London restaurant group A to Z Restaurants is on the market after running into serious financial difficulties.
The renowned group, which includes Aubergine in Fulham and Zafferano in Knightsbridge, was put into administration on 2 November after its bankers pulled the plug
|Chef Giorgio Locatelli may be interested |
in taking back control of Zafferano (above),
one of the A to Z restaurants put up for sale
All seven restaurants affected are still trading normally and there have been no redundancies or staff changes.
The restaurants are now for sale as a group or individually. Administrators BDO Stoy Hayward said it was “too early to comment” on their future, but interest was mounting.
An insider at one A to Z restaurant said some managers and chefs planned management buyouts of individual businesses. He said the restaurants remained profitable and that staff would leave if they were forced to work under new management. “The only way staff will stay is if we gain control,” he said.
Director Guiliano Lotto is also trying to re-take control of the company, while Giorgio Locatelli who retained a stake in Zafferano, was rumoured to be interested in the restaurant.
A to Z has been struggling under the strain of heavy debts which led to bankers demanding a sale. Accounts for parent company A to Z Holdings filed at Companies House show that while sales for the year to 31 March 2003 were £12.5m, an operating profit of £326,536 was reduced to a pre-tax loss of £244,250.
The other five restaurants affected are L’Oranger in St James’ Street, Alloro in Mayfair, Spiga in Soho, and two Chinese restaurants called Memories of China in Victoria and Kensington.
A to Z Holdings is controlled by two holding companies, one registered in the UK and the other, Fineight International, in Panama.
– Director of A to Z Holdings Guiliano Lotto has been embroiled in a legal battle over Italian restaurant Teca for almost five years. Swiss banker, Marco Bacchetta, who sold the restaurant to Lotto via Panamanian company Fineight, is now owed about £650,000, including interest, for the restaurant. Fineight International is a major shareholder of A to Z Holdings and Lotto was identified as the “leading spirit” behind the company earlier this year. Teca is not part of A to Z.
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 11 November 2004