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Sheffield restaurants to fight back

New Fitzwilliam & West Bar,West One..Pictured is Co-owner and Chef Chris Hawkins with one of the restaurants signature dishes 'The Brendan'.

New Fitzwilliam & West Bar,West One..Pictured is Co-owner and Chef Chris Hawkins with one of the restaurants signature dishes 'The Brendan'.

Independent restaurants in Sheffield have joined forces to warn local customers – ‘use us, or lose us’.

The move was agreed at a meeting of restaurateurs, organised in the wake of recent closures, which was also promised the support of Sheffield Council food champion Coun Neale Gibson.

Representatives of more than a dozen cafés and restaurants met to plan a joint campaign.

The meeting came after the closure of Fitzwilliam & West at the West One Plaza.

Co-owner and chef Chris Hawkins said independents were struggling to survive faced with competition from major chains offering huge discounts to customers.

Platillos in Orchard Square and Artisan at Crosspool have also shut recently.

Most independents buy ingredients that are grown or produced in the Sheffield area – supporting the local economy.

But locally-sourced ingredients are more costly, an expense the businesses must pass on to their customers.

“People see offers like ‘two meals for £8’ and we can’t compete,” Stuart Hitchman, a director of The Cross Scythes at Totley told the meeting on Tuesday.

But Abi Golland, of Street Food Chef, said 95 per cent of their customers opted to pay extra for local pork when given the choice.

The meeting agreed to adopt the distinctive green logo of its local champion Eat Sheffield, with the added slogan ‘genuine independent’.

The logos should be appearing in local restaurants over the coming week.

Other issues raised by restaurateurs included an ‘obstructive’ response from council officials, and red tape preventing everything from A-boards to drinks licences.

Coun Gibson told them: “For a city of our size the food offer is not good. As a council, whatever we’re doing, we’re not doing it right.

“I’ve made it clear we need to be taking a lead and setting a framework that enables you to grow your business.”

His vision includes a 24-hour city within the ring road, with more nightlife and more independents.

And he has pledged to take up any issues raised by restaurateurs who encounter problems when dealing with the council.

“We’re still not doing enough to support businesses – I think some of our officers just don’t get it,” he said.

A recurring problem involves premises with stairs. One applicant was refused a licence because of the dual level, another was told he would have to pay thousands to install a lift.

Coun Gibson has promised to look into both cases. “It’s difficult enough out there,” he said.

 

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