Lifeline for the Cat's Pyjamas restaurants as chain goes into administration for a second time

An investor has stepped in to bail out Leeds restaurant brand The Cat's Pyjamas after the company entered administration for the second time.

By Grace Newton
Wednesday, 27th March 2019, 9:29 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th March 2019, 5:03 pm
The Cat's Pyjamas now has three sites in Leeds, one in Harrogate and one in York
The Cat's Pyjamas now has three sites in Leeds, one in Harrogate and one in York

The Indian street food chain has a restaurant on Eastgate, a takeaway on New Briggate and further sites in Headingley, Harrogate and York. It was set up in 2015 by owner Alison White, 37.

It originally entered administration in October 2018, but was saved at the last minute by a rescue package from members of Alison's family.

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Alison White and baby Elsie

Alison has now confirmed that all of the company's sites are currently closed as administrators have changed the locks, but that she expects to re-open the business soon with no job losses thanks to the intervention of a new investor whom the leases on the premises will be transferred to. Alison will remain involved in the running of the brand, which will now be operated on a franchise basis with the opportunity for franchisees to purchase sites both in the UK and overseas. However, the Harrogate restaurant will close permanently.

Alison said:

"Yesterday marked the end of the six-month moratorium period over the leases as part of the administration procedure. The Cat’s Pyjamas family have spent the last six months looking for the perfect investor to take the brand global and have been lucky enough to find Aftab Ali, who has spent most of his career working with the NHS and in banking. Mr Ali has invested in the business to ensure the brand carries on its legacy of creating authentic Indian food with the advice of some of the country’s finest Michelin-starred chefs and our very own home-grown talent Daljit Singh. The company has now been restructured into a franchise model and will be selling franchises in the UK and overseas.

"As part of this process Mr Ali and myself have taken the decision to close the Harrogate site as the rents in the town are simply too high to match consumer demand. It also allows me to be able to spend some long-awaited time with my baby Elsie. Never say never though, The Cat’s Pyjamas may return to the town under a different proposition in the coming years.

"The sites in Headingley, Eastgate and Cumberland Street in York will be re-opening in around a month's time after negotiations with the landlords. They will be launching a brand new menu and making some site improvements based on the consumer feedback gathered over the last few years. The brand will be carrying on selling amazing food out of the New Briggate takeaway with the full current menu and will be open soon.

"Customers who have booked tables at any of their sites will unfortunately not be able to dine and will be contacted by the company in the coming days. All staff, regardless of public opinion, are being looked after by the government's insolvency scheme as The Cat’s Pyjamas staff always come first."

Just before the first administration in 2018, a restaurant in Sheffield that was open for less than six months was closed and plans to expand to Wakefield and Chester were abandoned.

The run of bad luck has also included the mugging of a staff member carrying takings in Headingley and a kitchen fire at the Harrogate site.

The Cat's Pyjamas was the first restaurant business in Leeds to go cashless for security reasons, and also runs a scheme providing employment for autistic young people.

In October 2018, a month after Sheffield opened, the business went into administration and was saved by an injection of cash from Alison's family members. She explained that a reliance on short-term, high-interest loans had 'crippled' the chain. Problems with the power supply at premises earmarked for an opening in Wakefield meant the planned branch could not open fast enough to support the overall cashflow of the business.

The insolvency practitioners appointed to deal with the administration, Lewis Business Recovery and Insolvency, have been contacted for comment.