Jack Stein has spoken of the "heart-breaking" situations operators are facing after the business came under fire for delaying two weeks of April's payroll.
Jack's parents Rick and Jill Stein established the family business – the flagship of which is the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow – more than 45 years ago and it employs around 650 people. After criticism of its approach to keeping the business afloat, Jack has called on insurers, banks and the government to provide clarity on when financial relief would be available.
He told The Caterer that the temporary pay cut was the only option until a payment date was given for government's Job Retention Scheme, or its insurance claim or application for a business interruption loan were approved.
He said: "Paying the entire payroll would potentially mean we never reopen, it's that close. We've got no cash and we must protect the reserves – we had to push that [running out of cash] further down the road. We're just fighting and doing everything we can do to keep going as long as possible."
All staff have been furloughed and remain on the payroll so they will be covered by the government scheme, which will pay 80% of wages up to £2,500 for at least three months. Jack added that as soon as one of the three forms of financial relief is received, the group will pay the rest of April's payroll as well as money due to suppliers.
Jack said: "We're a seasonal business and we're coming out of the winter. We make a loss until May, so our cash flow is so tight – this just couldn't have happened at a worse time.
"Before the government announced the furlough scheme it would have been a matter of weeks before we had no money – our bank facility is maxed out and everyone is scrambling. We were looking at everyone losing their jobs and us losing the business, which in turn would have affected our supply chain and been the end of everything built up over 45 years. It was heart-breaking and we know it's the same across the whole industry.
"The fact this money is taking time to come through is the pressure. The problem is the devil's in the detail and the details need to be clear. We're saying hold on, it's coming, but we need to know a date."
March's payroll is being paid in full and Jack said the business was working with its employees to address problems that may arise in relation to the partial delay in April's payroll, with advice on deferring payments or accessing other credit.
Jack added: "Our people are all behind us, they're going to struggle in April, there's no two ways about it, but if the government had not have stepped in with the furlough scheme, we would be going bust. They know that and they know we're fighting tooth and nail. If we get confirmation of when the payment will be made, we will instantly react and we can then make payments, but at the moment we don't have any of that and we have to protect the business. If the business goes under, all our suppliers, all our staff and the wider community in Padstow are all impacted.
"It's heart-breaking for us as a family, these aren't numbers they're people we love and care about – I've worked with some of them my whole adult life."
Many of the restaurant group's employees have been giving their time to the volunteer to help the local community while the sites are closed. Surplus food has been donated, fish is being taking from day boats and prepped by team members before being distributed to vulnerable people in the local community and the group is working with its local NHS trust to help establish an emergency canteen for workers as well as supplying meals.
Jack added: "Nobody knows what's happening day-by-day, thousands of people could go down with this and hundreds of people are dying. I just want to say ‘not now' to the negative comments. The government has stepped in, our people will get paid and fingers crossed this won't last beyond the summer."