Over the next few days, the family enjoyed their holiday, swimming in the villa’s pool and the warm sea, sunbathing, the twins playing on the beach, eating good food, and generally relaxing. Alberto had been anxious to get back to his beloved Trattoria Trevi and having agreed to the purchase of the Continental and setting up a joint venture with Aunty JoJo’s both dependent on cost, he and Brooke flew home. Jinnie kept in regular daily contact with Brian and Belinda who were busy trying to negotiate and set up the two deals for Trattoria Trevi. Belinda was delighted to have finally settled on three refurbishment contractors to tender for the schedule of work at the Continental that Andrew had sent over and the new Aunty JoJo’s branch once the agreed joint venture was set up.
The day before, Alberto had rung to say the board were happy to proceed with the two deals and asked her and Brian to set the legal process in hand to set up Trattoria Trevi (Barbados) Limited, a Bajan company to be 100% owned by Trattoria Trevi (Holdings) their British investment vehicle. The Barbados company was to be used to purchase the Continental restaurant with money transferred from the U.K. She was also authorised to initiate the setting up of the joint venture company with Aunty JoJo’s. Jinnie said they needed to think about appointing Bajan bankers as they would soon be moving some considerable sums to the island and needed expert local commercial banking advice. It was agreed that Jinnie should approach Vincenzo as his employer was the local bank owned by their British bank.
Jinnie had also been pushing to get the new dark kitchens project underway and Brian had done a lot of the preparatory work talking to industrial estate agents. To progress the project further Mick the DKL COO was flying out that day. He had a room in the same hotel as Brian and Belinda and she and Paolo were eating with them all in the hotel dining room that evening to bring him up to date with progress. The following day was going to be a busy one as they were looking at four sites for possible kitchens in Bridgetown and three in Speightstown. The directors had agreed that seven were too many sites to draw up plans for and a tentative agreement had been made to not draw up plans for more than two in each town.
Before meeting for the evening meal Brian and Jinnie had an early afternoon appointment with Vincenzo to sort out banking requirements for Trattoria Trevi (Barbados) Limited once it was set up and to have preliminary discussions about the banking requirements of the joint venture with Aunty JoJo’s which as yet didn’t even have a name. Of course, the intention was to continue trading under the Aunty JoJo’s brand, so the unnamed joint venture was simply being referred to as the JV in discussions.
Vincenzo, as the bank’s managing director, and his senior vice president had welcomed Brian and Jinnie and talked them through the intricacies of the Barbados banking system and agreed to set up everything ready for the restaurant company as soon as it was setup and similarly for the joint venture which the restaurant company was to hold half of. They shook hands on the deal and Vincenzo was rising to say goodbye when Jinnie smiled and said, “Right now we need to change our hats to the other company we are directors of and talk banking facilities for another business we are in the initial throws of setting up. As you know, when we leave here we are going directly to see the legal firm you recommended on the phone to start the process of setting up these businesses. But we will also be talking about starting another business our company Dark Kitchens Limited will be 90% shareholders of, and we will need to set up banking facilities for this as well. Are you interested?”
“Tell me more,” said Vincenzo, “I don’t know of Dark Kitchen Limited, tell me what do they do? Are they publicly listed or a private company? Do you have accounts that I can see? Who are their U.K. bankers?” “They fly under the horizon,” replied Jinnie, “but they are a 50/50 joint venture owned by Trattoria Trevi and SuperBurger Limited that builds and rents or leases delivery kitchens for restaurants and takeaways that don’t have a delivery service of their own. We operate a central ordering call centre for each site and a delivery service on each site. We currently own 11 sites in the U.K., each with 12 customer kitchens and a 12th site is under construction. We will be commencing construction of two or three more 12 kitchen sites later this year and have planning permission for another four ready for next year.”
Jinnie continued, “The company is now five years old, and we operate out of our headquarters in Crawley where we employ over 200 people on the likes of accountants, a property division locating and developing future sites. Our data centre is located there. As is our construction division, who build all our U.K. kitchens as well as take on refurbishment contracts for offices and factories. We have no borrowings and finance our new builds out of our profits. Brian can make our accounts available to you, but I suggest you talk to your head office as we have banked with them since we started. Our account was initially in Crawley, but it has now been moved to a head office account.”
