Slimmed-down Bombay Pantry chain emerges from Examinership

Indian takeaway restaurants secure creditor support and investment

Chefs prepare naan bread at one of Bombay Pantry's restaurant outlets.

Donal O'Donovan

A slimmed-down Bombay Pantry takeaway chain has successfully emerged from Examinership but failed to find a buyer for its industrial arm that supplied ready meals to retailers.

Judge O’Connor at the Dublin District Court signed off on a rescue scheme on Wednesday for the chain of Indian takeaways after Examiner Dessie Morrow of accountancy firm Azets, formerly Baker Tilly, secured support from creditors and investment from a group including long-term shareholders.

Core to the rescue which saved 40 jobs and keeps existing management in place was agreement from landlords for a deal that will leaves the business with three of its originally seven property leases. Equipment leases were another significant element of the balance sheet, with relatively light bank debt.

Its understood the decision to opt for a relatively rare Circuit Court Examinership over the new Small Companies Administrative Rescue Process (Scarp) was prompted by the greater time allowed for reorganisation given a desire to find a buyer for part of the business and the need to engage with multiple creditors including landlords.

The business has now been reduced from six retail outlets prior to Examinership to the remaining four in Glenageary, Rathfarnham, Fairvew and Clonskeagh (trading as Chaat&co). Two units closed before the Examinership.

The scheme also includes closing a central production unit (CPU) in Kilcoole, Co Wicklow with the loss of 17 jobs after efforts to find a buyer foundered in recent weeks. The CPU supplied some pre-prepared food to the rest of the chain as well as branded and own-brand readymeals. It carried significant staff and equipment costs and its annual rent of €64,000 was the highest of any unit in the chain.

The CPU operated on a lower margin than Bombay Pantry’s own delivery-focused retail arm and without the security of long-term supermarket contracts failed to secure a buyer. A disposal process for the unit is understood to have reached an advanced stage but ultimately failed.

The wider chain was established 25 years ago by John Sheehan, then owner of the well-known Queens bar and restaurant in Dalkey, Co Dublin, along with chef Vivek Sahni, originally from Delhi, India. Members of the Sheehan family have remained the main shareholders alongside a group of private investors.

Bombay Pantry came through the slump caused by the global financial crisis but was last year among a slew of businesses across the country hit by dislocations including the fallout from Covid and rising energy and input costs.

Directors sought a Circuit Court Examinership in December 2022.