David Parkin on the demise of Filmore & Union and busking success

David Parkin on the demise of Filmore & Union and busking success

FAREWELL then Filmore & Union.

The cafe chain, which has expanded rapidly across the North of England, disappeared even quicker, going into administration last Friday.

Around 80 jobs were lost after joint administrators Phil Pierce and Paul Whitwam of FRP Advisory closed seven outlets including those in Harrogate, Skipton and York as well as the head office in Wetherby.

However they concluded a pre-pack deal to save around 150 jobs with the sale of nine sites and the production kitchen in Wetherby to Coffeesmiths Collective.

It looks likely that the Filmore & Union brand will survive given that the new owner is a US group which calls itself “a family of specialty coffee shops and coffee companies based in the United States and the United Kingdom”.

Its strategy is both to roll out its own outlets under the flagship Department of Coffee & Social Affairs brand and to acquire others, which in the UK include La Bottega Milanese, Cafe2U, Bea’s of Bloomsbury and, most recently, picking up the Baker & Spice chain in London after the collapse of Patisserie Valerie.

Its coffee shops in the US operate under some memorable names including Dollop, The Wormhole, Halfwit Coffee Roasters and Chicago Grind.

I’m not sure I’d be a regular at that last one, it would put me right off my sticky bun.

So Filmore & Union lives on, although the Harrogate crowd – businessmen in body warmers and red trousers and yummy mummies in sports gear and Range Rovers – will have to find somewhere else to get their skinny lattes and gluten free granola as both outlets in the town have closed.

I was never a regular but the firm’s strategy of putting its coffee shops into John Lewis stores and railway stations – it has two outlets at York Station and another in Newcastle – looked a good idea given that most stations offer travellers an limited choice of tasteless food from a collection of uninspiring and homogenous outlets.

The joint administrators said Filmore & Union had collapsed because of cashflow pressures after a period of tough trading.

Anyone who has run a business knows that cashflow is key and it always remains so, however big you get.

Filmore & Union was founded by entrepreneur Adele Ashley in York in 2012 and funded expansion after raising £865,000 on the Crowdcube crowdfunding site in 2015 before getting a £3.5m investment from the Business Growth Fund in 2017 to open new sites.

I wonder who is getting a kicking for doing that deal in the trendy offices of the BGF up on the 12th floor of the Platform office building in Leeds?

I’m not sure what has happened to Adele Ashley, but its fate is yet another reminder that the UK’s retail and dining landscape is changing fast – sometimes faster than those who operate in it can cope with.

Businesses sink because of a variety of reasons.

Patisserie Valerie went down because of massive financial irregularities, Jamie’s Italian went into administration because of the decline in the UK high street and rising business rates according to its founder, the celebrity chef.

Or more likely because it was crap.

The reason for the collapse of Filmore & Union was simply given as cashflow pressures.

Normally when a private equity firm invests in a business they bring in an experienced individual to oversee it and help it grow.

And that’s what the BGF did when it wrote its cheque for three-and-a-half million quid.

Kevin Bacon joined as non-executive chairman.

No not the bloke from Footloose.

Although given that the Kevin Bacon they did get used to be managing director of Jamie’s Italian, perhaps they did pick the wrong one.

To be fair to him, he left Jamie’s Italian back in 2010 having previously been MD of Frankie & Benny’s.

Apparently his “deep knowledge” of the North West region was going to help with the next phase of Filmore & Union’s roll out.

Sadly it only got as far as Skipton and never made it over the Pennines.

Which leaves the Business Growth Fund to look after the remaining restaurant brands in its portfolio including Barburrito, Bar Soba and Giggling Squid.

I don’t know what to make of that last name.

Well at least it’s better than Chicago Grind.

:::

I’LL spare you the details of my fruitless visit to Wembley Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday to see Derby County lose to Aston Villa.

If you look closely enough at the photo below you’ll see me with my hand on my head when Aston Villa scored their first goal.

No idea? Ok, here’s a closer look.

Suffice to say that actually wasn’t the worst experience on the day – it was standing behind a very flatulent Rams fan.

I stayed over in London on Monday evening and, looking for a restaurant to have dinner in, all I seemed to see was football fans clad in the claret and blue of Derby County’s conquerors.

I think it made me slightly paranoid as I almost refused to go into an Italian restaurant on the South Bank where we had booked a table because I saw another bloke in a Villa shirt in the window.

It turned out it was a pensioner clad in a powder blue shirt with a burgundy jumper around his shoulders.

:::

THEY say that things happen in London first and then spread to the rest of the country.

I saw a busker playing in a tube station who was taking contactless card payments.

It reminded me of that old Laurel & Hardy short where the penniless pair are playing an organ and a double bass in an attempt to make some money during the Great Depression.

As they belt out a tuneless ditty in a snow-covered street, a lady opens a window above them and asks how much they have been making per street.

“Oh, about 25 cents,” says Ollie.

“Well, there’s 50 cents, move on a couple of streets, will you?” she replies.

Have a great weekend.

 

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1 Comment

  1. It would appear that they have never treated their staff very well, according to various posts on Social Media. The staff in Skipton were particularly badly treated it would appear.

    The photograph looks as if it is the Ilkley branch. I’ve only been in once and that was last Saturday to have the full English. This was pretty good, apart from the rubbish bacon, but so it should be at £12.50 !

    Won’t be going again.

    Reply

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