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Cash-poor Brits cut down on fine dining

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When times are hard, restaurants, pubs and bars feel the pinch.

PricewaterhouseCoopers recently released a report stating that restaurant insolvencies have increased by 95 per cent since the start of the credit crunch. Given that 30 per cent of restaurants already go bust within the first year, this is grim news for the industry.

However, in the true spirit of swings and roundabouts, other areas of the market are seeing phenomenal growth.  Expensive dinners are out, cheap takeaways are in.

David Buttress launched Just-Eat.co.uk in 2006. The company has over 2,000 takeaway restaurants on its UK network, serving everything from Indian and Italian to Korean and Jamaican. The company also operates websites in Ireland, Denmark, Netherlands and Iceland, and sees more than 100 new restaurants sign up every month.

Buttress says: “In a harsh climate for many businesses, local restaurants are, like their chain restaurant competitors, waking up to the potential of online ordering and partnering with us at a fantastic rate. We plan to again double the number of restaurants featured on Just-Eat over the coming year.”

In 2008, Just-Eat.co.uk processed £7.5m worth of orders. And on the 1st January this year, more than £100,000 of meals were purchased through the site. This is going to be a big year for the firm: “We are expecting this growth to continue in 2009,” says Buttress. “Just-Eat will service over two million orders as Britons continue to enjoy stay-at-home meals.”

This news comes in the wake of Domino’s announcement that their online ordering has grown by 74 per cent. But it’s not just online fast food that’s seeing a boost from the recession.

Alan Yau founded high street chain Wagamama in 1992, slap bang in the middle of the last recession. He’s just about to open the second outlet of his new Cha Cha Moon noodle bar, having just launched Italian bakery, Princi.

 “I think the set of economic circumstances are very similar to where we are now,” he told The Times. “Good budget restaurants tend to thrive in times of recession, so you could say that this is actually an opportune moment for a brand like Cha Cha Moon.”

“Of course,” he continues. “There will be added pressure to deliver and perhaps funding will become harder to come by, but, as a consequence, you just have to be that much more focused and determined. To me, a good idea will always transcend such circumstances, as long as you stick to your guns.”

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