FOUR restaurant premises in a flagship Southampton development stand empty as the hard times on Britain's high streets continue to effect the casual dining market.

Westquay South has lost Scandinavian eatery KuPP and steakhouse Cau in recent months with the loss of scores of jobs.

Earlier this year The Diner closed and premises earmarked for a Jamie's Italian were never filled after the chain owned by TV chef Jamie Oliver ran into trouble.

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When the Gaucho chain fell into administration it sparked the immediate closure of the group's 22 Cau restaurants – including Westquay's – with loss of 540 jobs across the UK.

Matt Smith, joint administrator at Deloitte, said: "Unfortunately the Cau brand has struggled in the oversupplied casual dining sector with rapid over-expansion, poor site selection, onerous lease arrangements and a fundamentally poor guest proposition all being factors in its underperformance."

KuPP's owner Faucet Inns put it into administration with the closure of two of its four sites - Westquay and Exeter.

Faucet founder Steve Cox agreed to buy back the remaining two sites, in Paddington and Oxford from administrators.

Westquay South opened in December 2016 with 19 restaurants and 6,000 covers.

After delays in the development Hammerson, which part owns and operates Westquay, opted to make the new development entirely food and leisure, drawing criticism that they would take business away from the city's existing restaurants.

Within three months Bridget Vyze, who ran Dock ‘O the Bay, was blaming the new raft of restaurants – the biggest development of its kind in Europe ­— for the failure of her business.

She told the Echo: “The reason we closed is after a bad year in 2016 we got to January and February hoping to survive those few months until spring then the new restaurant complex in Westquay opened up with 20 restaurants and 6,000 covers which finished us off.

“There are just not enough customers in Southampton to go round and we had no chance of competing with that.

Hammerson refused to comment when asked if they had saturated the market on Southampton by putting too many restaurants into one centre.

A spokesperson from Westquay said: “At Westquay we are constantly looking to curate a fresh and relevant retail and leisure mix for customers.

"As in our other centres, the food and beverage space often see a higher level of rotation and this provides great opportunities for new and up and coming brands to take space.

“Consumers increasingly mix and match between well-known favourites alongside emerging, independent brands. This approach will continue to shape the way we curate our dining offer at Westquay and we are currently exploring a range of new options to further enhance the centre’s significant leisure and dining offer, which includes Casa Brasil, Carluccio’s, Franco Manca and Wahaca.”

Councillor Mark Chaloner, the city council's finance portfolio holder, said: "It is concerning to see empty premises in any of our major sites."

|However, he said he thought "clustering' of restaurants helped them survive.

He said that on his most recent visit to Westquay most of the restaurants were busy.

"There is a demand there and clustering is a way of helping them survive.

"I think it's fair to say that the restaurants which have closed, Cau, KuPP and The Diner were not major national players."

Cllr Chaloner added that he thought the likes of Deliveroo posed the greatest long-term threat to restaurants in the city.

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