Garfield Hackett, director of Wadadli Kitchen, has said he is "deeply saddened by letting our staff down" after cash flow issues left the business unable to pay tips.
Staff at the Hackney Wick restaurant, co-founded by Great British Menu host Andi Oliver, were informed that service charge payments would be delayed last year. Half of the nearly £6,000 owed was paid to employees in October 2021.
The restaurant was hoping for a bumper Christmas period, however government warnings and Omicron cases increasing in London during December instead saw 85% of Christmas bookings cancelled.
The remaining amount was paid earlier this month after the business was able to secure a loan.
The government announced grants of up to £6,000 to support businesses in England that suffered Christmas losses, and while funds have been distributed to local authorities, some councils are yet to pay out the grant money. Wadadli Kitchen is understood to have not yet received its grant.
Hackett said: "Much like all other hospitality businesses, we've had a really hard time in the pandemic and were hoping that Christmas would help us get back on a solid footing. Sadly, with the surge of Omicron this was not to be. Within a matter of days, 85% of our Christmas bookings at our event space were cancelled, which in turn decimated our already stretched cash flow.
"All our staff, with the exception of three who did not invoice on time for the pay schedule, have been paid in full and we have agreed payment plans with our suppliers, but each one is happy with the arrangement and will be paid in full. We are grateful to them for understanding.
"We are embarrassed that we were not able to pay the entirety of the service charge shares immediately at the end of the pop-up run, as we are aware our staff rely on these payments.
"In December we wrote to our staff explaining, apologising and assuring them that the payments would be made by mid February, if not sooner. We have been waiting on the government's Covid support grants, which haven't been released yet, but in the short term have been able to secure a loan to ensure that the payment was made.
"We know this has been a really tough time for everyone and we are deeply saddened by letting our staff down. We have poured our heart and soul into last year's Wadadli Kitchen pop-up restaurant."
Wadadli Kitchen opened in August 2021 for what was supposed to be a year-long pop-up at Hackney WickED on the Hamlet Industrial Estate, serving Caribbean-inspired dishes.
The restaurant closed mid-December 2021 but the space continues to operate as an events venue and provide the Wadadli Kitchen at Home offering.
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