Belfast Telegraph

Franco Manca boss blasts ‘incompetent’ Tories as consumer confidence sinks

David Page, the chairman of Fulham Shore, also told the Press Association that the Government is no longer in control of its own destiny as it ploughs on with Brexit.

The boss of Franco Manca and The Real Greek restaurant chains has ripped into Theresa May’s “incompetent” Government, blaming the Conservatives for destroying consumer confidence as they press ahead with Brexit.

In an extraordinary outburst David Page, the chairman of Fulham Shore, also told the Press Association that the Government is no longer in control of its own destiny.

He said: “People aren’t sure what’s next, they are under pressure and don’t feel comfortable about the future or happy, I certainly don’t.

“This is down to the incompetence of the Government, it affects the UK consumer.”

The Government has been roundly criticised for its handling of Brexit, which has led to business uncertainty, investment decisions being put on hold, jobs moving to the continent, a slowing economy and plummeting consumer confidence.

David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, recently confessed that his department has carried out zero studies on the impact of Brexit on different sectors of the economy.

To compound matters, for businesses like Fulham Shore, the pound’s collapse following the Brexit vote has sent costs soaring and eroded consumer spending power, resulting in people eating out less often.

“In the summer, the UK consumer got a bit of ‘bill shock’ with everything they were spending their money on,” Mr Page added.

It led to Fulham Shore being forced to issue a September profit warning after a slowdown in trade, particularly at its suburban London restaurants.

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Nabil Mankarious, Fulham Shore’s managing director, said that Christmas parties are even being affected, with many opting for cheaper lunchtime celebrations rather than evening dining.

The firm has so far resisted the urge to increase prices, even as inflation surged to hit 3.1% earlier this month.

In comments that will be concerning for the Tories, traditionally seen as the party of business, Mr Page added: “The Government isn’t in charge of their own destiny, they can’t do anything.

“We’ve had incompetent governments before and I’ve experienced four or five downturns, so we’ll just have to deal with it.”

On the flip side, Fulham Shore is getting a boost from the weak pound in central London as tourists now have more money to spend.

The other benefit is that property has become cheaper as the economy slows, which will aid the group in its expansion plans.

Three new Real Greek restaurants and seven Franco Manca pizzerias have been opened so far this year in the UK, including in Bournemouth and Reading.

Despite the bleak backdrop, Fulham Shore saw sales rise from £19.5 million to £27.5 million in the first half of the year, while pre-tax profit nudged up to just over £1 million.

A spokesman for Number 10 declined to comment and directed the Press Association to the Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexu), which also declined to comment.

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