The 2019 protests in Hong Kong, pandemic social-distancing restrictions, and delivery app charges that squeezed profits are behind the closure of La Rotisserie, say two of the co-founders of the French roast chicken chain. La Rotisserie announced on January 6 that its six outlets in the city would close on January 7. The chain was started in November 2012 by Marie Ranc , Aurelien Malik Benbernou and Jerome Carlier, three French nationals who felt there was a gap in the market for moderately priced roast chicken – a staple family-style dish in their home country. Its newest outlet, in Lee Garden in Causeway Bay, opened in July 2021. Speaking to the Post , Ranc and Carlier said they had exhausted all means to keep the business going in the last three years, and were left with no choice but to close. “The last two to three years were very tough for us, we had no other options,” Carlier said. “In Hong Kong to be a sustainable business you need to reach a critical size of 10 to 20 shops. We tried to grow to make the business profitable, but we couldn’t grow that big, it wasn’t sustainable for a group like us.” The founders tried to keep La Rotisserie going by approaching potential investors, but Carlier says they were not keen to put money into La Rotisserie, which had just been getting by for the last three years. Delivery apps are between the customer and the restaurant and they get the cash. They get 35 per cent commission. Jerome Carlier, co-founder, La Rotisserie “We discussed with different investors and the feedback was that now is not the right time to invest in a Western business. “I have been in Hong Kong for more than 10 years and I feel that Hong Kong is becoming a Chinese city. It’s not the same as before. We also have many staff and customers leaving the city,” he said. Ranc said: “The last three years were difficult to forecast.” The street protests in 2019 against a change to extradition law that turned into an anti-government movement caused havoc for businesses, and then Covid-19 social-distancing measures made conditions even more challenging. She said the Hong Kong government urging employers to let staff work from home last year had left some La Rotisserie outlets, such as the one in Quarry Bay, a growing office distict, with hardly any customers. The chain imported its poultry from France by ship, and Carlier said supply was steady and costs were manageable. However, four of its six outlets were takeaway shops, which have lower profit margins than restaurants, and their profits were squeezed further by food delivery businesses’ charges. “Delivery apps are between the customer and the restaurant and they get the cash. They get 35 per cent commission. I want to tell people to be more careful. When people wonder why small shops are disappearing around them, it’s because they are ordering from Amazon,” said Carlier. Asked why they did not scale back the business and close some locations, Carlier explained that five years ago they had invested in a warehouse and a central kitchen with the hope of building a chain of restaurants, and so downsizing was not feasible. “There are many things we could have done in other ways,” he said. La Rotisserie’s first branch opened in November 2012 on Hillier Street in Sheung Wan. In a message posted on its Facebook page on January 6, La Rotisserie thanked its customers and staff for their support for over nine years. “What began as a takeaway restaurant in Hillier Street [in Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island], grew into places that had welcomed thousands of guests over the years. For a restaurant chain to survive and thrive in Hong Kong for almost a decade is an accomplishment of which we can all be proud.” Since La Rotisserie announced on Facebook that it would close, there had been an outpouring of sadness from customers, the pair said. “It’s very touching that they liked La Rotisserie, it’s a bit sad, but we were suffering a lot,” said Carlier. The partners are assessing their personal situations before deciding what to do. Carlier, who has a Hong Kong-born wife and daughter, is looking to exit the city, while Ranc and their other partner, Benbernou, may stay. Staff of La Rotisserie were notified of the impending closure a month ago and restaurant groups have contacted the founders about taking on some of them.