Leonard Curtis installed as Spudulike administrator

08 August 2019 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read

Insolvency specialists from professional services firm Leonard Curtis have been appointed to oversee the administration of Spudulike. The baked potato specialist has collapsed amid a sustained high street downturn in the UK, closing all 37 of its outlets at the cost of almost 300 jobs.

The UK has witnessed a string of casual dining chains looking to find efficiency savings, or entering into full-blown restructuring efforts throughout the last two years, in a casual dining crunch which threatens thousands of jobs across the country. A growing number of mid-range dining chains have been floundering in recent times, having over-stretched their resources amid poor sales figures and mounting debt.

Notably this saw TV chef Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian chain among a flurry of firms in the food and drink sector to enter into a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), in a bid to secure its future. However, the efforts to preserve the brand ultimately proved futile, and the group, which includes the Jamie's Italian chain, Barbecoa and Fifteen, appointed KPMG as administrator.

Leonard Curtis installed as Spudulike administrator

Now, as trading conditions on the British high street fail to improve, while the cost of importing produce has spiked thanks to a run on the pound, the casual dining space has taken another hit with the closing of Spudulike. The company was founded in 1974, finding popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, but according to a letter to staff announcing the appointment of administrators, it had been “under financial pressure” in recent years and a number of alternative options to save the business, including seeking a buyer, had failed.

This also included a proposed CVA in July, a tactic which had been used to shed unprofitable branches by a string of retail and restaurant groups, including Debenhams, Topshop’s owner, Arcadia Group, Mothercare and Carluccio’s. In the case of Spudulike (which also trades as Fat Jackets) landlords vetoed the move, stating shock at the scale of rent cuts being demanded, which were apparently much more severe than other companies had sought.

Spudulike has 37 branches across the UK, including Dundee, Plymouth and London’s Oxford Street, all of which have now been closed. Some 300 staff have subsequently been made redundant without back pay or holiday pay, as Leonard Curtis professionals Neil Bennett and Alex Cadwallader were installed to oversee the administration of parent company, T&G Fast Food Developments. The administrators are continuing attempts to find a buyer for at least part of the business, while some staff may still therefore be contacted in future about re-employment.

This will come as little solace to the workforce, however, who according to reports by the Guardian, were owed substantial amounts of money for work they had done in the month leading to the administration. Workers were owed two weeks’ worth of pay, which in some cases amounted to more than £500, while some branches were given “zero notice” of the action, and some staff arrived for work “none the wiser.”

Speaking with the UK broadsheet, one member of Spudulike staff said, “I got home later that day still in shock over what had happened and when I finally went to bed, broke down into tears at the realisation I may not even be able to pay my rent this month.”

Remarking on the news, meanwhile, Leonard Curtis’ Bennett said, “We are very disappointed with the outcome. Sadly, a sale of the business and assets of the group on a going-concern basis did not prove possible following the last-minute withdrawal of an offer that was close to completion.”