Grab-and-go sushi and bento chain, Wasabi, becomes the latest casual dining chain to launch a Company Voluntary Arrangement among the coronavirus pandemic.
A CVA has been launched to drive the chain through a difficult period and to safeguard its future. Wasabi has 51 sites across the UK – 41 of which are in the capital. The slow return of office workers, low levels of tourism and the social distancing measures in place mean the future for the chain looks uncertain.
If the proposal gets approved by creditors, the group expects to leave a small number of leases and negotiate rent with landlords on some of its sites. Job losses are to be kept to a minimum.
Will Wright and David Costley-Wood of KPMG, are the proposed nominees of the CVA.
The ‘financial and operational restructuring programme’ they company are to undergo also involves extra funding from its investors.
Henry Birts, CEO, said: "Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, Wasabi had been performing strongly on the back of the investment and operational improvements we had made during 2019. However, the extraordinary impact of COVID-19 on trading has meant that we now need to take additional steps to address our fixed cost-base if we are to secure the long-term future of our business. In recent weeks, we have had constructive engagement with landlords regarding better alignment of the rents of certain sites in proportion with footfall and trading, and we will continue to work closely with them over the days ahead. We strongly believe that this turnaround programme will provide us with a stable platform upon which we can emerge from this difficult period as a healthy and sustainable business, for our staff, suppliers and loyal customers.’’
Wasabi was founded in 2003. It has 1,500 staff across its 51 UK restaurants. It also runs two sites under the Kimchee brand and five restaurants in America – these not to be affected by the CVA.