Covid pandemic and Omicron blamed for insolvency of JC Rook business

But staff have reacted angrily to the claims as accounts show profits were up at the start of pandemic restrictions

J C Rooks ran 11 shops (including the Ramsgate site (pictured) and a production factory

Neil Gostelow and Will Wright from Interpath Advisory have been appointed joint administrators to JC Rook and Sons Limited.

The administrators were brought in yesterday (March 14) marking the end of over 55 years of trade for the business.

The company traded from 11 retail stores across East and Mid Kent, as well as operating a Food Standards Agency approved production and distribution facility in Ramsgate and a food service facility in Shoreham.

Administrators say the company suffered trading losses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily due to constraints from lockdown closures which were then exacerbated further through the Omicron variant in late 2021 during what would be their peak season in the run up to Christmas.

They say the directors concluded that with the deteriorating trading position, the Company would need to go through an insolvency process.

Following legal advice, the directors made the decision to close all 11 stores before the appointment of the joint administrators. Operations at the production facility in Ramsgate also ceased.

The majority of the Company’s 155 employees have been made redundant, with the joint administrators retaining a small number of staff to assist them with the administration process.

Employees were made aware of the shocking news on Sunday evening and told shops and other sites would not be opening in the morning. Some did not find out until they turned up for work.

Neil Gostelow, managing director at Interpath and joint administrator, said: “JC Rook and Sons was a well-established and well-respected family business that had been operating across Kent for over 50 years.

“Sadly, the impact of the pandemic on trading meant that the directors had to take the difficult decision to place the Company into administration.

“Our immediate priority is to assist those members of staff who have been made redundant, providing them with the information they need to be able to make claims from the Redundancy Payments Office.”

Formerly family owned

The Rook family had a connection with the meat trade since the 18th century, originating in and around Norfolk. Joseph Christmas Rook, a butcher since leaving school (except during the war when he joined the RAF), opened the first J C Rook and Sons in Dover, with two of his sons, Michael and Roger, in 1965.

John and Peter at the same time opened a manufacturing factory in Sandwich, designed to supply chip shops with pies and sausages. Due to the overwhelming success of this operation, and the opening of shops in Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Deal, Joseph Christmas Rook, Michael, Roger, John and Peter decided to join together. In 1968 the youngest son Joe, on his 21st birthday, was welcomed into the partnership. Over the next few years the company slowly expanded, branching out right across Kent.


In 2019 a decision was taken to put four stores on the market. At the end of last year Andrew Rook resigned as director. The current directors are James Murray and Adrian Burr. Mr Burr is also a director for Southover Foods in Sussex and was formerly a director of RP Meats Wholesale Ltd until April 2020.

Southover Foods was incorporated in April 2020. Accounts have not yet been submitted for the company and are listed as overdue.

Mr Burr is also the sole director of Burrmark Group, incorporated  in February 2021 and listed as having significant control, alongside Andrew Rook, of Joseph and Henry Ltd which is registered at the factory site in Cecilia Road, Ramsgate. Andrew Rook resigned from this company in December 2021 with Mr Burr taking over as director in January 2022. Accounts have not yet been filed for this company.

Southover was previously a cold meat supplier but following  problems during the first lockdown it was bought out by Rooks and converted to a butchery. It is understood Joseph and Henry and Southover then merged and then traded under Southover.

Rook’s and Joseph and Henry vans have since been seized.

Angry staff

Angry members of staff have said they understand they may not receive payments due, including pensions which are outstanding for a significant period.One staff member said schools and care homes are still calling in orders because customers have not been notified.

Rooks were one of the businesses that remained open during the lockdowns as an ‘essential’ food provider and despite  the statement made via the administrators accounts show trade was boosted at the beginning of the pandemic.

However, employees say debts were accrued recently with a change of management and staff and many suppliers are now left out of pocket. Creditors owed money will likely be listed when administrators compile their next report.

Trade ‘exceeded pre-covid levels’

The last accounts submitted to Companies House for year ending April 2020 say: “As with the rest of the country, there has been a downturn in the food services industry and the government furlough scheme has been utilised where possible.

