British wing of Le Pain Quotidien on the verge of bankruptcy
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British wing of Le Pain Quotidien on the verge of bankruptcy

The first-ever Pain Quotidien shop in Rue Antoine Dansaert in Brussels

The British subsidiary of the Belgian restaurant and bakery chain Le Pain Quotidien has until the end of business today (Wednesday) to find a buyer or file for bankruptcy, Reuters reports.

Restaurants in the UK are suffering like their counterparts elsewhere from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but in fact Le Pain Quotidien’s problems date back further than the outbreak of the virus.

For its last financial year accounts, which date from pre-crisis, the company saw turnover in its 26 branches fall by 4%, leading to a net loss of £711,000 (€809,000). The coronavirus crisis, however, has not helped matters.

The company is now seeking a buyer, failing which it will call in the administrators to prepare for bankruptcy. Either way, however, the future looks bleak for the company’s 500 employees.

In the best-case scenario, a buyer will be found, but they will require cost-cutting, at the expense of branches, staff or both. If no buyer is found, however, branches that are closed now will remain closed, and staff will be redundant.

Experts report it is likely the company will arrange what is known as a pre-pack sale, in which Le Pain Quotidien arranges the deal and then an administrator is appointed to see it through. The advantage to this sort of deal is that the terms and conditions can be worked out before the administrator is appointed, so that the sale can go ahead immediately.

Meanwhile the American subsidiary of the company is undergoing problems of its own, with the loss of staff in New York and California, and the possibility looming of branch closures in other cities.

Le Pain Quotidien was started in 1990 by Alain Coumont, based on the principle of a large table shared by customers to encourage conviviality. The company now has 300 branches in 20 countries.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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