Fine dining group run by celebrity chef Mark Hix enters administration

Deloitte has been appointed as administrator to a string of restaurants owned by celebrity chef Mark Hix, which have become the latest fine dining casualties of the coronavirus crisis

Richard Hawes and Matthew Cowlishaw, partners at Deloitte, have been appointed joint administrators of WSH & Mark Hix Restaurants Ltd, Restaurants Etc Ltd and Hix Townhouse Ltd, and are now managing the affairs, business and assets of the companies.

Hix started his restaurant business in 2008 after winning BBC TV show the Great British Menu. He took over several sites across London including the HIX Oyster & Chop House in Farringdon, and Hixter Bankside.  His Shoreditch restaurant, the Tramshed, which specialised in chicken and steak, featured a formaldehyde cow installation by artist Damien Hirst.

However, Hix closed his Soho-based restaurant last year, after a decade of operation, citing ‘rising rents and difficult market conditions’.

Hix also opened two restaurants in Lyme Regis: HIX Oyster and Fish House, and HIX Townhouse.

In an Instagram post on the news, Hix wrote: ‘This was a board decision, and I have to point out, done without my support. Although the press are using, and will use, my name as the responsible director this was not my decision.

‘Apart from tough times and sad times for me, it is nothing compared to what so many of my team, and others that are reliant on our business, are going through. Over time we have genuinely become a large family and to lose all of my team like this has been incredibly difficult and upsetting.’

There have been predictions of raft of administrations across the casual dining sector, which was struggling with problems of overcapacity and high rents before the virus hit.

Italian casual dining brand Carluccio’s has already called in the administrators, while The Restaurant Group filed a notice of its intention to appoint administrators to its Mexican chain Chiquito late last month.

Begbies Traynor partner Dean Watson and Neil Dingley, partner at Moore, have been appointed administrators at Cookeze Ltd, the Lancashire‐based event catering firm partly owned by acclaimed chef Nigel Smith, which has ceased trading with the loss of 72 jobs.

The firm, which traded as Patisserie by Nigel Smith, specialised in ‘artisan patisserie’ and was founded in 2010 by Nigel Smith, a chef who has appeared on several cookery TV shows. Flagship products included cakes, desserts, gateaux and scones.

Clients of the company included Manchester United, Liverpool FC, Jockey Club, Brasserie Blanc and Malmaison Hotels. Turnover last year was £1.5m.

Dean Watson, partner at Begbies Traynor, said: ‘Covid‐19 has seen the sports‐related events where the company excelled cancelled. The immediate cashflow challenge this presented as well as recent significant investment in a high specification modern office complex and commercial kitchen equipment has taken its toll.’

The administrators are seeking buyers who may be attracted by recent major investment in state‐of‐the‐art commercial kitchen space at 48,000 square foot headquarters in Chorley.

‘We are looking for interested parties who may be strongly attracted by the fact it was, until very recently, a successful business with blue chip clients, talented staff and outstanding facilities.

‘Sadly, this crisis will continue to severely impact many other similar events-based businesses who are not geared up to weather the storm over the summer of 2020,’ Watson said.

Last week, high street restaurant chain Carluccio's also went into administration.

By Pat Sweet

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