Three west Dorset restaurant owners have spoken of the "bleak" situation for the industry amid the cost of living crisis, minimum wage increases and ever-increasing running costs.

They've aired their frustration after The Bridge House restaurant on East Street, Bridport was forced to close its doors, with owners saying rising costs were to blame. The hotel and garden pop-ups are not affected and will continue as normal.

In Weymouth the family who own the Crustacean seafood restaurant as well as The Loft pizza restaurant announced their closure at the weekend.

Simon Mazzei is the owner of The Olive Tree, also on East Street in Bridport. He employs around 10 full-time staff members as well as 10 part-time staff.

When inflation began to rise in 2022 he took the decision to take the hit personally and not pass the costs onto customers whilst retaining his staff members.

He said that the economic climate has forced him to work long hours in summer and fewer hours in winter to "fill in the gaps".

Mr Mazzei said: “It’s hard. Our three biggest overheads are food, fuel and wage costs, the three things that have been hit hardest by inflation over the past two years.

“A lot of places we noticed started cutting costs when inflation started rising. We chose to maintain standards to try and keep the best quality food, I paid my staff as much as I could, they are key to my business.

“I can’t expect them to work 60 hours a week over August and then say goodbye in November.

“I took the decision to take the hit personally and hit the margins rather than hit people with a huge prices increase, so my margins are on the floor. So far our turnover has held up.

“We did that by cutting the margin rather than cutting staff or cutting quality.

“There is a personal cost, it is tough on my family when I work long hours.

“My family get it, they understand, we will survive, but it may push my retirement back a year or two."

For Mr Mazzei, the prospect of restaurants closing in Bridport is worrying as he believes that the competition is important to bring tourists to the town.

He added: “I don’t want to be the only decent restaurant in town, people don’t come to an area because there is just one good restaurant. There has to be a working economy to bring the tourist trade in."

In Beaminster, Silvana Bandini, owner of Ollerod on Prout Hill, said that rising costs have wiped out much of her restaurant's reserves.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Silvana Bandini owns The Ollerod on Prout Hill in BeaminsterSilvana Bandini owns The Ollerod on Prout Hill in Beaminster (Image: Tom Lawrence)

The increase in all expenses across the board means that dishes cost a lot more to make and restaurants cost a lot more to open their doors and run, but they're unable to pass the full cost rise onto customers, which significantly lowers their already slim profit margins.

She said: "It’s been hugely difficult. Very sadly, a lot of places have been closing down because it is not sustainable.

“As hospitality businesses, we can’t pass on the price increases.

“We can’t suddenly start charging £15 for a starter and £40 for a main course because we wouldn’t have any more guests; we have to appreciate and understand their lives are also more expensive.

“All of us felt a huge impact and most just managed to scrape through - some didn't and had to close. I had to make changes to the business and am extraordinarily lucky I managed to survive.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Silvana thanked her locals who have 'saved' her businessSilvana thanked her locals who have 'saved' her business (Image: Tom Lawrence)

Ms Bandini gave thanks to her loyal customers. She said: “I have a wonderful set of locals who support us and that is what has saved this business.

“We are very lucky we have locals who love us. If we hadn’t, right now I wouldn’t be here, because they make the effort and they do come."

Samuel Hill, owner of The Supper Club on the Dreadnought Trading Estate in Bridport, said: “It has been very hard to keep going, it has been an uphill struggle.

“For me personally, I couldn’t have been hit worse. I don’t think we have had enough help from the Government.

“I think there should be a cut in VAT for hospitality, we were some of the hardest businesses hit by COVID-19 and we are still suffering the effects of that and the cost of living crisis.

“It is really sad to see so many amazing pubs, and restaurants close and brilliant staff members losing their jobs through no fault of their own."