Failures in casual dining have often been a “victim of timing”, due to fierce competition and speed of expansion, Alix Partners’ Graeme Smith has said.

Speaking on MCA’s The Conversation, Smith said with aggressive roll-outs happening simultaneously by multiple operators, it made it “very difficult to prosper”.

Speaking about the case of Byron, which was acquired in a pre-pack administration with the closure of 31 sites, he described how the brand had only just restructured before being hit by the coronavirus, which was “really challenging from a timing perspective”, and leading to a further restructure.

But despite the difficulties, he insisted there was still good reason to back the better burger market, due to its broad appeal and popularity among consumers.

Byron will continue to trade from 20 restaurants following its acquisition by investment company Calveton at the end of last month. 

Operating under new company Proper Brands, with CEO Simon Wilkinson to remain in charge, but with 650 jobs lost as part of the restructure.

Speaking about the wave of insolvencies, Smith said the problems clearly pre-dated the crisis. 

He said: “In the casual dining sector, because of the speed of expansion, quite often businesses can simply become a victim of timing.

“If you are choosing to roll out and aggressively expand at the time where were others are also doing the same, it just becomes incredibly difficult to be able to prosper, whilst doing that at the same time as others.

“Unfortunately, for Bryon after having completed a restructuring to right size it’s estate, it then gets hit with this crisis, which was really challenging from a timing perspective, and obviously they have no option but to go through a further restructuring process.

“The better burger market has obviously received a lot of attention, in the same way that the Italian market can seem well served.

“But it’s well served because it’s an incredibly popular cuisine that’s familiar to all of us across the country, so has broad appeal.