Three months after his father’s death, Kevin Vanlancker, boss of Chez Léon and Armes de Bruxelles, takes stock. After putting out the fire, he takes the necklace. Covid-19 debts are frozen and will be repaid; business is gaining momentum, but there will be no more blows. All plans B are exhausted.
When we enter the restaurant “Chaz Leon”, the table on the left, overlooking Rue Boucher, has always belonged to the family. In recent years there have been Rudy Vanlanker, the fifth generation of these illustrious restorers, known the world over for selling mussels. Three months ago, “Monsieur Rudy” committed suicide by jumping out of the window of his office, located under the roofs of an institution founded by his ancestors in 1893. In a somewhat brutal way, the sixth generation, presented Kevin Vanlanker, Rudy’s son, had to take over. But we understand that everything was ready.
Therefore, today it is Kevin who sits at the table of his family. On the wall behind him, a small brass plaque had just been placed in memory of his father. Agreeing to evaluate this recovery under painful circumstances, Kevin Vanlanker speaks directly.
“Everyone said he killed himself because he was at the end and the kid wasn’t going to endure.”
“It took me two or three months to put out the fires and calm people down. Two months before he died, my father said in an article that he had swallowed twenty years of savings in the company. Everyone said that he committed suicide because he was at the end of his that the child wasn’t going to keep“, – explains Kevin Vanlanker, specifying that it was necessary to reassure Finance & Invest Brussels, banks and suppliers.
But there is one thing that almost everyone did not know about. Father and son prepared the succession. “I inherited the restaurants four years ago, my father prepared the entire estate,” explains Kevin Vanlanker before adding that since then he is the managing director of the group. This operation was even approved by the Advance Determination Service (SDA) of FPS Finance. “We had to prove that this is the restaurant we wanted to pass on from father to son.”
We feel it, the representative of the sixth generation, called upon to manage the fate of two establishments (Chez Léon and Aux Armes de Bruxelles), is ready. I have to say that establishments had to be pulled afloat during the pandemic not to drown. “My father sold the brand image for France (Leon de Brussels), which is a thirty year job. He could pocket that money and relax in the sun, but he reinvested in the restaurant. He also sold his country house, I think that this is what caused his death, ”says Kevin Vanlanker.
Rudy Vanlanker’s decision to kill himself is certainly the result of accumulation of trouble. “He had to make an effort for the attacks and my son’s cancer, then we had Covid, we started to see the end of the tunnel when the war in Ukraine pointed to the tip of his nose,” explains Kevin Vanlanker.
Moreover, the latter should prevail over the level of assistance provided to restaurants in Brussels. Between 2019 and 2021, Vanlancker family restaurants lost €8.7m in turnover, representing a decrease of 74.15%. To compensate, they will soon receive premium 7500 euros. But Kevin Vanlanker does not want to expand on this topic, preferring to thank those who helped him raise his head.
There is Finance & Investment Brusselswho was always present to support the establishments. have a bank Belphius, as well as “one of the few banks that gives out umbrellas when the weather is fine and doesn’t take them back when it’s raining.” And there is restaurant union delegation (Chez Léon employs 110 people) who have agreed to defer year-end bonuses until they return to normal.
Although not everything is so rosy and Kevin Vanlanker does not hide it. “Everything related to Covid is suspended. Today I have a lot of debts, I will not hide it from you. I owe six figures to ONSS and income tax. I have several million, but there are plans and moratoriums, everything is under control. I have payment plans in place and have paid all my debt since 2022, I am fully aware and will gradually resolve Covid,” explains Kevin Vanlanker.
After the Easter holidays, things seem to be going uphill. tourists are returning and the numbers are good. Where he expected a turnover of 550,000 euros for April and May, he closed those months at over 800,000 euros. “We feel that mayonnaise wants to resume,” adds our source.
“If anyone doubts that the car will stop, I no longer have a plan B, my father used them all.”
Rudy Vanlanker had four children. If everyone owns a quarter of the deal, Kevin Vanlanker is the managing director and has control over the business. “Last week I had my first general meeting, the first without a father and hopefully the last that I will end with a crappy year; 2022 seems to be off to a good start,” he adds, aware that he is walking on eggshells.
If all goes well for a year or two, he will be able to restore his cash flow and resume management as before, while erasing Covid debts. But beware of disposal if the machine seizes. “On my debt table, if I don’t win the lottery, I don’t have room for anything anymore. If a nuclear warhead threatens NATO, if there is another Covid, I no longer have my father’s vacation home for sale and I no longer have the option of opening a bank loan. Today we are walking on eggshells. If a grain of salt comes to block the car, I no longer have a plan B, my father used them all,” explains Kevin Vanlanker, sitting in the entrance of his restaurant.
“Monsieur Rudy” is no more, there is “Monsieur Kevin”.
- At the beginning of March, Rudy Vanlankerboss of Chez Leon and Armes de Bruxelles, killed himself.
- Three months later, Kevin, Rudy’s son, at work. It took extinguish fires and manage stores.
- The estate was occupied from the age of four.
- After the “freeze” of debts due to Covid, the sixth generation intends to get their establishments back on track.