Hospitality incubator White Rabbit Fund has acquired the assets of the poke concept Island Poke in a pre-pack administration.

The new ownership, led by White Rabbit Fund, will safeguard 104 hospitality jobs and supplier operations. White Rabbit Fund was a shareholder in the original business.

The first permanent Island Poke restaurant opened in Soho in 2016. However, the economic turmoil of COVID-19 and inflation impacted the business, which proposed a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) in May 2024, with insolvency and recovery firm Begbies Traynor assisting the process.

On 24 May, a source told MCA the 16-strong chain remained profitable at its core but had faced a very challenging Q1, alongside being saddled with a large amount of Covid debt.

Whilst the CVA had been put to creditors and was widely supported by them, it became apparent to the directors from daily trading that the forecasts on which the CVA was built were not likely to be deliverable, according to a statement from Begbies Traynor today (27 June).

This undermined the viability of the proposal, which was scheduled to continue for five years.

In these circumstances, and in parallel with the CVA procedure, the directors engaged Begbies Traynor to run an accelerated marketing campaign with a view to identifying a buyer for the business.

Throughout this period, a constant dialogue was maintained with the secured creditor, NatWest, who approved both the appointment and sale by way of a pre-pack administration.

White Rabbit Fund founder and CEO Chris Miller said: “Island Poke possesses a robust underlying business, with its core sites generating profits. However, the company has been hindered by substantial COVID-19-related debts, inflation, and exceptionally inclement weather at the beginning of 2024. The acquisition will empower us to fortify the business, safeguard 104 jobs, and continue operations with our suppliers.”

Jeremy Karr and Simon John Killick of Begbies Traynor concluded the sale as joint administrators of Island Poke. The administrators were supported by their legal team at Kingsley Napley, headed by head of restructuring & insolvency Dan Sejas.