Strada, the Italian restaurant chain backed by sector investor Hugh Osmond, has confirmed it has closed 11 sites – a third of its estates – highlighting “recent increases in rents and rates, coupled with Government-decreed rises in wage costs” as the reasons behind the majority of the closures.

As flagged up by MCA yesterday, the brand’s restaurants in Camden, Clapham, Blackheath Harpenden, Newbury, Horsham, Henley, Cardiff, York and Cobham have closed since Christmas, whilst its Birmingham Mailbox site will also cease trading at the end of this week.

Three of the sites closed this week are to converted into the company’s other formats – Coppa Club and the soon to open on the former Strada site in Marylebone - 31 Below.

A spokesperson for the business said: “Following a comprehensive review, it is with regret that we have closed a number of our Strada restaurants, as they were no longer viable as Stradas in this increasingly competitive market. Where possible, we are converting the sites to new formats or selling them to other operators, but in some cases, recent increases in rents and rates, coupled with Government-decreed rises in wage costs, make it very difficult to operate profitably a full service restaurant serving fresh food.

“With the increasing popularity of Coppa Club, we shall be accelerating our opening program over the coming year and will also be investing in our remaining Strada restaurants in order to ensure their continuing success. We hate closing restaurants and so this has been a difficult decision. We also appreciate that this is a tough time for our team members and local communities alike.”

Osmond’s Sun Capital acquired 43 Strada restaurants from Tragus Group for £37m in 2014.

The closures leave the company, which placed 16 sites on the market through Colliers last year, with 16 restaurants trading under the Strada brand.

Last year, Osmond told MCA that a combination of issues including increases in minimum wages, rates and food costs, would make many mid-market units unviable.

Osmond told MCA: “The market has certainly softened. Rent reviews in London and the South East are still ridiculous though and, combined with further increases in minimum wage, rates and food costs, will make many mid-market units unviable. I am not sure this has dawned on many operators or landlords yet, but it will

“If minimum wage goes towards £10 per hour, fixed cost approaching 20% of sales will push many of the ordinary 2,500sq ft, 80-90 cover restaurants into losses, even before depreciation and the property owners are going to be left holding the baby.”

Osmond told MCA that 31 Below would share a few features with the company’s Coppa Club concept and that if successful could be rolled out into some of the group’s smaller Strada sites.

Osmond said: “We also have plans for at least two more Coppa Clubs in the spring/early summer and more later in the year. The larger sites are doing particularly well with huge like-for-like sales increases in their second year’s trading.”

Strada still operates flagship locations at More London, St Katharine Docks and Royal Festival Hall.