Meatliquour has used lockdown to streamline its operations and make its offer stronger than ever before, according to managing director Scott Collins.

“Having time to sit back and question everything we do and how we do it has been quite rewarding and eye opening,” he said.

“When you’ve got 11 restaurants, making changes to that rolling juggernaut is very difficult so having the downtime, I’ve really enjoyed it. I haven’t enjoyed the financial losses though. We’re chomping at the bit to reopen like everyone else.”

“Anyone who’s still standing is going to be running a much tighter ship and be streamlined, that’s what we did,” added Collins.

“Once the desperation got out of the way we drilled down on systems, recipes, customer journeys, so when we did reopen [after the first lockdown], we were stronger with a better offering. I’m sure everyone has done that.”

Collins said that being able to close his Kings Cross restaurant and open a site in nearby The Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury in a former Las Iguanas site during the pandemic has put the business in good shape.

“We are really happy with where we are now. We are in a stronger position switching from Kings Cross to Bloomsbury.”

He said he had had a “very frank face to face conversation” with the landlord at Kings Cross, the site which he admitted was his biggest concern.

“We came to a very amicable arrangement - we agreed to exit and take everything we wanted with us. A big chunk of debt was written off and we were given a fair chunk of money to cut our lease short.”

Collins said the rent at The Brunswick Centre was “considerably less” than what Las Iguanas was paying and that he had secured the site rent fee for a year. The landlord also agreed a clause that said if the restaurant was forced to close because of the pandemic no rent had to be paid.

“We have tried to keep relationships with landlords on a personal level, it has been easier with some landlords than others,” Collins said.

“The problematic ones are the big landlords, they’ve just held back. It’s a game of chicken. The private landlords are much easier to do deals with but it’s a mixed bag. We’ve negotiated some discounts and extended a couple of leases that were running out but it’s still in progress. It’s one thing the government hasn’t done anything about.”

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