Vegetarian restaurant chain Clover Meals Lab information for chapter

The Boston Globe

The quick informal chain stated it might now not the pay the leases on its new commissary and a number of other eating places.

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

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 problem in elevating extra cash from buyers.

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

Clover buyers stopped writing checks following the turmoil within the tech trade that adopted the market-shaking collapse of Silicon Valley Financial institution this spring/summer time, in line with 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 aim of continuous to function.

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

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

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

“The primary moments we had 200 individuals in line for the truck at MIT nonetheless really feel unimaginable and electrical after I give it some thought almost 15 years later,” Muir wrote in a weblog publish 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 searching for remark.

The corporate attracted funding from enterprise and personal fairness corporations reminiscent of Boltendahl Worldwide Companions and Bamcap, in line with Crunchbase. Clover’s chapter filings additionally record The Carlyle Group, one of many world’s largest non-public fairness corporations, as a shareholder.

Right this moment, 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 p.c of its annual income. Clover employs greater than 220 full-time and part-time staff.

The corporate, which was capable of survive the pandemic because of authorities packages and tax credit, stated 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 lift cash from buyers to construct a second commissary that might gas its enlargement 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 instances 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 instantly financial institution with SVB however the financial institution’s issues spooked buyers typically.

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

Compounding issues, site visitors to its current 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 staff persevering with to make money working from home and never the workplace.

“COVID modified every little thing for eating places like us,” wrote Piper, the corporate’s CEO, in a weblog publish. “The way in which 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 beneath pre-pandemic ranges.”

Burt Flickinger, CEO of Strategic Sources Inc. consulting agency in New York, stated eating places like Clover didn’t anticipate inflation, which has pushed up worker wages and the price of meals elements, forcing eating places to lift 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 customers to purchase meals at low cost grocery chains and eat at dwelling, Flickinger stated. And those that also do go to eating places are shopping for fewer gadgets.

“It’s robust for restaurant chains to stay viable in at this time’s financial system,” Flickinger stated. “Clover is an excellent chain dealing with unimaginable 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 p.c. 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 publish, the corporate stated the restaurant, which was its poorest-performing location, was shedding $350,000 yearly over the previous few years; its hire was additionally $350,000 a yr.

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