This Is Money reports Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca has plunged into a £4.7m loss, blaming a norovirus outbreak which forced it to close nine restaurants.
The chain, which was founded by 2005 MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers, said sinking into the red was partly due to one-off costs of £700,000, which sent profits down from £600,000 a year earlier. Around 160 customers and a quarter of Wahaca’s staff were taken ill in October 2016 after it was hit by an ‘unprecedented’ outbreak of Norovirus.
In all 18 of the 25 restaurants were hit and 11 including Canary Wharf, Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, Soho and White City, all in London, had to close.
Wahaca co-founder Mark Selby later admitted it ‘changed the way they did business’.
He said July last year: ‘We’ve had to make some tough calls with our suppliers. We’ve had to say, we have to have absolute visibility or we can’t work with you.
At one stage we thought we were going to have to close every restaurant for four weeks,’ says Selby. ‘During that time sales plummeted 45 per cent, but if I’d had to close all sites, I don’t see how we would have survived.’
Selby got together with Thomasina Miers, the 2005 winner of the BBC’s MasterChef series, and together they opened the first Wahaca in Covent Garden in 2007.
Another worry for the chain is immigration post-Brexit. Only a quarter of Wahaca’s 1,200 staff are British.
Selby said: ‘[We] opened in Chichester and found it really hard to find staff to work there, even in management.’