Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) says it has earmarked 17 restaurants for closure after running up millions of pounds of losses. The chain, owned by South Africa's Famous Brands, has filed for a Company Voluntary Arrangement - an insolvency process that allows struggling firms to close unprofitable stores. It warned 250 jobs were at risk under the plan, which still needs approval. GBK operates about 80 restaurants in the UK and employs 2,000 people. Earlier this month, Famous Brands said GBK had booked a £47m loss amid tough trading conditions. Managing director Derrian Nadauld said the chain faced a "challenging casual dining" market and its rental payments were too high. "We are having to take tough but necessary actions to reduce our fixed cost base and restore long-term profitability," he said. "This [CVA] will provide greater security for our staff, suppliers, landlords and customers." Pizza chain Prezzo to close 94 outlets Byron outlets to close in rescue plan Under the terms of the process, which is being run by Grant Thornton, GBK could close 17 restaurants, although it said every effort would be made to redeploy staff. Its other 68 restaurants would continue to trade as normal and no outlets will close immediately. The burger chain is the latest in a long line of casual dining firms to announce store closures this year. Gaucho, Hummus Bros, Prezzo, Byron and Jamie's Italian have all fallen on hard times as consumer confidence has slumped, leaving brands with unsustainable overheads. Matthew Richards, a director at Grant Thornton, said: "The casual dining trading environment in the UK remains extremely challenging, driven by a change in dining behaviour, long-term consumer trends and increased competition." He said GBK's CVA would provide a "stable platform" on which management could turn the business around.
Nasa believes it has fixed a malfunction with the Hubble telescope which threatened to limit the orbiting observatory's performance. Earlier this month, one of Hubble's gyros - needed to point the spacecraft - failed, forcing controllers to place the telescope in "safe mode" - where it operates with essential functions only. This was required because a backup gyro also malfunctioned when switched on. But after a series of tests, the backup appears to be working normally. The telescope, launched in 1990, has been described as one of the most important scientific instruments ever created. Hubble telescope hit by mechanical failure A gyroscope is a device that measures the speed at which the spacecraft is turning, and is needed to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets. It consists of a wheel inside a sealed cylinder - called a float - which is suspended in thick fluid. There were originally six gyros; the observatory had been operating on four until the problem about two weeks ago. At any given time, Hubble needs three gyroscopes to work for optimal efficiency. The failure of a another gyro, and the discovery that a backup was faulty left Hubble with only two fully functional gyros. This could have forced controllers to operate the telescope on just one, to extend the lifetimes of both components for as long as possible. At the time, the deputy mission head for Hubble, Rachel Osten, said: "The plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain. There isn't much difference between 2 and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time, which the astro community wants desperately." There is great demand from astronomers to use Hubble Hubble is prized by the astronomical community, and observing time has to be carefully managed because of the high demand. Astronomer Prof Nial Tanvir, from Leicester University, told the BBC that Hubble could have continued to operate with relatively little impact on one gyro. But this mode would probably have placed limitations on which part of the sky Hubble could observe at any one time. It might also have taken the telescope longer to move from observing one target to another. Nasa said the malfunctioning backup gyro - which had been turned off for 7.5 years - had been showing "extremely high rotation rates". In an attempt to correct the problem, the Hubble operations team performed a running restart of the gyro on 16 October. Image copyrightNASA Image caption The James Webb Space Telescope will launch no earlier than 2021 This procedure turned the gyro off for one second, and then restarted it before the spinning wheel inside the gyro slowed down. However, controllers saw no improvement. Two days later, the operations team commanded the spacecraft to make a series of manoeuvres. This was designed to dislodge any blockages within the gyro itself. In a statement, Nasa said that on 19 October, "the operations team commanded Hubble to perform additional manoeuvres and gyro mode switches, which appear to have cleared the issue". It added: "Hubble then executed additional manoeuvres to make sure that the gyro remained stable within operational limits as the spacecraft moved. The team saw no problems and continued to observe the gyro through the weekend to ensure that it remained stable." The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is Hubble's designated successor, but it has experienced a series of delays and will not launch until 2021, at the earliest. Astronomers have recently been talking about how they can extend Hubble's life so that it could continue to serve the astronomy community.