The owners of the popular Northamptonshire restaurant chain, Buddies USA, say they are looking ahead to a bright future after making some ‘tough and difficult’ decisions during a restructuring of the company.
Northampton-based Simpson Catering bought nine Buddies USA restaurants in November 2018, seven within the county and two outside of Northamptonshire.
A 'catalogue of problems' surfaced shortly after the takeover, and have continued to appear over the past 11 months, giving the new owners no alternative but to close four of those restaurants, including – just last month – the ones in Daventry and Acre Lane, Northampton.
The Acre Lane closure, in Kingsthorpe, came about four months after it launched its cocktail bar following a refit of the premises.
At one point, the future of all the restaurants was in doubt, but with the help of Northampton business recovery specialists PBC, the owners say they have now turned things around, avoided closing the five remaining restaurants, and in doing so, bosses have saved 68 jobs.
“Having to close those four restaurants meant we lost 16 valued members of staff, which was obviously very regrettable,” said company spokeswoman Louise Robinson, who set up Simpson Catering 28 years ago.
“We take our responsibilities to employees very seriously, and did our best to minimise the impact on the 21 members of staff affected by closing four restaurants - they were all offered alternative employment in our remaining restaurants, which five accepted, and 16 chose to move on.
“The problem’s first surfaced shortly after taking over,” said Mrs Robinson. “We were confronted with issues we had no idea existed when we bought the company, despite all the due diligence work carried out before completing our purchase.
“What it then meant was that we had to let our heads rule our hearts and make some tough and very difficult decisions in the interests of saving the company - which we were passionate about doing.
“We have worked extremely hard to turn around the fortunes, and in doing so we now have five restaurants we’re very proud of - and we can look ahead to the future with confidence.”
The restaurants' launch of a 'build-a-burger' menu in December 2018 - in place of the longstanding 50-choice Hamburger Heaven menu selection - proved somewhat controversial to Buddies diehards.
Northampton folk took to social media in their droves to lament the loss of the nostalgic selection. After public outcry, a 'version two' of the menu was introduced at all Buddies USA branches by February 3.
Buddies USA has been a fixture around Northamptonshire since the first restaurant opened in 1981, and has established itself as a popular brand around the county over the past 38 years.
“We thoroughly appreciate the loyalty of our customers over many years, and over the last 11 months since we bought the company,” added Mrs Robinson. “We want to continue building on the popularity the Buddies USA brand has achieved, and give people a restaurant where good food is guaranteed, the service is excellent, and our visitors have an all-round enjoyable experience of dining with us.”
Buddies USA’s five remaining restaurants are in Northampton town centre (Dychurch Lane), Grange Park, Sixfields, Rushden and Old Stratford.