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Archive - Sunday, 26 August 2007
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TV restaurant goes out of business
A restaurant which features in a forthcoming reality TV show featuring Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc has folded.
Jonathan Flint at Porters
The Restaurant, due to be screened on the BBC on Wednesday, puts nine couples through their paces to see if they have what it takes to run their own restaurant.
One of the nine eateries - Porters, in Little Clarendon Street, Oxford - was already loss-making when it was taken over for filming for a week in April, and now it has shut for good. Porters' owners Jonathan Flint and Sara Reevell are warning potential restaurateurs that it is a tough business.
Mr Flint, former manager of Freuds in Walton Street, sank all their savings into the venture, which had a successful first year but then started struggling.
He said: "The BBC deal was almost like a godsend. We would have closed in February or March, had it not been for the funds that brought to the business. It was a potential lifeline.
"The deal could have lasted for between three and 10 weeks. If it had gone the full distance, we could still be there now, with the prospect of the series just about to air, with all the publicity that it would bring."
Every Wednesday night, viewers will see each restaurant visited by Mr Blanc's inspectors, with one eliminated each week. The winning couple will go into the restaurant business with Mr Blanc and run their own place.
The BBC cash paid for a refurbishment and Mr Flint and his girlfriend battled on for a few more months. He blames the failure on high rents and competition from big chains, saying Oxford is now too expensive for independent restaurateurs.
Mr Flint said: "During our second year, no fewer than nine new restaurants opened within a mile of us - all big chain operations.
"Trying to compete with big budget chains is hard. Our business was affected and with no reserve funds behind us, we saw trade fall and began losing money.
"I've lived in Oxford most of my life and it's losing its character. Look at Cowley Road - the local shops can't afford it.
"When all that the landlords are interested in is how much they can get out of a property, then the only players will be the chain groups."
He feels aggrieved that his landlords, University College, refused to confirm an extension to the lease, which had three-and-a-half years to run.
He was approached by Italian restaurant Strada, but negotiations fell through because the lease was so short.
Strada - part of the same group as Little Clarendon Street's Café Rouge - later signed a deal direct with the landlord.
A spokesman for University College said: "Oxford can be proud of its popular and well-established independent restaurants.
"Unfortunately, not all new businesses succeed in joining their ranks."
The Restaurant is at 8pm on BBC2 on Wednesday.