Brian added, “We are currently looking at projects for one or two six-kitchen sites on the island with a local restauranteur taking a 10% holding. We will not be looking at any borrowing, funding will come from DKL in the U.K. as will the software. We intend to make use of the internet to run support services from Crawley, but our long-term plan is to open on other islands and then we will need to open a data centre in the Caribbean. Our current predictions are that what we are tentatively calling DKL (Caribbean) Limited we think will turn over £1 million in its first year with at least a 20% profit.”
“Gosh,” said Vincenzo, “I knew Dad was very happy with his holding in Trattoria Trevi, but I had no idea how things had grown. I really need to talk to Head Office about this as I’m not sure how they will want to play it. One thing I am certain of is that we will definitely want the account. I assume that this project is longer term as you have yet to confirm sites, so may I talk to HQ on this one and come back to you on it.” “Of course,” said Jinnie.
The next stop was the offices of Forde, Weekes and Watson the lawyers recommended by Vincenzo, for which they were joined by Belinda. Their appointment was with Mr Watson who was the practice’s specialist in company law. Michael Watson greeted his visitors and asked if they minded having Angela his legal secretary sit in as she could record the meeting in shorthand, otherwise he would have to keep stopping to make longhand notes. Michael, as he asked them to call him was clearly a junior partner but quickly grasped what was required. First off was the purchase of the Continental restaurant which Brian had now agreed a price on and the creation of the purchasing vehicle Trattoria Trevi (Barbados) Limited. Michael said he could handle all the paperwork including declaring the import of the money and obtaining all the necessary permits.
Michael clearly was surprised when Belinda explained that she had been appointed on behalf of the purchasers to oversee the refurbishment work and she required any necessary permits and permissions as well as his aid in drawing up a form of tender for the bidders and a contract between Trattoria Trevi (Barbados) Limited and the successful contractor. He admitted that construction law was outside his expertise, but he was certain that one of the partnership’s lawyers was experienced enough to work with her on what was required. There then followed a discussion on how the corporate structure of the Continental restaurant was going to work. Jinnie explained that (Barbados) Limited was to be its 100% owner. The Continental should handle its own purchases and billing much as it did now, paying dividends to its owner from its profits. In that way any other restaurants or businesses they purchased could be standalone and if one got into financial difficulties it would not affect any other.
They then explained the setting up of the Aunty JoJo’s Chicken Shack as a joint venture with Patricia where she put in the business, and they put in a cash equivalent which would be used immediately to buy and refurbished the Rockley Beach restaurant. Their 50% of the new businesses was to be held by (Barbados) Limited. Michael sucked the biro he had been drawing a family tree of the businesses with and said “OK let’s for now call the new company Aunty JoJo’s (operations) Limited and they can own and run the branches in the same way as (Barbados) Limited. That will let Patrica remain the 100% owner of Aunty JoJo’s Chicken Shack Limited whose only business will be to own 50% of (Operations) Limited.”
“Again,” Michael said, “we would be happy to set up the new companies and handle all the paperwork and permits.” Belinda then requested similar help with drawing up competitive tendering for the Aunty JoJo’s second branch, Michael was now beginning to realise that these new clients were bringing a lot of work to the partnership and was starting to worry about biting off more than he could chew. He called in the senior partner Peter Forde and quickly summarised their discussions. Forde listened and said he was sure they had come to the right law firm, and they would be delighted to get on with things this afternoon. He then said how in the past he had often taken clients to the Continental for meals, but he had recently stopped doing so as it had begun to look so shabby. Jinnie said they planned to close for two weeks while the customer-facing areas were refurbished and how she would like him and his wife and Michael and his wife to join them on opening night.
Brian then explained about the third project, the dark kitchens, just as he had done with Vincenzo. He added that it was still early in the project, but they would eventually need someone to conveyance the chosen building to a new vehicle they would have to set up to be called DKL (Caribbean) Limited. Again, the idea was that this company would own one or two kitchens and would eventually own kitchens on other islands. Belinda explained that as the DKL Construction director, she was again involved in the design and construction of the new kitchens and would be once again going out to tender and would need assistance in handling the process under Bajan law.
Finally, Jinnie said they had not yet decided if DKL (Caribbean) Limited would be operated from their Crawley HQ or have its own small management offices in Bridgetown. If they decided to go down the local offices route, they would obviously need more help with the legal side, such as purchasing offices and setting up personnel contracts. Michael said of course they would be delighted to help in any way they could.
