Bleeding Heart Restaurant Group: “Our heart is still pumping after 37 years”

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

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The co-founder of London’s Bleeding Heart says that despite the pain of having to close the group’s flagship restaurant she remains confident about the future of the business.

Robyn Wilson, who founded Bleeding Heart with her husband Robert in 1983, says the group’s original restaurant – one of three sites operated by the pair at Bleeding Heart Yard in Holborn – will close under a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) that will also see the group’s City-based restaurant The Don on St Swithin's Lane shut permanently.

Both sites relied heavily on a thriving business clientele that has collapsed under the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“At this time of year, in the lead up to Christmas, we would usually be turning-over around 1,000 covers a day through office parties and events,” Wilson tells BigHospitality​.

“This year, though, the City is just not happening; there’s no market at all. And we knew there would be no point in reopening for a party season that wasn’t going to happen.

“Some of our regulars told us that the footfall might pick-up around the spring, but you would have to have very deep pockets to be able to hold on until then.”

The Don, which Wilson and her husband opened in 2000, never reopened after the first lockdown in March in light of the low footfall across the Square Mile.

It was originally hoped that the group would be able to hold on to the site by switching to a turnover-based rent, but a deal with the landlord was never struck.

Bleeding Hearts Restaurant, which relied on corporate diners, has suffered a similar fate.

“The Restaurant was an events-led site, and that just wasn’t viable in the current climate.

“It was painful, but in the end we just had to walk away.”


Saved by outdoor space

In contrast, the group’s two other Holborn restaurants, Bleeding Heart Tavern and the Bleeding Heart Bistro, have continued to trade solidly since reopening in the summer, thanks in part to the large outdoor terrace spaces both sites have.

They have also extended their opening hours, with the Bistro now opening for Sunday lunches and the Tavern opening throughout the day on Saturdays.

“We’ve been lucky that the Bistro and Tavern gets a lot of local business,” says Wilson.

“In our 37 years we’ve never opened on a Sunday before, but we’ve had a great response having done so. We’re also opening on Christmas day for the first time this year, with bookings for the day already selling out.”

Despite the pain of losing the two restaurants and with them a large portion of the group’s workforce – reduced from 104 employees to now just 26 – Wilson says that she and her husband remain optimistic for the future.

Alongside the Tavern and Bistro, it is hoped The Crypt in Ely Place, which is adjoined to Bleeding Heart Yard, will be able to reopen in the Spring; and while The Don may be gone, the group continues to operate a small wine bar with terrace in the City that Wilson says has continued to trade well despite the diminished footfall in the area.

“You have to believe it’s going to be better next year, and we are going to hang in there,” says Wilson

“In the long-term our attitude is very much onwards and upwards.

“Our original heart is still pumping after 37 years.”

Related topics Restaurant Openings Casual Dining

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