Las Iguanas claims it suffered £500,000 in lost business as a result of negative publicity that followed a damning hygiene report into a branch that it operates in Liverpool.
Live cockroaches and mouse droppings were found in the kitchen of its branch in the city last year. A court today heard that the mouse droppings were discovered under racks containing chopping boards and that food debris and shredded paper provided a food source for pests.
According to David Whiting, representing the company in court, national press coverage of the hygiene failures at the Liverpool branch had a financial impact on the chain. He was quoted by The Liverpool Echo, reporting in court, as saying: “Of course the following year there was a loss of profit of half a million pounds, the profit was down 25-30%”.
Mr Whiting added that in February 2016, £25,000 was spent on resolving issues at the restaurant. He said the head chef, general manager and operations manager were all suspended.
The head chef was later summarily dismissed, while the operations manager and restaurant manager resigned, according to the Echo.
The company admitted failing to keep the premises clean and maintained “in that floor surfaces and equipment surfaces in the kitchen and storage areas were unclean.”
Following the EHO inspection, where the site received a zero out of five hygiene rating, Las Iguanas submitted pest control reports which contained some recommendations for the requirement of general pest proofing and over cleanliness in the premises, the report said.
Mr Whiting said the restaurant receives around 3,000 customers a week and that the company has never had any hygiene warnings at any of its restaurants, at any time in its history. The majority of its restaurants have the highest five star food hygiene rating.
At the start of the case, Las Iguanas managing director Mos Shamel issued a statement, which read: “Our business has a very strong track record and reputation for high standards, and is recognised as one of the very best performing restaurant groups in the UK, as measured by the government’s own official food rating scheme, with over 95% of our 51 venues achieving the very highest accreditation.
“We fully accept that 14 months ago conditions at our Liverpool ONE restaurant were not right, following a localised issue. This problem was addressed immediately and robustly. At the same time, we conducted a wider review of this restaurant, which triggered a programme of changes including some personnel changes. We are satisfied that this restaurant now meets the stringent national standards that we demand and our guests expect.”
Earlier this month, Zizzi at Liverpool ONE, next door to Las Iguanas, was fined £30,000 for hygiene failures.