“Since the end of lockdown, the food services element of the business has returned to and actually exceeded pre-Covid levels of activity.

“In the meantime the company has seen an increase in its retail trade outlets due to customers shopping more locally. This has been further bolstered by the company offering home delivery from each of these outlets. This service was launched to reach even more of the local community, particularly those who have been unable to leave their homes, and has been particularly well received.

“In addition to the increase in retail trade the company has seen a sharp rise in demand for their online offering particularly in the first few weeks of the pandemic and this continues to be many customers preferred method of shopping.”

The accounts also show freehold disposals of £234,723 in that financial year and £504,897 owed to trade creditors plus £71,640 to ‘other’ creditors.

Accounts for the financial year to April 2021 are due for submission by April 30 this year. An administrator’s report on the business will be published in the coming weeks.

This article has been updated with details from Companies House following concerns raised by former employees over the administrator’s statement


    • This has got nothing to do with Boris Johnson do not blame him for everything just because you make not agree with him.

  1. Covid is the easy excuse. People needed food throughout the pandemic and many places like this thrived. Good ordering and delivery services were launched and have made many companies thrive.

    I’d argue plenty of other factors outside Covid are to blame.

    As the poster above says…. The billions spent on giving contracts to Johnson pals and their pals have bled this country dry far more than the usual scape goats of the disabled, foreigners and those on benefits.

    The taxation of technology companies or lack of it….

    All this has meant support for little business is next to nothing and instead we hammer them with taxes and red tape.

    • I have to say that is the most desperate overreach I have ever seen “Not Impressed”.

      When a company loses a large part of its customer base, it will clearly have issues, especially when it loses that market for an extended period as Rooks have.

      Simple fact is that the residents of Thanet CHOSE to use supermarkets not small local shops, and then are surprised when those small local shops disappear, and blame anyone else except them.

      Very simple, if you wish to keep small local shops, use them.

      • You clearly didn’t read all of my comment.

        Plenty of businesses like this thrived through covid. They took step to do deliveries people were crying out for and the extra demand from people being trapped at home and not eating out as much.

        To blame covid is the biggest stretch. They were struggling before covid. People show at Tescos/sainsburys and as I say The government encourages big business and big tech and taxes taxes taxes small business.

        That’s a fact. People like you always believe it’s the fault of the little people for everything – rather than seeing the rich and powerful are constantly given extra help.

  2. I think a lot of the problems are due to the quality of their products, the hot pastry’s they sold have changed over the past couple of years and not for the best.

  3. I will no longer visit Ramsgate High Street because of the gangs of teenagers there. They are so abusive and violent it makes it an unsafe place to shop. You also cannot get from the car park to the town without being approached by druggies begging you for money. I used to use Rooks all the time but because of this reason I stopped visiting.

    • It’s fine to visit Ramsgate town centre during the day. I shop there alone most days of the week- walking not catching a bus or driving- and I am a 71-year-old woman.

    • I don’t know where my comment’s gone, so I’ll try again!

      Ramsgate is a safe place to shop- I go there most weekdays alone, as do several other women I know. (I am 71.) Please do not be influenced by the gloomy exagggerations of some people on these comment threads.

    • If you’d curbed your hysteria and visited King St recently you would have seen a steady stream if people visiting Rooks, Prentis, the Home Front cafe, the new greengrocers, the news agents, the chemists, the haberdashers, Iceland …. and not an abusive or violent person in site.
      PS I’m 75 and visit the town centre just about every day.

      • What a disgraceful thing to say peter if you read the read the newspaper article it looks to me some dodgy business from the directors. Pensioners we may be but we are allowed a life, also the comment about gangs and druggies is just not true

        • You’re obviously not a regular on here, otherwise you’d know that (a) I’m not exactly in the first flush of youth myself, and (b) I live in Birchington, the Pensioner Capital of Kent! Even Marva and Phyllis (presumably) realised that I was joking.

  4. Why not? Everything has been blamed on it for two years now. That four stores were put on the market in 2019-before Covid hit makes it clear it was in financial trouble prior to the Panicdemic.

  5. Hi, Cant the employees band together and buy it out, if the business is on the up and up, surely a bank would stump up the funds?

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