July 17, 2024

The Boston Globe

The quick informal chain mentioned it might now not the pay the leases on its new commissary and several other eating places.

The Clover Meals Lab is proven contained in the Prudential Middle. David L. Ryan/Globe Workers

Clover Quick Meals Inc., the father or mother firm of Clover Meals Lab’s fast-casual vegetarian chain, has filed for chapter safety, blaming rising prices, sluggish gross sales, and issue in elevating further cash from traders.

The Cambridge-based startup, which had excessive hopes of increasing after surviving the pandemic, mentioned in its Chapter 11 submitting final week that it may possibly now not pay the leases on its new commissary and several other eating places.

Clover traders stopped writing checks following the turmoil within the tech business that adopted the market-shaking collapse of Silicon Valley Financial institution this spring/summer time, based on paperwork filed Nov. 3 in US Chapter Courtroom in Delaware.

Julia Wrin Piper, CEO of Clover Meals Lab. HANDOUT

Chapter 11 is the a part of US chapter regulation that permits debtors to reorganize their liabilities with the purpose of constant to function.

In a weblog submit Monday, Julia Wrin Piper, who changed founder Ayr Muir as CEO final month, mentioned the corporate will attempt to use chapter to repair its enterprise.

“We’re all targeted on placing Clover on stable monetary footing so we will proceed to make the meals you like for a few years to return,” Piper wrote.

Muir, an MIT–educated engineer and Harvard Enterprise College graduate, launched Clover in 2008 as a single meals truck that supplied vegetable-based meals that will attraction to meat lovers.

“The primary moments we had 200 folks in line for the truck at MIT nonetheless really feel unattainable and electrical once I give it some thought practically 15 years later,” Muir wrote in a weblog submit final month. “We’re making an attempt to create a brand new meals system, a brand new meals tradition, one which’s each extra scrumptious and has a a lot decrease carbon footprint.”

Muir didn’t return a name looking for remark.

The corporate attracted funding from enterprise and personal fairness corporations corresponding to Boltendahl Worldwide Companions and Bamcap, based on Crunchbase. Clover’s chapter filings additionally checklist The Carlyle Group, one of many world’s largest non-public fairness corporations, as a shareholder.

At this time, the corporate operates 12 eating places, two kiosks inside Complete Meals shops, a catering enterprise, and a meal field service, the latter of which now accounts for over 20 % of its annual income. Clover employs greater than 220 full-time and part-time employees.

The corporate, which was capable of survive the pandemic because of authorities packages and tax credit, mentioned it was assured that gross sales would return to regular in 2024. The corporate was additionally bullish on its bigger future.

Initially of 2023, Clover hoped to boost cash from traders to construct a second commissary that will gasoline its growth all through New England and New York Metropolis. So it made the fateful choice to signal a lease and begin development on a constructing at 50 Industrial Drive in Boston that was 2.5 occasions bigger than its unique facility.

However then SVB collapsed in February and funding dried up, leaving Clover unable to afford the lease on the brand new commissary it had simply signed. Clover didn’t straight financial institution with SVB however the financial institution’s issues spooked traders basically.

“Sadly, Clover’s growth plans and fairness elevate coincided with the failure of Silicon Valley Financial institution and the following slowing of progress fairness monetary markets,” the corporate mentioned in its chapter submitting. “Regardless of fund-raising efforts … the funding plan was unsuccessful.”

Compounding issues, visitors to its present eating places additionally slowed all year long and authorities pandemic help ended. In its filings, Clover blamed gross sales declines at its eating places to workers persevering with to earn a living from home and never the workplace.

“COVID modified all the pieces for eating places like us,” wrote Piper, the corporate’s CEO, in a weblog submit. “The best way we eat, drink, work, and get collectively has shifted considerably and, whereas Clover has seen a gradual restoration in gross sales… our gross sales are nonetheless under pre-pandemic ranges.”

Burt Flickinger, CEO of Strategic Assets Inc. consulting agency in New York, mentioned eating places like Clover didn’t anticipate inflation, which has pushed up worker wages and the price of meals components, forcing eating places to boost their menu costs.

Compounding Clover’s challenges is that it prefers to purchase its greens from native sources versus nationwide distributors that may use their appreciable scale to supply eating places cheaper produce.

Inflation has prompted shoppers to purchase meals at low cost grocery chains and eat at house, Flickinger mentioned. And those that also do go to eating places are shopping for fewer objects.

“It’s powerful for restaurant chains to stay viable in at the moment’s financial system,” Flickinger mentioned. “Clover is an excellent chain going through unattainable odds that its house owners and operators couldn’t have deliberate for.”

To maintain afloat, the corporate raised one other $1.8 million in Might and slashed company wages by 43 %. Clover additionally tried to renegotiate leases with landlords on three of its struggling eating places however to no avail.

So in August, Clover shut down its Copley Sq./Again Bay location at 565 Boylston Avenue, which is owned by Group Church of Boston. In a weblog submit, the corporate mentioned the restaurant, which was its poorest-performing location, was dropping $350,000 yearly over the previous few years; its hire was additionally $350,000 a 12 months.

In its chapter submitting, Clover mentioned it might additionally shut down its restaurant at 27 College Avenue nevertheless it has but to decide.