The Vurger Co closes final restaurants as business ceases trading

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

The Vurger Co. closes final restaurants as business ceases trading

Related tags The Vurger Co Casual dining Fast casual restaurant Fast food Plant-based Vegan Closure

Vegan fast-food restaurant group The Vurger Co has closed its final three restaurants less than a year after being bought out of administration.

In a statement on LinkedIn​, co-founder Rachel Hugh confirmed that The Vurger Co’s remaining restaurants in Manchester, Brighton and London’s Shoreditch had closed their doors ‘for the last time’.

Hugh cited a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges as having contributed to the business’ demise including soaring coats, plunging sales, and a decline in both customer and investor confidence.

“Restaurants operate on the finest of margins at the best of times, but the last four years have truly been disastrous for everybody, and so very simply, it feels like a financial impossibility for businesses of our size to survive without some level of external support right now,” she said.

“However, the Government has shown repeatedly that it is completely incapable of understanding what the industry needs, and the ways in which all operators are suffering right now.”

She went on to lambast the business rates system, describing it as being ‘truly nonsensical and completely unfair to bricks and mortar businesses’; and labelled the sector’s VAT rate as ‘punishing’.

'Anti-vegan' rhetoric 

Elsewhere in the statement, Hugh also took aim at ‘lazy journalism’ for spreading ‘anti-vegan misinformation’ and suggested that that too had had a detrimental impact on sales.

“There is currently a tremendous amount of mainstream press coverage charting (and celebrating in most cases) 'the death of veganism' and 'the end of the trend' etc with more of these pointing to 'unhealthy and overly processed' foods,” she said.

“The problem here is that these are mainstream journalists covering complicated issues in a ridiculously simplistic and click bait way, and the result is that it has completely unjustifiably, incorrectly and needlessly hammered consumer confidence.”

Her comments come amid rising reports of vegan-focused restaurants having to pivot and reposition their concept​ in order to secure the long-term viability of their businesses.

They include the Lewis Hamilton-backed Neat Burger, which recently rebranded its name to just ‘Neat’ and broadened its food offer​ having closed half of its eight-strong London estate last year​ amid large-scale financial pressures​​.

The-Vurger-Co.-closes-Canary-Wharf-site-as-founders-acquire-brand-in-pre-pack-administration-sale

A vegan trailblazer

The Vurger Co was an early trailblazer in the better vegan burger sector and was originally launched by Hugh and her business partner Neil Potts back in 2016 as a street food brand. It opened its first permanent site in Shoreditch in early 2018.

The business enjoyed early success and opened a second London site in Canary Wharf in late 2018. Then in early 2020 it secured £1.4m in investment to aid its expansion​, which led to the openings in Brighton and later in Manchester.

However, in May last year the group underwent a ‘substantial restructuring’​ that saw Hugh and Potts acquire the brand under a new company and close the Canary Wharf site.

At the time, the founders blamed the impact of the pandemic compounded by inflationary cost pressures driven by Brexit and the war in Ukraine as having severely impacted the group’s finances.

Thanking her staff, customers and investors, Hugh concluded her statement by calling on consumers to support their favourite vegan businesses and for investors to support the sector, while also urging the Government to lower VAT and reform the business rates system.

“We battled, naturally as any owner does, with the thought of changing the concept to 'fit with the times', and we actually pitched to our investors last November a whole re-brand and new concept for each store,” she said.

“However, we just all ended up feeling like if the framework around us (costs, Government support, rates, VAT, investor appetite) in the UK isn't there anymore, combined with the above issues stated, we would just be waiting and waiting and waiting for change that simply won't happen to the highest level that it needs to.

“That is the reality of operating right now as a small vegan restaurant brand.”

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