Wagga’s food industry is booming ahead of a predicted population spike and retailers say it is suffocating sales.
It follows a Wagga City Council forecast more than 79,300 residents would call the city home before 2031.
With the promise of a greater customer base, competition across food venues has heated up, according to a former franchisee.
It comes after council reported an unanticipated increase of 30 businesses within the hospitality industry, across 12 months.
This brings the total number to 420 commercial kitchens.
It is a number that former Pasta Cup manager Jason Pearce said was diluting sales and leading to closures.
His words follow the city’s saga of small business closures.
“We have a limited population base,” Mr Pearce said. “So business is spread around those venues.”
Now working for LJ Hooker, Mr Pearce said it was one of the reasons Pasta Cup was forced to fold this year, after almost two years of operation.
“People are getting in too early,” he said. “There has to be the right number of food outlets and coffee shops for the population.”
He said another reason businesses were struggling was the cost of living, with residents tending to spend less money at bars, restaurants and cafes.
Former Jardine's Cafe owner Rob Illsley said hospitality had always been a competitive and savage industry, but he would not discourage a new business from starting up in Wagga.
“As long as you’re fulfilling a gap in the market,” Mr Illsley said. “You need to be smart and know what you’re doing.”
With the rise in internet shopping, he said retailers were worried about investing in brick-and-motar stores and rushing toward food as a safer option.
“It’s a crowded market,” Mr Illsley said. “What we’re seeing now is a bit of a market correction with outlets folding.”
Having recently sold what Mr Illsley described as a “strong, established” cafe, he said residents really got around and supported local business.
“People are looking for a sense of community and a good experience,” he said.
“I think our service culture is what we need to look at, if we need to look at survival-rate improvement.”