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Gaucho serves up more casual dining woes as hundreds of Cau chain jobs at risk

Hundreds of restaurant jobs could be at risk as Argentine steak chain Gaucho mulls the future of its casual dining concept Cau.
The company is understood to have drafted in accountancy giant KPMG to help it assess the future of the 22-site chain, which could include a company voluntary agreement (CVA).
These have become increasingly prevalent in recent months as food price inflation combined with higher rents, business rates and wages have caused greater stress in the casual dining sector.
Brands including burger restaurant Byron and Jamie’s Italian have used CVAs to close stores and pay reduced rent on other sites.
A source with knowledge of the talks said the Cau chain, which is understood to employ around 700 staff, had underperformed. Gaucho, which has 12 sites in London out of 16 in the UK and sells an 800g Tira de Ancho steak for ?63, is likely to be unaffected. Reports of the potential rescue plan first emerged on Sky News.
casual dining restaurants crisis business
Accounts filed with Companies House show the parent company, now called Malbec Topco, saw sales rise to ?83m in 2016 from ?70.3m in 2015. But the huge investment in growing Cau, which opened seven sites in each of those years, meant pre-tax losses more than doubled to ?14.7m (2015: ?6.1m).
The source added its private equity owners Equistone were “supportive” of the rescue talks, which have been kicked off by new boss Oliver Meakin, who recently joined the restaurant chain from defunct electronics retailer Maplin.
Mr Meakin, who ran Maplin from June 2015, has prior experience in the food and drink sector having held roles at supermarket Somerfield and steakhouse restaurant Miller & Carter, part of pub group Mitchells & Butlers.
Gaucho serves up more casual dining woes as hundreds of Cau chain jobs at risk

Former Maplin boss Oliver Meakin has kicked off Gaucho's talks with accountancy giant KPMG which could lead to closures of its Cau sites

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His appointment in February came just two months after Gaucho announced its founder Zeev Godik had decided to step down as chief executive after 41 years at the helm.
Mr Godik said when he left the business last year that he wanted to pursue wider interests in Dubai, where he lives. He remains a shareholder in Gaucho though, alongside Equistone Partners Europe and restaurant entrepreneur Luke Johnson.
A Gaucho spokesman said: “As part of a comprehensive strategic review, the group’s new management team, with the support of its shareholders, is at the early stages of exploring a number of financial restructuring options.
“No decisions have yet been made.”
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