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Cranks may spring up again outside London

Cranks, the vegetarian and wholefood restaurant chain which shut down its London restaurants just before Christmas, may yet be revived.

Its owners admitted after the closure that “in the medium to long term” it may reinvent the restaurants, although probably not in London.

Meanwhile, new owner Nando’s Grocery will keep the name alive in the surviving restaurant in Dartington, Devon, which opened in 1971; in a range of foods such as breads and soups sold to supermarkets and food shops; and through the Cranks cookery books.

The Cranks Express range of sandwiches, salads, drinks and cakes, sold to 30 Sodexho and Compass catering sites in London, will also be expanded.

Former joint owners the Piper Trust and Capricorn International (which owns the Nando’s fast-food chicken restaurant chain and Nando’s Grocery) closed four of the five loss-making London Cranks on 15 December. A fifth restaurant in Canary Wharf remains open because of the conditions of its lease but will close in time.

A farewell party at the restaurant in Tottenham Street on the final day was marred when someone threw a Christmas tree through the window, showering more than 100 current and former staffers with glass shards.

Phil Lynas, managing director of Nando’s Grocery, which sells sauces to food retailers, said that the London restaurants had suffered from increasing competitive pressures since the 1980s. They depended on passing daytime trade and, while opening in the evening may have helped, Lynas added that their locations were also open to question.

However, he saw no reason why the success of the Dartington restaurant, which turns over between £350,000 and £400,000 a year, could not be reproduced in other sites. Unlike the London restaurants, which used food made elsewhere, Dartington makes its meals itself.

The commercial pressures of operating in London, however, meant that any new restaurants were likely to open elsewhere.

by Angela Frewin

Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 3-9 January 2002

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