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Burger & Lobster: ‘We made mistakes but we are stronger now'

14 January 2017 by

Burger & Lobster director George Bukhov believes there is a future for the business he helped to found in 2011 and sees that future in the USA and Asia, as well as in the brand's successful London sites.

Bukhov's comments to thecaterer.com came after it was revealed in the company's annual accounts for the year to 3 January 2016, published last week, that there was "significant doubt of the group's ability to continue as a going concern" after it recorded a £7m pre-tax loss for the period.

Bukhov said that a big part of the loss was down to growing very quickly in 2015. The company opened seven restaurants in the year, expanding from six to 13 in the UK alone. He also blamed the weak performance of its restaurants outside of London.

Burger & Lobster opened its first site outside of the capital in a 240-seat space in Cardiff in December 2014, followed by a 170-cover venue Manchester in August 2015. In July last year, the company announced that both would close and that it would look for smaller sites in the cities.

"A big part of the loss is related to a very fast expansion and a weak performance of our restaurants outside London," Bukhov said. "This was a strategic mistake to open outside London. Also the lobster price has grown significantly in 2015 and 2016 and weak pound didn't help either."

The brand took steps to improve profitability by restructuring its pricing policy in June 2016, resulting in an original burger now costing a more competitive £16, a lobster roll £25, and lobster ranging in price from £19 for 500g to £54 for a kilo.

It has also restructured its head office, with a reduction of overheads and in the accounts it said that the directors had a "reasonable expectation that the group has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the forseeable future".

In 2015, Burger & Lobster received a loan from National Westminster Bank to finance future growth. However, according to the financial report, the group had not been able to meet the necessary debt covenants. At the time the accounts were prepared, the company was negotiating revised financial terms or looking to obtain replacement funding, which was said to indicate "the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt of the group's ability to continue as a going concern".

Bukhov confirmed that the company has since agreed new terms with the bank, which he described as "supportive".

Founded in 2011, originally as an off-shoot of the steakhouse restaurant group Goodman, Burger & Lobster's future now lies outside of the UK, according to its director.

"Like many other brands we've grown too fast and made some mistakes. It's normal for restaurant business. But the brand is very strong and the group is profitable in 2016. And what is more important - we learned a lesson from mistakes we made. This made us stronger," Bukhov said.

"We believe in a future for Burger & Lobster. We had a great year in our US restaurant and we are building a second one in Manhattan [the company opened its first New York site at 39 West, 19th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in 2014]. Also the opening in Malaysia was a great success. We see the future of Burger & Lobster is in the US and Asia."

Future of Burger & Lobster 'in significant doubt' after £7m loss >>

Burger & Lobster to close Manchester and Cardiff sites >>

Profile: George Bukhov, Burger & Lobster >>

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