Chef-restaurateur Adam Handling is looking to open another London site this year, following the closure of the Frog Hoxton.
Speaking to The Caterer, Handling said he has had to let go "a handful" of staff, but the majority have been able to move to Frog by Adam Handling in Covent Garden, aided by the flexible furlough system.
"As soon as I do have another restaurant, I have a team ready to move into it," he said.
He added that business owners "have an obligation to look after their staff" and that he was on the lookout for potential sites across London, encouraged by the number of landlords moving to turnover-based rents in the short- and long-term.
However, Handling said he had been forced to close his Hoxton site, which opened in 2018 when he relocated the Frog E1 to the larger space, as he could not reach an agreement with the landlord regarding rent.
"I would never, ever dare treat anyone the way that [some] landlords in London treat their tenants," said Handling. "I think the main reason why a lot of restaurants have gone is because the landlords didn't have any compassion."
I think the main reason why a lot of restaurants have gone is because the landlords didn't have any compassion
He suggested that if landlords had been able to secure a mortgage payment holiday and could financially forego rent payments for that period, then that saving should be passed on to tenants as a rent holiday.
In the meantime, he has moved to ensure the group is on a sustainable footing for the future and said his Covent Garden restaurant is "gunning for the stars" and "ridiculously busy" due to Westminster City Council temporarily pedestrianising streets and fast-tracking restaurants' applications to use pavements for outside seating.
Handling is making use of the opportunity by launching ‘Toad on the Road', a terrace offering dishes making use of waste ingredients on Southampton Street outside Frog by Adam Handling and Eve bar.
The menu uses 'food waste' from the Covent Garden restaurant's tasting menu, such as lobster rolls using offcuts from Handling's lobster wagyu dish, Nanny Sophie's fried chicken, using the thighs not needed for the restaurant's chicken main course, and fish finger sandwiches made from turbot trim.
The extension will add 36 covers to Frog by Adam Handling which, due to social distancing restrictions, is down to 32 covers inside.
The ethos echoes Handling's sustainable-focused zero waste Ugly Butterfly concept, which opened in Chelsea last year and made use of the food waste from Adam Handling Chelsea. Handling confirmed Ugly Butterfly will remain closed, but the Chelsea restaurant's sustainable approach to food waste will continue.
He said: "The sustainable approach is what I'm always going to do within my company, we do that inside the restaurants, we don't necessarily have to build a brand new restaurant just to do that. The Ugly Butterfly was a great project and I loved it. I'm not sad I did it, but restaurants like that don't make money."
He added that the pandemic had been a learning experience for him as a businessman rather than as a chef, acknowledging that he had opened "too many restaurants too quickly" over the last few years.
He said: "I need to be smarter as a CEO, as a businessperson, because I have a shit ton of chefs and people that rely on me to make sure that they still get a salary."
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