MEATliquor's Scott Collins: "we're chomping at the bit to reopen"

By BigHospitality

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Caitlin Isola
Image: Caitlin Isola

Related tags: MEATliquor, Restaurant, Casual dining, lockdown

Restaurant group MEATliquor has used the time its restaurants have been closed during lockdown to streamline its operations and make its offer stronger than ever before, according to managing director Scott Collins.

"Having time to sit back and question everything we do and how we do it has been quite rewarding and eye opening, said Collins.

"When you've got 11 restaurants, making changes to that rolling juggernaut is very difficult so having the downtime, I've really enjoyed it. I haven't enjoyed the financial losses though. We're chomping at the bit to reopen like everyone else."

"Anyone who's still standing is going to be running a much tighter ship and be streamlined, that's what we did.

"Once the desperation got out of the way we drilled down on systems, recipes, customer journeys, so when we did reopen [after the first lockdown], we were stronger with a better offering. I'm sure everyone has done that."

Collins said that being able to close his Kings Cross restaurant​ and open a site in nearby The Brunswick Centre​ in Bloomsbury in a former Las Iguanas site during the pandemic has put the business in good shape.

"We are really happy with where we are now. We are in a stronger position switching from Kings Cross to Bloomsbury."

Frank discussions

Collins said he had had a "very frank" face to face conversation with the landlord at Kings Cross, the site which he admitted was his biggest concern.

"We tried to hammer out a rent deal and instead he came back and said he had a buyer, and did we want to leave? So, we came to a very amicable arrangement - we agreed to exit and take everything we wanted with us. A big chunk of debt was written off and we were given a fair chunk of money to cut our lease short."

Collins said the rent at The Brunswick Centre was "considerably less" than what Las Iguanas was paying and that he had secured the site rent fee for a year. The landlord also agreed a clause that said if the restaurant was forced to close because of the pandemic no rent had to be paid.

"We have tried to keep relationships with landlords on a personal level, it has been easier with some landlords than others," said Collins.

"The problematic ones are the big landlords, they've just held back. It's a game of chicken. The private landlords are much easier to do deals with but it's a mixed bag. We've negotiated some discounts and extended a couple of leases that were running out but it's still in progress. It's one thing the Government hasn't done anything about."

Speaking of the future, Collins said MEATliquor will run a weekend-long drive thru restaurant in North Finchley​ this February in partnership with The Bohemia pub.

If successful, the pop up could potentially lead to the company looking for something for permanent in the area. "We are testing the water for what North Finchley might look like for a possible MEATliquor," said Collins.

He also said he has been "bombarded" with franchise requests during lockdown and would consider returning to the model. "We did it once with Singapore, which was a lot of fun but wasn't a massive success."

"There are of course sites coming up, and we are looking at loads of stuff but there are no major plans."

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Related topics: Business & Legislation, Casual Dining

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