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Suppliers pull out of deals with Von Essen

03 March 2005 by

Six food suppliers have suspended trading with the Von Essen hotel group following wrangles over money.

New Wave Seafoods in Gloucester and Coln Valley Smokery in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, have halted all supplies to the group, claiming it took several months to settle their accounts.

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Lower Slaughter Manor: Von Essen blames the dispute on hotels' previous "disordered" accounting systems
New Wave, which has since been paid, supplied fresh seafood to the Lower Slaughter Manor hotel, the Washbourne Court hotel, the Buckland Manor hotel, and the Greenway hotel, all three-star Gloucestershire venues. The four contracts each had sales worth about £2,000 a month. Managing director Tim Boyd told Caterer: "We traded happily with the hotels for many years, but things changed when Von Essen took over. They would take four or five months to pay, and owed us more than £10,000 at one point. The only reason we got our money was because we threatened court action." Mark Osborne, manager at Coln Valley Smokery, also believes he was paid only because he threatened direct action. "I told them I would take my fish van down to the Royal Crescent hotel in Bath \[a five-star Von Essen hotel\], get the placards out and make a noise in front of the tourists," he said. The two companies, which together took orders from seven of the group's 17-strong chain, are not alone. Caterer has spoken to four other suppliers, which didn't wish to be named, that have also suspended trading with the group. In some cases Von Essen hotel chefs have resorted to desperate measures as their supplies have dried up. One Von Essen staff member told Caterer: "The chefs at my hotel are pulling their hair out. They have to go to the local supermarket to get fish, which is obviously not of the same quality. Some are paying for produce out of their own pocket. Von Essen has got some lovely hotels, but it's grown very quickly. Maybe it's bitten off more than it can chew." A Von Essen spokeswoman blamed the dispute on the hotels' previous owners. "Most of the hotels Von Essen buys are run by owner-managers who do not run efficient accounting systems," she said. "These often disordered procedures take time to assimilate into our professional structures. The two companies you mention were… both relationships we chose not to continue in preference to our own more established suppliers." *Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 24 February 2005*
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