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Happy Sunday: Meal for One, Anybody?

Posted on Dec 20, 2020. by NTI

Christmas plans all over our fine land are changing, as the country is tiering up in much the same way as a proud Mum watching her daughter play ‘the cactus’ in the school’s virtual nativity play. Billy and Tracee were going to share lunch on the 25th with their Mum, but have now decided not to on the basis that they can’t stand her, choosing instead to take part in a ‘meal-for-one marathon’, whereby participants eat as many such meals as they can live on Zoom before throwing up. (It’s what Christmas is all about.)

When asked what Christmas is really all about, Tracee will tell you it’s an age-old celebration of the only time of the year when two Bank Holidays are glued back-to-back:

”Oh, and a donkey,” she always adds. 

There were, of course, banshee wails from retailers throughout London and the south-east last evening (Saturday 18 December) following the Government attempting to follow the science (often from quite a distance, so as not to let science spot them skulking way behind them in the media glow). 

Doug McWilliams of the Centre for Economics and Market Research yelled that the amount of income lost to retailers during this two week period would be £7 billion, whereas a less shouty British Retail Consortium said it would be £2 billion. Isn’t this all rather dependant on the assumption that we haven’t already shopped beyond dropping, both virtually and actually, over the past three weeks recognising the inevitability of this latest move?

Who’d be a decision maker in this impossible situation? Having to make a choice between thousands dying, or being allowed out to buy t-shirts with amusing slogans and way too much stuffing for a bird we will never respect. We here in the NTI newsroom are certainly glad it’s not us having to make the call. 

Superdry chief executive Julian Dunkerton (who we all know is a big fan of a white unsloganned t-shirt worn strategically under a leather jacket definitely not purchased from Superdry) said: “I hope Sunak has deep pockets because the next two weeks are absolutely vital for retailers. If you’re going to take them away, then VAT for retail needs to be scrapped this month and the business rates holiday must be extended for at least another 12 months.”

Yeah, write that one down, Rishi; it’s about time you took your hands out of your stingy shallow pockets. What you most need is advice from someone who has demonstrated an inability to run a clothes shop and a remarkable adherence to the fashion of the 80s. 

There is much the same all over the front pages of the press this morning, which Boris will get to as soon as he extricates himself from between that rock and what looks like quite a tough location.

Meanwhile the more energetic ministers in Boris’ team can’t even lose it in their favourite nightclub, as one of the oldest such sleaze-spaces in London has collapsed under the weight of that microscopic antisocial evolving bug, as it pushes hospitality businesses to the brink.

Maxwell’s Restaurants, which owns Café de Paris and Tropicana Beach Club in the West End of London, has gone into Liquidation, leading to the loss of 400 jobs. Live Recoveries have been appointed Liquidator ... I’m sorry, say WHO? Come on NTI, catch up. Live Recoveries describe themselves as an independent niche insolvency practice advising on and undertaking all aspects of corporate and personal insolvency on their website, with their main offices in Leeds. There appears to be a photo of Adelaide on the home page of their website, so they are clearly Live, speaking to the world. 

As everyone from Leeds knows, Café de Paris launched in 1924 and stayed open after the start of the Second World War, when its manager promoted it as the “safest and gayest restaurant in town, being 20 feet below ground”. Like its brand, we are not convinced that quotation stands the test of time, and are also not persuaded that being trapped in a seedy nightclub after a bomb-blast blocks the entrance is the best place to be. Not with cocktails at those prices.

Finally today, the brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa, are still at it in their pursuit of Caffè Nero. Their EG Group has hired law firm CMS and property agents Christie’s and CWM to rally property owners in the hope of launching a challenge to Nero’s plan to slash rents as part of a CVA.

Avid followers of the NTI newsroom will have read that the Asda owners have tried this before, but were rebuffed by the coffee chain’s owners who would be left without a penny for their shares in the deal. Some parts of the media say they are trying to derail the insolvency proceedings, but you and we know that it is not really how it works. 

As part of the CVA, which is being run by KPMG, landlords face losing most of their outstanding rent. EG is promising to pay them in full. Under insolvency law, creditors can challenge the result of such a restructuring plan within 28 days. An exciting development, which we will report in full as soon as Billy and Tracee get back from Lidl, sporting five bags topped to the brim with meals-for-one. 

Happy Sunday. 

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