Outside the meeting Jinnie asked Brian and Belinda how they thought the meeting had gone. “OK,” said Brian, “I think they understood what we wanted; they are a bit smaller than I expected but then it’s only a small island. I think our legal department in Crawley probably employs more people than they do! I suppose only time will tell.” Belinda added, “I quite liked Michael and he had enough about him to call in a senior partner when he felt he might be getting a bit out of his depth.” Jinnie agreed with them both. She liked Michael, and she agreed that the law firm seemed rather small but doubted there were any big corporate lawyers on the island. With a population of about 300,000, there would just not be enough business for a big firm.
Jinnie and Paolo joined Brian, Belinda and Mick who were already in the hotel restaurant. Brian told them they had only just arrived themselves and were yet to order. Belinda added that although the food wasn’t bad, it wasn’t a patch on the Continental, but the service was good. Mick asked, “Is the Continental another hotel?” Realising that Mick was not privy to Trattoria Trevi business, Jinnie quickly replied, “No, it’s a restaurant I took them to that was really rather good.” Mick then said, “Perhaps I’ll get the chance to visit it before I return to England.” Jinnie replied, “I doubt it, I hear it is in the process of being sold and is going to be closed for redecoration.” “Pity,” said Mick.
The meal was actually quite good and the service excellent, even the coffee was half decent. Mick was briefed on progress with the kitchens project. Brian explained they had identified a number of possible sites for kitchens and the plan was to visit them tomorrow. Jinnie told Mick how they had talked to both lawyers and bankers and everything was being readied to set up the Bajan company and obtain all the necessary permissions and paperwork. Brian then added that they would need to decide whether DKL (Barbados) would need a local office or if the kitchens could be run from Crawley. Then Belinda talked about how she had visited numerous refurbishment companies and had eventually whittled it down to the three she would ask to tender for the construction work. She said she had a favourite, but the tender competition would be run fairly with the lowest bidder who was compliant being awarded the contract. Belinda said she would publish a formula with the invitation to tender that would be used to evaluate deviations from the tender documents.
Mick asked if they thought they could sell all six kitchens on two sites and Jinnie said preliminary discussions were looking very positive. They had four almost definite customers, Jerry had confirmed that SuperBurger were happy to take a kitchen on both sites as had Trattoria Trevi. Aunty JoJo’s, a Bajan takeaway with big plans was also in for a kitchen on both sites. They had also been talking to an excellent seafood restaurant they had dined at and Anderson, the owner, was anxious to take kitchens on both sites and was also onboard as a 10% junior partner bringing local knowledge to the business. Mick said, “So we are down to having to look for customers for two kitchens on both sites.”
“Well no,” replied Jinnie, “before we came out, I had a call from Anderson. He tells me he has been talking to some of his restauranteur colleagues and two of them are interested in talking to us about the remaining kitchens. One is a small TexMex chain and the other a Roti chain. Of course, we can’t fix prices for a kitchen until we have picked sites and got costings worked out. Also, some are talking about having the kitchens operated for them as Trattoria Trevi does in the U.K. I presume that the same service will be available here but, of course, that is down to Trattoria Trevi. Their chairman, Alberto, has just gone home after a short break here and I had a chat with him and explained what was happening, of course, he is also our chairman. He was more than happy with the way things are going so I think he is on board.”
“I have a couple of questions,” said Mick, “First, what is a Bajan roti, the same as an Indian roti?” “Very similar,” replied Jinnie, “It’s basically a flatbread that is rolled up and generally has a meat or vegetable filling. It’s a very popular dish on the island and you will find Roti houses everywhere.” “Thanks,” said Mick, “Now how about deliveries, do we need to budget setting up a delivery service or is there one on the island?” Brian replied, “Actually there are a number, but they are all small and many do deliveries for multiple takeaways. I would suggest we either partner with one or buy one. Personally, I favour buying one, then we can install our own software and control things. As a partner we couldn’t guarantee deliveries as we do at home.”
