Almost 300 jobs lost after closure of high street food chain

Spudulike, the baked potato specialist, has closed its 37-strong stores portfolio with the loss of nearly 300 jobs

The firm operated locations across Yorkshire, including shops in the White Rose Centre in Leeds and the York Designer Outlet.

It was founded in Edinburgh in 1974 by David and Barbara Leggate, and their business partner Kim Culley, and was based in London. It is now controlled by the entrepreneur Tony Schlesinger.

Spudulike sold baked potatoes with various fillings, other potato-based meals, and side dishes.

Its collapse is due to being unable to reach a restructuring deal with its landlords, joining a range of fellow high street chains which have failed in the face of rising retail woes, including Poundworld, BHS and Woolworths.

Neil Bennett and Alex Cadwallader, of Leonard Curtis Business Solutions Group, were appointed as joint administrators of the parent company, T&G Fast Food Developments, on Thursday evening after the last minute withdrawal by a prospective purchaser from a pre-packaged sale of the group, resulting in all 37 outlets being shut on Friday morning with the loss of 298 jobs.

Mr Bennett said: “We are very disappointed with the outcome after working for several weeks firstly preparing a CVA (company voluntary arrangement) proposal, which was rejected by the group’s creditors, and subsequently pursuing the sale of all or part of the group’s business and assets with a number of prospective purchasers.

“Sadly a sale of the business and assets of the group on a going concern basis did not prove possible, following the last minute withdrawal of an offer that was close to completion.”

He added: “We had to act quickly once the prospect of a going concern sale fell away to safeguard the assets of the companies operating under the Spudulike Group. We worked with the group’s management team and staff in all outlets on Friday to effect as smooth a closure as possible at very short notice.

“We are now focusing on seeking any interest in the group’s remaining assets whilst managing the impact of the closures on former employees, helping them prepare and submit claims for any arrears of wages, statutory notice entitlement and redundancy pay.”

One staff member told the Guardian newspaper: “The branch I worked in was given zero notice of this action; in fact, staff arrived at the store [on Friday] none the wiser.”

Workers are owed two weeks’ pay, with some employees owed more than £500 in back pay, said another staff member.

And one said he and a manager had already started work for the day when they received an email telling them to stop prepping food.

A letter sent to staff said Spudulike had been “under financial pressure” in recent years and a number of alternative options to save the business, including seeking a buyer, had also failed.

It said administrators were still continuing attempts to find a buyer for at least part of the business and staff could be contacted in future about re-employment.

T&G Fast Foods Developments reported a pre-tax loss of £1m in the year to December 2017, similar to the year before, as sales slid 3% to £12.3m.