An experienced chef turned businessman has warned restaurants are becoming a dying trade in Halstead.

John Dickens, who has been running Dickens restaurant within Townsford Mill for 15 years, admits he fears for the future of the town's eateries due to the ever changing demands from customers.

Mr Dickens, 61, highlighted the departure of Italian restaurant Prezzo as a prime example of the struggles restaurants in the town are facing.

He said: "Halstead always has beautiful memories for me, it used to be a buzzing market town.

"But its a shame and disappointing to see the high street how it is today where it needs serious help.

"If chain restaurants like Prezzo can't last then what chance is there for the independent diners and retailers?

"Wages are going up, rates are going up but we can't put our prices up because customers won't like that.

"When restaurants do close, people always say 'oh what a shame'. But it's now really a case of use it or lose it. We aren't being used as much as we should be anymore.

" Customers don't want to come in, sit down and have a three course meal anymore. They want their food straight away and on the go."

Prezzo was the only chain restaurant in Halstead before its premises on Market Hill closed in May.

To contend with the uncertainty in the industry, Mr Dickens, who has previously run eateries in Wethersfield and The White Hart Inn in Great Yeldham, has set up a new mobile restaurant which he takes around the country. .

His Good Honest Food venture has seen him convert a truck into a moving kitchen which is kitted out with everything he needs.

The new business has seen the opening hours at Dickens restaurant reduced meaning the popular eatery only opens on weekends now.

Mr Dickens admits he has set up his mobile restaurant not only because of the changing eating habits of customers, but also because of the uncertainty surrounding the future of Townsford Mill and the owners plans to create a bed and breakfast in Mill House.

Mr Dickens added: "No one really knows what is going to happen to the mill at the moment.

"Things have changed greatly over the years as well. With all due respect, my customers are getting older and the next generation are always on the go and have different needs.

"I've had to change with where the market is going. I have a set menu but we can make whatever people want so long as we have time to prepare it all.

"I would say the change is paying off, it makes me mobile so I can go where people need me.

"I see it as a new challenge, it's important to stay with the times and this is what people want now."

To make a booking at Dickens or Good Honest Food, contact 01787 273080.