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The Italian restaurant chain Carluccio’s and the rent-to-own retailer BrightHouse are expected to be among the first high-street casualties of the coronavirus shutdown, putting about 4,400 jobs at risk.
Carluccio’s is understood to be preparing to file for administration. FRP Advisory, the restructuring specialist, confirmed it was working with the chain, which has 73 branches and about 2,000 employees.
The firm said in a statement: “FRP is working with the directors of Carluccio’s to consider all options for the company in the current climate.”
The restaurant chain was founded by the late chef Antonio Carluccio in 1999. The plan to call in administrators, first reported by Sky News, follows a difficult period for casual dining chains, with tough competition and rising costs.
In 2018, Carluccio’s landlords backed a restructuring plan in the form of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), an insolvency procedure that allowed it to shutter loss-making sites, and led to the closure of about 30 of its restaurants.
On Thursday, Carluccio’s staff were told they would only receive 50% of their wages due for the month. The Unite union accused the chain of “wage theft” and threatened legal action.
Carluccio’s is controlled by the Landmark Group, the Dubai-based retail and hospitality conglomerate. At the time of the CVA, it promised to finance a multimillion-pound refurbishment for the restaurants unaffected by the CVA.
Meanwhile, the rent-to-own firm BrightHouse, which has been accused of overcharging, will collapse into administration on Monday, putting 2,400 jobs at risk.
The company – which sells household appliances and electrical goods on credit to primarily low-income customers – has been teetering on the brink for months after a regulatory crackdown on interest charges that reduced its income, but was tipped into failure by the economic stresses of the coronavirus outbreak.
BrightHouse said costly compensation claims by customers after the crackdown were costing it £1m every month.
It is understood that tentative restructuring plans were scrapped as the pandemic gained pace. The company – which is owned by a trio of investment funds, Alteri, Apollo and Highbridge – is expected to appoint Grant Thornton as administrators within days.
A spokesman for BrightHouse said: “The national response to the Covid-19 pandemic has required us to prioritise the health and wellbeing of our staff and customers, in particular by closing all stores in the last few days. While we continue to actively engage with our stakeholders, these developments have made the task of finding a future for BrightHouse more challenging.”
The company’s collapse will probably mean its 240 stores – which have been closed since last week – will disappear from the high street and leave thousands of staff unemployed.