Fast food lovers in Motherwell may well have “Hit the Hut” for the last time following a massive rent increase of £10,000 imposed on a food business.
Frank Hill, operations manager at Pizza Hut on the town’s Merry Street, hit out after North Lanarkshire Council hiked the annual rent by 80 per cent following a five-year review.
He says unless there’s a rethink then the takeaway restaurant, which is currently closed for maintenance work, won’t be opening its doors again, with a possible loss of 14 staff jobs.
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“We knew the review was in the contract and the guy came out last week, then all of a sudden we received an email saying they wanted the rent to rise from £14,000 to £24,000 because of market conditions.
“What market are they looking at? It’s just not feasible.
“Power companies are quite rightly getting complaints where energy costs are rising 50 per cent, but North Lanarkshire Council would appear to think an 80 per cent rent increase is acceptable, or even possible for a small business.
“We are a small family franchise and are absolutely gutted to have to say to the staff that this rise effectively closed the store.
“If I was a private landlord and saying to my tenant I was putting their rent up by 80 per cent I know what they’d be saying to me, and I know what the council would be saying to me – they’d be labelling me a rogue landlord.”
Frank also operates the Pizza Hut franchise in Wishaw. He can take the matter to arbitration but given the indications he’s received from the surveyor he isn’t holding out much hope it would make a difference.
“I don’t think anyone presumed that following a review the rent would go down,” he continued. “I imagined worst case scenario it would be 10 or 15 per cent. Certainly no one was expecting this, it has floored us.”
The Pizza Hut franchise in Merry Street was fitted out prior to opening five years ago and incorporates a small benched area but effectively operates as a takeaway.
“The money to fit it out is almost a write-off,” Frank added. “I’ve had a look at the rental lease agreement and it wasn’t as if we were getting a discounted rate. We did get a three-year discount on the Wishaw shop.
“We have 10 full-time staff and four are flexi-time. We’ve managed to keep a couple of them by giving them shifts at Wishaw.
“We survived through lockdown and actually did okay with deliveries and signed up through Pizza Hut to provide pizzas to care homes and charities in Wishaw, Craigneuk and Motherwell.
“I tried contacting the council’s chief executive but didn’t get any response, then got an email from the surveyor saying, ‘Please understand that North Lanarkshire Properties is a separate legal entity’.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, it’s an arms length local government department.”
A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Properties said, “As the landlord, business rents are managed by North Lanarkshire Properties LLP and rent reviews are subject to individual contractual obligations in line with current market conditions.”
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