Over 350 more dining jobs lost as burger chain swallowed up

A further 362 jobs were lost in the casual dining sector yesterday after the closure of 26 Gourmet Burger Kitchen outlets in a pre-pack administration.

The brand, together with 35 of its 61 sites, has been sold to the privately owned Boparan Restaurant Group, securing the jobs of 669 of the 1,031-strong workforce.

GBK was acquired four years ago by Famous Brands, the South African owner of the Wimpy chain, for £120 million. At the time it had about 80 restaurants, but in 2018 it shed 17 sites via a company voluntary arrangement.

Deloitte, which is handling the administration, said that after the CVA, a less severe insolvency procedure, changes had been made that had improved the brand’s performance in the year to February. However, post-lockdown it had been operating on a reduced basis, with 18 of the 61 UK outlets not reopening.

Gavin Maher, joint administrator, added: “As with a number of dining businesses, the broader challenges facing bricks-and-mortar operators, combined with the effect of the lockdown, resulted in a deterioration in financial performance and a material funding requirement.”

Boparan Restaurant Group, part of the food empire of the so-called “chicken king” Ranjit Boparan, has become one of the go-to buyers of distressed restaurant businesses, acquiring brands such as Fishworks, Carluccio’s and Ed’s Easy Diner. The purchase of Gourmet Burger Kitchen lifts its total portfolio to 99 restaurants, with 32 franchised outlets overseas. It said that it would continue to operate GBK’s franchise partnership in the United Arab Emirates, where there are four franchised outlets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Satnam Leihal, 43, managing director of BRG, said: “This latest acquisition is in line with our strategy to grow our restaurant group with quality brands. While it is an extremely challenging time for the sector, we believe quality hospitality businesses will recover in the long term as people return to eating out.”

The GBK restaurants it is acquiring include sites in Bath, Birmingham, Cambridge, Greenwich, Liverpool, Oxford and Putney.

The brand was launched in Battersea, south London, in 2001. In 2004 it was acquired for £10 million by Clapham House Group, which was swallowed by Yellowwoods Associates in 2010 in a £40 million deal. In April this year Famous Brands announced it was withdrawing financial support for the brand.

According to Propel Info, a trade journal, BRG beat off competition for the burger chain from Byron, a burger rival, and Naveen Handa, a director of the Cairn hospitality group. The value of the deal was put at between £4 million and £5 million.

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