Bristol restaurant group announces ‘significant’ price hikes in order to survive

The group claims the profit for 2022 was ‘less than 1%’ and now energy bills, rents and other costs have risen

The owners of an award-winning Bristol restaurant group have announced ‘significant’ price increases across their six sites in order to survive in light of increased energy, food and staff costs.

The Bianchis Group, which runs Pasta Loco, Pasta Ripiena, Bianchis Restaurant, Pizza Bianchi, Cotto and Centrale, recently completed their financial review of 2022 and say their profit was ‘less than 1%’ despite strong turnover.

Co-owner Dominic Borel said: “That profit margin means we are now operating in a high-risk zone, with an inadequate financial safety net in a tumultuous financial environment.”

Dominic started the business with his cousin, Ben Harvey, in 2016 when the duo opened Pasta Loco on Cotham Hill.

Over the past seven years, they have expanded with five more sites, all specialising in modern Italian food.

Dominic added: “We want to continue, we love what we do and we believe we can survive this with radical action.

“We feel a huge sense of responsibility for all those we work with, staff and suppliers alike. And we believe our customer base needs to be informed about the crushing economic reality we are facing.

“So, in order to maintain our philosophy, our working practices and our survival as a business, we are raising our prices across our sites.

“Customers will be seeing a significant price increase across food and wine between now and the spring. We trust that you understand the predicament that we find ourselves in; we have no other option, it’s this or we shut our doors for good.”

Dominic said the current situation was the toughest he had experienced since opening Pasta Loco in 2016.

“Reopening all of our sites after the pandemic was one of the hardest feats we had ever experienced, but it soon became clear that this new pasture was not to be as green and happy as we’d hoped for.

“The biggest challenge we had was the obvious shift in mentality from our work force and customers. Hospitality will never be the same and for some parts of the culture, that needed to happen.

“For too long people in hospitality have worked excessively long hours and often unpaid, in parts. The pandemic had an effect on our staff that meant not even a regular 45 hour week was possible.

Ben Harvey, Dominic Borel and Joe Harvey of the Bianchis Group
Ben Harvey, Dominic Borel and Joe Harvey of the Bianchis Group
Ben Harvey, Dominic Borel and Joe Harvey of the Bianchis Group

“As a company we saw this and in January of 2022 we took the decision to shave a shift off our full-time salaried working week, making their average week between 39 and 42 hours. Their wages remained the same and, in many cases, we actually gave pay rises.

“We knew the financial hit would be huge. And we did it anyway because it was the right thing to do and we trusted it would be beneficial in the long run.

“The ‘long run’ has been much longer and harder than we ever expected. Once it seemed to all that we were out of the woods the price increases began.

“Some, not all, of our landlords hiked our rents up. With Pasta Loco we were hit with a 70% rent increase, we fought that but only down to 40%.

“As owners, we have taken very humble wages since we started the company, preferring to reinvest our profits into the work we do. Like everyone else our energy bills have gone through the roof, at Bianchis what was £1,500 a month, is now £4,500.

“The cost of our ingredients have increased drastically across the board, but we know the independent suppliers we use are facing the same hard times as us, so there is very little we can do.

“It takes a lot to produce a quality meal and serve it to customers, and those doing so are highly skilled people that have been working the job for many years to get to where they are now.

“Regrettably the skills inherent in our industry are neither valued or revered like other sectors, which generally revolve around monetary transactions and not meaningful human interactions.

“In real terms, if we were to use our actual costings to calculate menu prices, this would shock even the most loyal of our customers.”

Dominic said the price rises will equate to around 50p extra on a glass of wine and an extra £1 on bottles of wine and main dishes.