The rise and fall of one of Australia’s most loved family restaurants

Article by Olivia Lambert /
Yahoo! News /
July 16, 2019 /
Click here to view original /

For 30 years Hog’s Breath Cafe has been one of Australia’s most favourite restaurants, feeding the country’s steak lovers.

But the iconic eatery that once had restaurants dotted around the country is facing a demise, with 12 restaurants closed down in the past six months alone.

With 83 restaurants operating during its prime, there are just 65 left with additional closures expected in the future.

On its website, Hog’s Breath claims from day one it set out to be unlike any other.

So how did it go from being a once successful saloon to struggling to survive?

‘It sounds bogan’

University of Melbourne’s pop-culture expert Lauren Rosewarne told Yahoo News Australia a venue titled ‘Hog’s Breath’ would only ever reach a limited number of food lovers.

“Be it because it sounds bogan, downmarket, hokey, the name alone will turn off many diners,” she said.

Dr Rosewarne also claimed consumers now had a “laundry list” of requirements when dining out.

“Dairy-free, gluten-free, Paleo, superfood – fortified personalised food demands mean that chain restaurants aren’t really tapping into where audiences are at,” she said.

“We’re a culture that wants our restaurants to be more nimble – to have constantly changing menus that tap into new culinary trends and chain restaurants generally can’t offer this; certainly not Hog’s Breath.”

Dr Rosewarne said chain restaurants were struggling, particularly in cities with scores of other dining options.

‘Same old, same old’

Retail analyst and managing director of Marketing Focus, Barry Urquhart, told Yahoo News in the past 30 years the chain had offered nothing new to customers.

“To a large extent the one thing they are not doing is recognising the dramatic shift in consumer expectations,” he said.

“What will attract people is new – if you have an established menu and food range, that’s old.

“It is a demanding and rapidly changing market and you can’t have the same old, same old, not capturing the imagination of people.”

Mr Urquhart said Hog’s Breath was losing to the people who were sitting at home with their family wondering where to go for dinner.

“A lot of these restaurants aren’t front of mind or even on the shopping list,” he said.

“If you can get people talking about you, you all of a sudden start to become interesting, a lot of these places are no longer interesting.”

Mr Urquhart said many families were falling back on McDonald’s for a quick inexpensive dinner and family restaurants did not win out when they decided to have a dining out experience instead.

“People are reining in expenditure and being more selective and wanting a new experience,” he said.

“Once upon a time people were spending money and going out more often but that practice is not happening as much today.”

‘The toughest environment we’ve seen in 30 years’

Hog’s Breath Cafe chief executive Ross Worth told Yahoo News there were still 65 restaurants operating in Australia and there were no plans to close the Hog’s brand.

“Whilst we may unfortunately see some additional closures in future, we reopened our Glenelg restaurant in Adelaide last week and are working to reopen our Maitland restaurant on the NSW coast which recently closed.”