A takeaway disaster: was this Lavender Hill’s shortest-lived business?

The grand opening banner is still up at China Garden, Lavender Hill’s newest Chinese takeaway. It had a busy few weeks, and was generally decently reviewed. A lot of effort (and money) clearly went in to fitting it out to create a clean and functional kitchen and service area. Indeed the business was already on to its second sign, as the initial red one was replaced with a black one as the building was smartened up. But look more closely, and there’s an eviction notice on the door – they’ve already closed down! Things have gone badly wrong here, and this looks like the fastest opening and shutting down we have ever seen.

What went wrong? No-one knows for sure, but summary termination nearly always means the rent’s not being paid. The new business is linked to an existing local pizzeria on the Battersea Park Road, and having distributed menus to the whole district, it looked to be making a pretty healthy turnover in the short time it was up and running. There were a few areas to refine to maximise profitability – for example, it’s always worth offering a 20% or so collection discount to encourage in-person pickups (because that’s still more profitable than the 32-35% cut that Deliveroo and the like typically take), which they didn’t do, and they weren’t great at answering the phone when they were busy – but nothing suggesting the business was struggling.

Maybe the issue is that there were months of fitting out work before the takeaway actually opened, as the unit had a comprehensive refit. There were several points where it sat empty for weeks and weeks with seemingly nothing happening (back in December last year we were already commenting on the slow pace of works) – maybe utility supply issues, maybe equipment stuck in the post, or maybe just a difficult build project. We suspect that the time the unit was ‘in development’ was significantly longer than any rent-free period initially offered by the landlord (which in this case is Unit Management Ltd, owners of the Battersea Business Centre), and that by the time the business started trading a significant rent bill had already stacked up and not been paid. This is a risky thing to do – particularly because the notice stuck to the door makes it clear that China Garden had a licence, rather than a lease – an arrangement which doesn’t give much security of tenure, and means they can be thrown out very quickly if they don’t keep to the terms of the agreement with the landlord.

It’s always sad to see someone’s project go wrong, and a lot of time and money involved have gone to waste here. This business had potential, as a well-equipped business and one of relatively few Chinese takeaways on Lavender Hill, and it was still in its infancy. Maybe things will be patched up somehow, but chances are this tidied-up unit is now going to be up for lease again.

China Garden Express Clapham, 103a Lavender Hill, London SW11 5QW

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1 Response to A takeaway disaster: was this Lavender Hill’s shortest-lived business?

  1. Pingback: It all goes wrong at Donna Margherita on Lavender Hill | Lavender-Hill.uk : Supporting Lavender Hill

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