‘Cash management is absolutely key for us now’ – Comptoir boss on Covid costs

Comptoir Libanais

Restaurant chain Comptoir Group said its focus remains on protecting its cash position as it rallies against Covid restrictions that have forced it to lay off half its staff.

The majority of the Lebanese brand’s sites are London-based and have been hit hard by a sharp reduction in tourist traffic and the closure of offices and theatres. The need to service the increased deferred liabilities of the business has also placed extra pressure on the available cash position.

Sales during the six months to 30 June plunged by more than 60% year-on-year to £6.1m.

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“With the huge reduction in revenue, the focus on the control of operational costs and the tightest possible management of our cash is now absolutely key and continues to be at the forefront of minds as we navigate through these unprecedented times for us and the entire UK hospitality market,” said CEO Chaka Hanna.

Cost-saving measures have included the redeployment of field-based operational support managers into the restaurants and reduced salaries across the central support and executive teams plus all of its salaried site management teams. It has also reduced headcount across the business by 50%.

Currently 19 of its own operated restaurants are open, with five closed pending the outcome of ongoing negotiations with landlords.

Comptoir’s franchise partner HMS Host has reopened three out of the four sites it operates, leaving just Dubai Airport closed.

The two franchise restaurants operated by The Restaurant Group in Heathrow and Gatwick will not reopen under the TRG franchise agreement, however Comptoir said it is in early discussions with airport authorities for the possibility of reopening them as company-owned, or with another franchise partner, if and when the passenger numbers return to normality in the future.

Mr Hanna said trading in the early stages of reopening has “inevitably been very challenging” with the focus on the health and safety of its restaurant teams and guests being of ever more increasing paramount importance.

“The focus on the health and safety of our team members and guests has been further enhanced by the implementation of a new Comptoir app providing our guests with the option to order and pay safely at the table.

“Alongside revised rota management protocols and the introduction of safeguarding equipment and other related measures, we have sought to optimise protection from the Covid-19 virus.”

THE BIG INTERVIEW: Tony Kitous, Comptoir Libanais

Tags : Comptoir Group
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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