Home Money They bought me a voucher to dine at Virgin Experience, but the restaurant closed. And now that? TONY HETHERINGTON

They bought me a voucher to dine at Virgin Experience, but the restaurant closed. And now that? TONY HETHERINGTON

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Bitter taste: pods at Birmingham's Craft restaurant

Tony Hetherington is the Financial Mail on Sunday’s star investigator, battling readers’ corners, revealing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those left penniless. Find out how to contact him below.

I write: In November 2022, my daughter bought a four-course dining experience with wines from Virgin Experience Days at Craft Dining in Birmingham as a Christmas gift, which cost £72.

In February 2023 I contacted the restaurant to make a reservation. They were closed for renovations, but they offered to exchange the Virgin voucher for theirs, with a higher value and an extended expiration date. However, when I tried to book, I discovered that the restaurant was already closed.

Bitter taste: pods at Birmingham’s Craft restaurant

Tony Hetherington replies: This was a recipe for disaster. When you handed in your Virgin voucher, Virgin paid Craft. Legally and contractually, Virgin was free from liability.

The company that runs the restaurant, called Craft, inherited that responsibility, but when I started researching this, it was difficult to pinpoint which company it was.

I located the 2022 ad, tempting you to “dine in style in a private Michelin-starred pod” at Craft. The deal included a “four-course meal with wine for two at Birmingham’s Craft.” But who or what was Craft?

I found Midlands restaurant company We Are Craft Limited. It had not submitted legally owed accounts and Companies House officials had initiated proceedings to have it cancelled.

Was this the company behind the offer? It seemed likely. Until 2020, it was actually called Craft Dining Group.

But wait! One of the reasons We Are Craft was in trouble was that a separate company called The Craft Experience Limited owed it almost £1 million.

That company went into liquidation in 2022 with debts estimated at more than £1.5 million. When I found out it was previously called Craft Dining Limited, I thought it must be the company behind the restaurant.

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Although maybe not. Because when I looked back at We Are Craft, I discovered that it had operated a subsidiary called Craft Investment Partners Limited. TO

And the subsidiary also ran into trouble with Companies House for not submitting details showing who the owner is, as early as 2022.

A check of court records found two unsatisfied county court judgments against Craft Investment Partners and one against

The artisanal experience. So many companies with similar names, all connected to one couple, Sam and Emma Morgan. ]

But when I tried to contact them, another of their companies, About Dining Limited, came up and it turned out that this one ran the Birmingham restaurant.

I was assured that you knew at all times who you were dealing with and that you were happy to accept a new coupon that could be used at a different restaurant in a different part of the country, such as your clever new restaurant in Liverpool, called 8…

You explained that this was wrong. You had planned a weekend trip to Birmingham, with a trip to the restaurant as part of it. And neither in the advertising nor in the gift voucher is there any mention of About Dining.

Worse still, when you swapped your Virgin voucher for the restaurant itself, it came from The Craft Experience Limited, Sam and Emma Morgan’s company which had already collapsed into liquidation in 2022. I think it must have been an innocent mistake.

Another innocent error was About Dining’s statement on its Craft website: “We have made the decision not to reopen Craft following a planning refusal regarding our renovation.”

Birmingham City Council told me it had not received a planning application from About Dining. When pressed, About Dining admitted that it was never actually applied because “we were told it wouldn’t be acceptable.” So there was no refusal.

About Dining suggested you were unreliable and asked me if I believed what he had “sold me” and offered unsolicited advice that there were bigger stories I should pursue.

But Virgin came to the rescue by agreeing to reverse the deal and exchange its voucher for the Craft restaurant’s own voucher. And the icing on the cake is that Virgin has given you a new voucher worth £110, instead of the original £72. Well done, Virgin.

If you believe you are a victim of financial irregularity, please write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY or email tony.hetherington@mailonsunday.co.uk. Due to the large volume of inquiries, it is not possible to provide personal responses. Please only send copies of the original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.

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