said.
A growing consciousness about healthy diets has also eroded the popularity of the old all-you-can-eat restaurants, and while convenient takeaway options like McDonald’s and KFC are not going away, customers who dine in are now shunning the carbs-and-sugar offerings of yesteryear.
Wayne Flower, chef and founder of food consultancy firm Pestle & Mortar, said chains like Hog’s Breath and Sizzler were a bit ‘dated and unhealthy’.
But he pointed out that there will be a variety of reasons for their collapse beyond just the food they were offering and changing consumer demands.
‘They are often very big venues so to fill them is a challenge in itself,’ he said.
‘There will be lots of variables that we don’t see. Did Covid kill them enough that they could never bounce back? Is the franchise model charging them more? Did they have staffing issues? It might not just be the food they are offering alone.’
Just 33 Hog’s Breath Cafe remain, the majority of which are in Queensland
Suresh Manickam, chief executive of the Restaurant and Catering Association (RCA), said they did not count any franchises among their members.
But he outlined the problems confronting the hospitality industry at the moment.
‘The cost of living pressures are rising,’ he said.
‘We’ve had interest rate rise after interest rate rise; we’ve had adverse weather events which has a knock-on effect for food prices. Coupled with that you have a skills’ shortage and we haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels of employment so all of these factors are coming together and making it very difficult for the industry.’
Mr Manickam said some of the RCA’s members were reducing their opening hours in a bid to survive in the current climate.
‘Things are tough, there’s no two ways about it,’ he said. ‘But equally our members are a fairly resilient bunch and are getting on with it.’