The owner of salad bar businesses Tossed and Vital Ingredient has become the latest high street chain to launch a painful restructuring programme after submitting plans for a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).
Zest Food called on landlords to allow it to trade for free or heavily reduced rates to secure the company’s long-term future.
The company blamed its downturn on the 13 Vital Ingredients branded stores it purchased out of administration last year.
It said the shops saw trading decline “significantly below expectations” and a restructuring became “unavoidable”.
The group added that Tossed “remains in growth” despite facing tough market conditions, cost inflation and uncertainty in the economic backdrop.
If landlords agree to the proposals, all stores will continue to trade with no job losses, bosses said.
Managing director Neil Sebba said: “The directors consider a CVA as the best way to protect the Tossed brand, provide breathing space for the company and provide strong foundations on which the business can grow in the future.
“As part of this we are asking landlords to look at the rent that we pay to ensure all the stores remain viable.
“Our proposals do not involve closing any stores in the short term, and as such we seek to protect all our employees. However, they do require all landlords to accept a combination of rent-free and rent reductions to ensure their store remains part of a viable estate set up for the long term.”
The Vital Ingredients stores will be turned into Tossed outlets, he added.
Vincent McKevitt opened the first Tossed outlet in Paddington in 2005 and the group now has 25 sites across the UK, with the majority in London.
The Zest group expanded last year through the acquisition of rival Vital Ingredient from administration, taking control of its 13 sites.
In the same month, Mr McKevitt pleaded guilty and was convicted of attacking two bouncers at a Chelsea nightclub.
He blamed his high-protein and low-carb diet for succumbing to the impact of alcohol and his eventual meltdown, the court was told.
He was placed on a 12-month community order, given 250 hours community service and ordered to pay each victim £150 compensation, £620 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.
Several retailers have used CVAs in recent years, including Arcadia, Monsoon Accessorize and Mothercare.
The latter eventually went bust and is currently seeing administrators close all its sites.