Hundreds of jobs are expected to be cut at the sushi restaurant chain YO! as it becomes the latest casual dining chain to propose a financial restructuring to creditors amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Sky News understands that YO! has formally decided to launch a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) that will involve closing 19 of its 69 outlets in the UK, as well as nine other sites where it is not the tenant but is legally responsible for rent payments.
The CVA filing is expected to take place later on Friday.
If approved, the plan is expected to involve about 250 redundancies – adding to the sector’s grim recent toll of job losses.
Confirmation of the CVA plan adds YO!’s name to a list of high street chains – including New Look, PizzaExpress and Poundstretcher – which have used the insolvency mechanism to cut their liabilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sources said on Friday that among the sites earmarked for closure by YO! were its concessions at Gatwick Airport and London’s Victoria and Waterloo stations, underlining the potentially long-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis on air and commuter rail travel.
Britain’s restaurant industry has been among the worst-hit by the coronavirus outbreak, with the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme expected to provide only temporary respite to many operators.
Among the chains to have called in administrators during the crisis are Byron, Carluccio’s and Frankie & Benny’s, with the owners of Cafe Rouge and Coco di Mama turning to pre-pack insolvencies to find new owners.
YO!, which is using the accountancy form Deloitte to handle its restructuring, has been working with landlords to agree revised rent deals in order to reopen some of its restaurants.
The chain has devised a new contactless format where customers can order remotely and have food delivered to them on YO!’s sushi conveyor belts.
Since the end of the UK-wide lockdown, those sites are understood to have traded ahead of expectations, with the Treasury’s discount scheme also understood to have boosted sales during the last fortnight.
An associated reduction in food waste has also delivered significant cost savings, a person close to the company previously told Sky News.
The rollout of YO!’s new format – currently in 19 restaurants – has been undertaken with the financial backing of Mayfair Equity Partners, the private equity firm which bought a stake in the company in 2015.
Since its initial investment in YO!, Mayfair has helped to orchestrate the takeover of Canada’s Bento Sushi and a merger with SnowFox in the US last year.
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