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How Salt Bae Finessed London Steak Eaters for £7 Million in Three Months

Now he’s nowhere to be seen

Salt Bae, standing over a grill, wielding a tomahawk steak.
Salt Bae.
Jean Schwarzwalder

Salt Bae’s London restaurant started as a myth, opened as a circus, and trades on a name. It embalmed steaks in gold leaf at £700 a pop, then had to take them off the menu; Salt Bae was peacocking around the place, knife in hand like a ringmaster, until he wasn’t, and the dining room at the foot of the Park Tower Hotel in Knightbridge became just another beefy tribute to conspicuous consumption. But in those short months that man and myth combined, Nusret Gökce took his diners to money town.

Nusret UK’s financial statements for 2021 are here. In its just-over three months open — with trade, as of every restaurant in the city, partially stymied by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 — Nusret London delivered just over £7 million in turnover, and a pre-tax profit of over £2.2 million.

Its Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortisation (EBITDA) — a figure expressed as a percentage of turnover which makes for an easy, if imperfect comparison of companies’ short-term profitability — is over 40 percent. According to January 2022 research by New York University (NYU) the median EBITDA for restaurants/dining is 17.5 percent; restaurants that reach into the 30 and 40 percent range are overwhelmingly gigantic quick service chains. But how did the restaurant actually do it?

Salt Bae’s London restaurant, by the numbers, in 2021

Turnover: £7,028,266

Cost of sales: £2,383,395

Gross profit: £4,644,871

Administrative expenses: £2,244,041

Profit before tax: £2,308,245

Tax on profit: £318,530

Profit for the year: £1,989,715

How much Salt Bae’s London restaurant spent on staff

Many of Salt Bae’s restaurants around the world have been sued for wage theft and tip skimming, paying out $230,000 to employees in a 2019 suit. In 2021, the U.K. operation spent just over £933,000 on salaries, going to what it files as an average of 55 employees per months. Three of those were directors, who reportedly received no renumeration from the business in 2021. Its average advertised salaries were frequently much less than the restaurant’s cheapest sides.

How much Salt Bae’s London restaurant spent on meat (and, like, gold leaf)

It spent £305,088 on raw materials and consumables in 2021. The directors claim in their report that “quality and value play an important role in which suppliers to use but the Company also places significant weight on suppliers’ qualitative credentials such as sustainable sourcing.”

Beef and leaf might not be able to sustain an entire kitchen, but they sure can create ludicrous profit margins.

Not paying (much) rent in Knightsbridge is certainly helping Salt Bae out — for now

The restaurant spent just over £200,000 on “operating lease rentals” in 2021, but that’s not going to last. Between now and the end of 2023, and not later than the end of 2026, the group will have to cough up just over £2 million in “non-cancellable operating leases”; a further £3 million will become due from 2027 onwards.

Nusret U.K.’s owners are keeping Salt Bae afloat

Nusret U.K. currently owes “entities which hold a controlling interest in the company” almost £9.5 million in loans, repayable in more than 12 months and accruing 4.5 percent interest per year. In 2021, it made use of nearly £11.5 million, repaying £3.6 million. Turkish billionaire Ferit Sahenk’s Dogus Holding’s is the ultimate controller of the Salt Bae franchises, and despite its monumental assets, was in almost $3 billion of debt as of 2019.

Within one year from December 2021, Nusret U.K. will also owe a total of £4.5 million to further creditors.

The loans appear on the balance sheets as “amounts owed to group undertakings.” Interestingly enough, Nusret U.K. is also owed just over £9 million in, wait for it, “amounts owed by group undertakings.”

How long can Salt Bae London make all this money without Salt Bae himself?

The living meme’s presence at the grand opening on the U.K. was undoubtedly a key factor in its overwhelming financial success for 2021. His infinite loop of virality, encapsulated in a sprinkle of sodium chloride, is the spectacle diners participate in with their phones and their wallets. And while his absence prior to opening made diners so thirsty they started reviewing Nusret London before it even opened, it seems unlikely that the restaurant can sustain these figures when it is become a name alone.