Friday Five: the week's top news

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Friday Five: the week's top news

Related tags: Restaurant, Coronavirus

This week's main hospitality news stories include Cain International acquiring Prezzo; Gordon Ramsay launching a cooking academy in Woking; and remembering Theatreland restaurateur Joe Allen, who has died aged 87.

- Italian casual dining chain Prezzo is to permanently close 22 restaurants after being bought out of pre-pack administration​ by private investment firm Cain International. As a result of the deal, 216 members of Prezzo's 2,900-strong team have been made redundant. The group's remaining 156 restaurants are expected to reopen once Coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted. It was reported earlier this week that Cain, which bought Prezzo's debt and equity back in December, was in discussions with scores of landlords about future rent arrangements and the payment of arrears, and exploring whether to put the chain through an insolvency process. 

- Gordon Ramsay is to launch a cookery school in Woking, Surrey, later this year alongside the first regional location for his recently-launched Street Burger concept​. The Gordon Ramsay Academy will open in the autumn and 'welcome food lovers of all levels and ability to nurture their culinary passions through a vast range of educational, technical and fun courses and training programmes'. It will takeover the site previously occupied by the Tante Marie Culinary Academy. While the Academy will operate on the first floor of the Woking site, the ground floor will house Ramsay's first Street Burger restaurant outside of London. The fledgling concept, which launched its debut site at One New Change in the City of London in December, is modelled on Ramsay's Street Pizza brand, with all burgers priced at £15 and served with seasoned fries and unlimited soft drink.

- Theatreland restaurateur Joe Allen, whose eponymous Covent Garden brassiere opened more than 40 years ago, has passed away at the age of 87​. Allen, who also had restaurants on Broadway and in Paris, died Sunday (7 February) in Hampton, New Hampshire, according to Jason Woodru, a former staer for the Allen family of restaurants who spoke to the family. An icon of Theatreland, Allen opened his rst restaurant in 1965 just o Broadway, which soon became a haven for budding actors who would often be found waiting the tables between treading the boards. Jeremy King, who first met business partner Chris Corbin while working at Joe Allen, paid tribute the restaurateur. He wrote on Twitter: "Joe Allen - one of my restauranteur heroes to whom I owe so much. It's a sad day…"

- John Ogier has stepped down from London restaurants Lyle's and Flor​ that he opened with chef James Lowe. Describing the move as an "incredibly tough decision" in a post on Instagram, Ogier said that he was "excited and full of optimism with a pinch of trepidation and uncertainty about what the future holds". Ogier and Lowe launched Lyle's in 2014 in Shoreditch’s Tea Building with the restaurant going on to receive critical acclaim. The pair followed it up with the opening of Flor in Borough Market in July 2019, turning it into takeaway pizza place ASAP Pizza during the lockdown. Both restaurants are backed by JKS, which also own London venues including Gymkhana, Sabor and Trishna.

- More than half of hospitality firms now have less than three months of cash reserves left​, according to data from the think tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). The troubling figures form part of a larger study that reveals that almost one third of UK firms (weighted by turnover) are at risk of collapse in the spring if financial support measures from Government are not extended. This corresponds to almost 600,000 employers at risk, together employing approximately nine million people. Existing schemes, such as Government loan guarantees and the Job Retention Scheme (JRS), have been successful in helping businesses and prevented widespread bankruptcies during the pandemic. However, much of this support is due to end in the coming months with applications for loans set to close in March, and the JRS due to be wound down at the end of April. The IPPR data shows that in the ‘accommodation and food service activities’ sector, more than 50% of businesses now have 'low cash reserves', which equates to less than three months reserves - considered a danger point for a business. Back in October that figure was at around 40%, according to the report.

Check below for more of this week's headlines, or click here​.

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