London based family restaurant, Salieri, face the threat of eviction as landlords make way for yet another chain store.
Named after the Italian composer and centred around a theatre theme, the Mediterranean restaurant is famous for its pre and post-theatre dinners.
Passed down the generations, Salieri has traded on the Strand for four decades and has survived the ever increasing rents and business rates of central London.
However, it’s prime position opposite the Savoy makes it a prime target for investors.
Sonmez Sami Sr came to the UK in the 1960s with a dream to be an engineer but he ended up working in a steak restaurant.
Discovering a newfound passion for the hospitality industry,he enrolled
In 1976, a time when the pound was losing value, Sami Sr borrowed money to set up the restaurant. Despite the challenges, he has managed to run a successful and profitable business for 40 years with the help of his son Sonmez Sami Jr and daughter Sen Sami.
The Strand is already home to five Pret a Mangers and two Itsu’s among other food chains and the family fear that they are being forced out to make way for yet another big brand.
Aviva Investors plan to combine the restaurant space with the unit next door to create a larger commercial space.
Salieri offered to buy the unit next door and make refurbishments in accordance with what Aviva wanted but their offer was turned down.
Instead, Aviva said that the Sami family could make an offer for a new lease once the work had been completed.
Speaking at an event to celebrate the restaurants 40-th anniversary Sami Jr said : “Everything was going well and
Attendees of the event included MP, former shadow business secretary and friend of the restaurant Chuka Umunna and the ambassador to Northern Cyprus.
In a speech at the event, Umunna stated: “If all we had along the strand was Pret a Manger, McDonald’s and Starbucks, it would not be any different from any other high road in Britain.”
Following this with “I have a big message to a certain landlord … Don’t mess with my restaurant”.
Matthew Jaffa, senior development manager at the FSB described the need for landlords to show a “moral compass” when deciding on their tenants
"Salieri is going against the grain and it feels unfair to lose that part of the community when they have done everything they can to survive and thrive in theatre land."
“We have seen businesses that have gone under to similar issues and we just want to see a bit of fairness and moral compass among big landlords to the people that work 18-hour days like Sonmez.”
A recent statement from Aviva Investors said: “We recognise the concerns of the owners of the Salieri restaurant and understand the implications to the Sami family of serving these notices.
However, as a large asset manager, we also have a fiduciary duty to deliver the best possible investment returns to our clients, including individual policyholders who entrust us with their assets.”
“In this case, we believe this outcome will be best served by creating a larger restaurant unit by combining the space currently occupied by Salieri with an adjacent unit that is currently vacant.
Vacant possession is needed in order to implement this initiative, which is why a statutory notice has been served to end the lease, and an offer has been made with regard to compensation. Upon completion of the works, the unit will be fully marketed and the Sami family will have the opportunity to make an offer for a new lease of the enhanced premises at that point.”
“We have built such an establishment here over the years it would be a shame to move,” he said.
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For our latest series Entrepreneur It! BFS TV spoke to Salieri about being a successful family restaurant.