A restaurant chain remains committed to “managed expansion” despite the sudden closure of one of its flagship venues.
The Chinese Buffet closed the doors on its Halifax restaurant this week after “fighting a losing battle” to make it commercially viable.
It follows the closure of the chain’s Bradford outlet two years ago.
However, the Bolton-based chain, which includes a 250-seat restaurant at King Street in Huddersfield, is set to open a new restaurant in Liverpool next month and has plans for another at an undisclosed location before the end of the year.
A notice on the door of the empty restaurant in Halifax says: “Thank you all for your custom. Unfortunately this branch is now closed permanently. Your nearest branch of The Chinese Buffet is in Huddersfield.”
Commenting on the closure, managing director Paulo Hu said: “We have been fighting to keep it open for the last year or so. We invested about £100,000 a year ago in the restaurant to open up the kitchen and provide more food, but it was not going as expected.”
Paulo said the restaurant’s 20 staff were being offered jobs at other restaurants, including Huddersfield and Trinity Walk in Wakefield.
“I went there the night we closed to have a drink with the staff,” he said. “The staff were quite sad, but they know we have been fighting this battle for a long time.”
Paulo blamed the closure of the 250-seater restaurant – which occupied part of the revamped Broad Street Plaza – on a combination of factors, including the general economic climate and the restaurant’s running costs.
“People have less money to spend,” he said. “We have been fighting a losing battle in this location. It is a very expensive site. It’s very big branch on the ground floor. Our other restaurants tend to be first our second floor where the rents are cheaper.”
But he said: “Because Huddersfield is quite close to Halifax we are hoping that we can accommodate our Halifax customers at the Huddersfield restaurant.”
The Chinese Buffet at Centenary Square in Bradford closed about two years ago. The chain acquired the premises – an existing restaurant venue – in a deal with Bradford Council, but Paulo said in hindsight the site hadn’t been big enough and there were issues with the image of the area with drug users hanging around the square.
The Chinese Buffet now has nine restaurants – Huddersfield, Wakefield, Bolton, Blackpool, Bury, Darlington, St Helens, Wigan and Wrexham.
Paulo said the chain was set to open a restaurant in Liverpool next month and another at a new location before the end of the year.
“Liverpool will be one of the biggest we have with over 300 covers,” he said.
The Huddersfield restaurant opened in December, 2015, in the former first floor of the Peter’s department store building in King Street. The company spent £750,000 equipping the 10,000sq ft restaurant, which features two bars, a balcony dining area and a private conference room.
Paulo set up the company in 2006 with business partner Peter Wu, who studied business information technology at the University of Huddersfield in the late 1990s and lived in the town for almost 10 years.