One of the most familiar London restaurant brands unfrequented by Londoners has appointed the “professional services,” accounting, and restructuring experts KPMG to help it out of a large, pandemic-shaped financial hole. Angus Steakhouse, the red neon restaurant chain which occupies some of the most prime locations in London’s city centre is reportedly on the verge of “collapse,” in need of support as it negotiates rent agreements ahead not just of reopening, but before the just-extended ban on evictions expires.
The Telegraph reports that the move to appoint KPMG comes as the group finds itself on the verge of collapse. It has asked landlords to “forgo” rental payments until coronavirus restrictions are lifted later this spring.
According to that report, the steakhouse, which is owned by Gateshead-based hospitality and leisure group Noble Organisation, is seeking a “daily rate of rent rather than a quarterly one” with landlords having been given until 5 p.m. yesterday, 10 March, to agree to the concessions. KPMG said there remained “significant uncertainty” as to whether an agreement would be reached.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that the restaurant had been on a downward trajectory even before the pandemic turned the industry on its head. The group’s most recent accounts show it made an operating profit of £373,000 in 2018, down from £1.7 million in 2017, with sales down 10 percent at £32 million.
Angus Steakhouse was founded in the 1960s and in its 70s and 80s prime — then considered a fashionable place to eat — operated 14 restaurants in the capital. By 2002, there were 21, but in 2021 it is left with just five sites, albeit in extremely sought after locations, including on Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, and Leicester Square — tourist hotspots par excellence.
In a 2014 deep-dive, the journalist Archie Bland visited the Coventry Street branch of the steakhouse with Hawksmoor’s executive group chef Richard Turner. Bland writes:
[...] the sirloin seems to be unseasoned. Although identifiably steak, it also carries other, quite alien qualities: there’s a fibrous density to the meat, almost like a pâté, and a headiness that I associate with game. The combination, topped with a creamy, flavourless sauce (from a packet, staff confirm) that has allegedly at some point been exposed to peppercorns, makes me think of decay: charity-shop coats, mulched leaves in a drainpipe. Also, I’ve asked for it rare, and it isn’t. Richard leans over. “Cuts quite nicely,” he says. He pops a bit in his mouth and chews.
He goes quiet. Frank Sinatra croons in the background. “That’s... that’s terrible meat,” he mutters. “The margins they must be making.” He shakes his head, and takes another small mouthful of his ribeye, and puts down his cutlery. “Let’s go,” he says abruptly. “Let’s go to Hawksmoor. I didn’t want to come here and slag it off, honestly. But I think this may actually be the worst steak I’ve ever eaten.”
The fate of Angus Steakhouses — a restaurant that few Londoners (with the exception, against the odds, of this guy and this guy) are likely to miss if it collapses — hangs in the balance. It is a scenario that is shared by many other restaurants, pubs, bars, and cafes in the city, places likely to be missed much more. Whether for reasons of recalcitrance or legitimate impracticality, there are landlord-tenant relationships that will remain unresolved, with businesses inevitably forced to close unless the government answers to intervene, find a solution, and break the impasse.