Harry Ramsden’s First Commercial Property to Close

Posted on 4 December, 2011 by Kirsten Kennedy

Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip chain has announced that its first restaurant in Guiseley, Leeds, is due to close. The commercial property, first opened in 1928, has been an “iconic” part of Guiseley for 83 years, according to Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, whose constituency includes the area surrounding the Harry Ramsden’s restaurant due to be closed. He describes the proposed closure of the branch as “hugely disappointing.”

Despite the fact that Harry Ramsden’s is the longest established restaurant chain in the UK, with 35 commercial properties, including Guiseley, nationwide, the company has been forced to launch a consultation period of 30 days over the proposed closure. The Guiseley branch also holds the Guinness World Record for the largest fish and chip shop in the world, able to seat 250 people at a time and with an annual customer turnover of almost one million people. Harry Ramsden’s claims to be a strong brand nationally; yet due to the current economic climate it has been forced to make “tough decisions” in order to ensure the survival of the company as a whole.

Chief Executive of Harry Ramsden’s, Joe Teixeira, insists that the decision to launch discussions regarding the closure of the restaurant was “not taken lightly”, but that the Guiseley branch was making a loss and would need “considerable reinvestment before potentially becoming profitable again.”

“We have to face the economic reality that it is loss-making. I appreciate that this news will be deeply upsetting and stressful for our staff. We are giving them as much information as possible and doing whatever we can to help them through what will be a traumatic period for them.”

The Guiseley branch currently employs 24 staff, and Harry Ramsden’s plans to offer them alternative jobs in other nearby branches of the restaurant chain. However, the company says that compulsory redundancies “may become necessary.”

The company was bought by Birmingham businessman Ranjit Boparan, of Boparan Ventures Ltd, in January of this year. It has not been disclosed how much the company was sold for. When he bought the business, Mr Boparan said he intended to open 100 new restaurants in the UK in the next five years, as well as eventually opening commercial properties in India and China.

Mr Boparan also claimed the UK expansion would create 600 new jobs.

“Harry Ramsden’s is a great British institution and we want to put it back on the map by focusing on the fundamental basics of superb service, exceptional value and, most importantly, the very best tasting fish and chips you can buy,” he said.

However, with the closure of the first restaurant less than a year after the company was sold, the question of whether Mr Boparan’s ideals for the popular chain are feasible in the current economic climate. Yet Harry Ramsden’s said it is currently reviewing possible sites in Yorkshire, in a bid to re-position and modernise the brand. A spokesman added that plans to expand throughout the UK are still in place, but this may take longer than the five years originally proposed in January.

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