More than half of the workforce at Byron, the luxury hamburger chain, will join the army of hospitality workers this weekend who are being fired because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Sky News found that only 20 of Byron’s 51 restaurants will be transferred to its new owner, Calveton UK – with only 550 of its 1,200 employees being hired.
The deal, which was due to be concluded through a pre-packaged administration process on Friday afternoon, will be the latest example of the carnage being carried out in Britain’s restaurant sector.
Image: During the outbreak of COVID-19, most Byron personnel were compensated
Sources said Calveton, whose directors have experience as investors in networks like Caffe Nero, would own the majority of Byron’s new parent, with existing investors, Three Hills Capital Partners, with a minority stake.
KPMG, Byron’s manager, was on hold for several weeks after being appointed to find a buyer for the business.
Like other hospitality companies, Byron struggled to access financial support under the Treasury’s emergency lending schemes and was struck by confusion over reopening guidelines, the prospect of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions imposed by social detachment.
In recent weeks, companies like Casual Dining Group, owner of Las Iguanas and Café Rouge, and owner of Bella Italia, Azzurri Group, have taken over management.
Others, including Prezzo, Wahaca, Wasabi and Pizza Hut Restaurants, have hired consultants to explore a company sale or voluntary agreement (CVA).
Founded in 2007 with two locations, Byron was among many casual restaurant chains that expanded very aggressively and agreed to lease deals that, ultimately, they couldn’t afford.
The network’s profile was inadvertently boosted by photos of then-Chancellor George Osborne, eating one of his hamburgers the night before the 2013 comprehensive government spending review was delivered.
Its existing majority shareholder, Three Hills Capital Partners, helped ensure its survival in 2018, when it undertook a restructuring to settle its debts and near underperforming sites.
During the outbreak of COVID-19, most of its staff were submitted under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Last year, the company posted sales of £ 70.9 million, with a gross profit of £ 31.6 million.
Sources said the pandemic occurred “at a frustrating time for Byron”, who was making progress on his recovery plan with Chief Executive Simon Wilkinson.
Wilkinson, former head of La Tasca, joined last year.
It is understood that he placed all hourly Byron employees on payment terms with a minimum hour to ensure that they were protected during the blockade.
Byron, Calveton and KPMG declined to comment.