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Tue 16th Jun 2020 - Seafood Pub Company to enter administration
Seafood Pub Company to enter administration: Seafood Pub Company, the north west based, ten-strong country inns business, is set to go into administration. The award-winning company, which was founded in 2010 by Joycelyn Neve, filed a Notice of Intention to appoint administrators last week. The business said it was unable to access government support from a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CIBL), and that an internal fundraise followed with the bank and investors. However, whilst both were supportive, the investor fundraise failed, as did a subsequent management buyout attempt. Without funding, and no income since the forced closure, the business will go into administration. Propel understands that BDO will oversee the administration process. Neve told Propel: “It goes without saying I am truly heartbroken to have lost the business, but even more so for my team and seafood family. We fought as hard as possible, every step of the way and I am just so sorry that we weren’t able to save the business. I can’t thank the team, guests, suppliers, and everyone who has been part of Seafood Pub Company enough, for their support and friendship the past nine years and especially for the kindness and well wishes at this incredibly difficult time.” The company operated award-winning gastro pubs across Lancashire and Yorkshire. Penta Capital bought a majority stake in the then eight-strong Seafood Pub Company in July 2016. The private equity firm arranged an £18m funding package to acquire a majority stake in the business and provide funds for expansion. At the start of 2018, Graham Price, the co-founder of Brunning & Price, joined the business, as its chairman. 

Opinion: Slipping through the net by Propel insights editor Mark Wingett

We hate it when our friends become successful sang Morrissey. We hate it even more when misfortune befalls them. With her passion for the hospitality industry, her straight-talking and her ability to create an award-winning business from scratch, Joycelyn Neve, the founder of Seafood Pub Company, had built up a considerable group of friends and supporters over the past ten years, and I hope she feels that love over the coming weeks. If the government wanted a very raw and timely reminder of the impact of covid-19 on the hospitality sector and its continued indifference to provide a clear pathway to its survival, sadly, here is one. Neve, who founded the business in 2010 at the age of 25, is understandably “heartbroken, to have lost my business, but even more so for my team and seafood family”. Founded in 2010, with a vision to deliver the “best quality ingredients but in a relaxed and accessible way”, the company combined Neve’s love of food and drive for success, with her father Chris’s fishing expertise and contacts from his successful fish business. Accolades and awards followed, and as is the case, so did investment. In July 2016, the company secured an £18m funding package from former EAT and La Tasca backer Penta Capital, which took a majority stake in the then eight-strong business. At the time, the company said that the new funding would help it to expand to 20 sites over the next three to five years. Following the new investment, the group secured its first Yorkshire site, when it took on the Red Lion pub in Harrogate.

By the start of 2018, the business, which included Ian Edward, formerly on the board of Geronimo Inns and co-founder of Hippo Inns, as a non-executive director; appointed Graham Price, the co-founder of Brunning & Price, as its new chairman. Quite a sounding board to have in terms of growing successful pub businesses. That year, the company continued year-on-year sales growth but also reported increased losses following a number of one-off costs. The company, saw turnover rise 2% to £9.2m for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £9.02m the previous year. It made an operating loss of £1.04 compared with a profit of £35,431 the year before, while pre-tax losses rose to £1.23m compared with £172.3k the previous year. Net current liabilities rose to just over £11m from £10.8m the year before. The company’s costs include a number of one-off expenses connected to system improvements, restructuring and the exit of one non-core site, Roaming Roosters. A director’s report that accompanied those accounts, which were filed last year, said that these costs weren’t expected to be repeated in future years. But then again no one expected a pandemic to sweep these shores and close the industry down for three months and counting.

It may be an understatement, but now is not the time to be a business living hand to mouth, as most the size will be of Seafood Pub Company will be. It is thought that the move to go down the administration route was agonised over by Neve until the last minute after several back and forth conversations with her board and backers. As she says: “We fought as hard as possible, every step of the way and I am just so sorry to all the team that we weren’t able to save the business.” It is a business that has continually received admiring glances from sector rivals both locally and nationally, and you wonder if the likes of Brunning & Price, Robinson’s and Thwaites will run the rule over it. Could Neve look to buy some of the sites back? That is probably not a question she will be thinking about right now, when I imagine she is feeling very bruised by the current situation, but hopefully after a period of reflection she’ll be very proud of what she achieved, as to build a business like that from scratch takes real talent. As an industry we can’t afford to lose talents like that. Sadly, Neve and Seafood Pub Company won’t be the last to go through this. There are more dark days ahead.

Greggs outlines re-opening plans: Greggs has outlined its re-opening plans. It stated: “In recent weeks we have successfully operated a small number of shops and tested various operational changes, including new workwear, equipment and social distancing measures, that will support the safety of our teams and customers when we open shops at scale. Our team has done an outstanding job and the trials have been well received by both our colleagues and our customers, whilst providing valuable learning to allow us to refine our new processes. We have been working to the following phased plan for the re-opening of our shops: Early May – commence trial at a small number of shops to test new social distancing measures and operational processes; Mid-June – a larger scale opening of selected shops with new procedures and equipment; Early July – plan to re-open the rest of the shop estate. In line with this plan we intend to re-open around 800 shops to takeaway customers later this week, on Thursday 18th June. All team members are being trained in the range of operational changes and protective measures that we have implemented across our retail estate, including: Floor markings and signage to help customers maintain social distancing; protective screens at our counters; Availability of protective workwear for our teams; Additional, more frequent, cleaning measures; availability of hand sanitiser; encouragement of contactless card payment. We are not able to predict the impact of social distancing on our ability to trade or on customer demand. However, our capacity to operate will be restricted by size of shop and we must anticipate that sales may be lower than normal for some time. This will require us to maintain a proportion of our colleagues on furlough, either fully or partially, until sales levels begin returning to normal. In anticipation of lower sales, we have limited our initial product range to our best sellers and therefore a number of our manufacturing operational teams will remain furloughed until demand reaches a level that justifies the addition of remaining product lines. During the closure period we have reviewed our immediate strategic priorities and made a number of key decisions while we continue to assess the longer-term implications of this crisis on our strategic planning: With uncertainty in the sales outlook we have temporarily suspended our new shop opening programme with the exception of a few shops where we are already legally committed or we anticipate strong customer traffic. As a result, we now expect to open circa 60 shops and close circa 50 over the year as a whole. We have reviewed our existing estate and are approaching landlords making a variety of proposals in return for rent reductions. All landlords have been informed of our plan to move to monthly rent payments from June. We made our full quarterly rent payment in March as usual. With digital shopping channels becoming more important we have accelerated our development of ‘delivery’ and ‘click and collect’ services. Included in this week’s reopening plan are 19 shops that will re-open for ‘delivery’ and ‘click and collect’ transactions, and we will extend these services to further catchments as soon as possible. Finally, we have continued with the investment in our new robotic frozen logistics facility in the north east, which will significantly improve efficiency under all trading conditions.” Chief executive Roger Whiteside said: “Looking forward, although great uncertainty remains, we are excited to be resuming our service for many customers this week. We are confident of our ability to adapt to market conditions in the short term while continuing to invest in the long-term growth of our business. I want to thank all of our 25,000 colleagues for their support in getting us to this point.”

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