They all retired to the hotel bar for a nightcap and after chatting for a while Jinnie suddenly said, “I’ve just realised that we only need one call centre for an island of this size, I’m sure Nigel can work out the IT to send orders to the right kitchen based on the delivery address. If we base the call centre in Bridgetown, we can take a slightly bigger place and have offices there.” “Now why didn’t I think of that,” said Mick.
The following morning Jinnie drove over to the hotel and met the other three DKL directors. As Brian had the biggest car, they all piled into it and headed to the first appointment, the address of which Belinda had programmed into the car’s Sat Nav. Arriving at a largish trading estate they found the large empty warehouse they were viewing and the estate agent they were viewing. The agent unlocked the wicket door in the roller shutter, walked in and switched on the lights revealing a large, empty space. Belinda immediately started sketching on her A4 pad, putting in dimensions, door locations and sizes, the locations of the power distribution board and the gas meter and the small office in one corner.
Jinnie asked the agent about the gas, saying she understood Barbados had no natural gas of its own. He explained that the gas was natural gas from the mains via a pipeline from Trinidad and in recent years nearly every home and business on the island had received a connection to the gas grid. Jinnie also asked what the building had been used for previously and was told it was a distribution warehouse and had been full of high racking. The company who owned it had moved to a larger site and taken the racking with them and just added to it.
Mick asked Belinda, “Is it big enough for six kitchens?” “Definitely,” said Belinda, “and high enough for a mezzanine so we can build fridges, freezers and storage underneath it. The only thing is where could we locate an air conditioning plant for a ducted system? I wonder if there is space to one side or the rear. If not, it would have to be split.”
The second unit they saw was a little smaller but still big enough but had the advantage of having excellent access and was on a main road out of Bridgetown with blue and white government buses passing frequently as well as private minibuses and ZR buses on several of the 11 routes. There was also a reasonable car park and plenty of turning space for deliveries. The third Bridgetown unit was just too small to accommodate six kitchens. It could have housed four, maybe five at a squeeze. The final unit was a good size, but it was up a dirt track off a main road. Brian said, “Can you imagine big delivery trucks trying to use that in the hurricane season when it was pouring with rain.”
In the car to Speightstown they discussed what they had seen and agreed to work up a design and costing for Units 1 & 2. Jinnie much preferred Unit 2 but didn’t voice it preferring to see the eventual costings.
Again, they met the estate agent outside the first Speightstown unit they were viewing. It was big enough to suit their requirements but was in an awful condition with holes in both the sidings and the roof. When the agent turned on the lighting a couple of blocks stayed dark but those that did come on revealed numerous puddles on the floor. Belinda said, “This is going to cost an arm and a leg to make it useable before we start on the fit-out. My guess is that water has got in the electrics. I would need to get an electrician out to give me any idea of the cost.”
The second unit was much better. Just the right size, with good access and parking and bone dry. Jinnie watched Belinda measuring up and suddenly had a good feeling about this unit. The party moved on to the final unit of the day. Once again Jinnie thought it a decent prospect, all the necessaries were there, and access was good. But to Jinnie the second Unit was the favourite.
They shook hands with the agent and told him they were going to have to work out the costings of using the different units for their project. If the numbers worked out, they would be back in touch. Brian then told him a white lie, that they had other units to see, so if the vendors were willing to think about the unit’s cost it might swing it their way. On the way back to the hotel they unanimously agreed that Unit 1 was out of contention, so Belinda promised to work out schemes for Units 2 & 3 in Speightstown.
The twins woke Jinnie up the next morning when they burst into her and Paolo’s bedroom, wanting to know if mummy and daddy were coming with them on an adventure. Jinnie asked what the adventure was, and Millie said, “We are going to make a picnic and go to the north coast. Izzy says it is the Atlantic side and the beaches are lovely but the sea is very rough so we can only paddle.” “I’d love to,” replied Jinnie, “and I’m sure Daddy would too.”
After breakfast Jinnie, Paolo, Izzy and the twins climbed in the people carrier, and set for Bath Beach. Penny and Dan followed them In Penny’s embassy car. Just over 30 minutes later they pulled into the almost deserted Beach car park and crossed the coast road to a magnificent white sand beach fringed with trees. Paolo looked up and down the huge expanse of sand and the only other people he could see were four local little children playing at the water’s edge. “This is idyllic,” he declared. The family found a shady spot and settled down while the twins were immediately splashing in the shallows at the water’s edge.
The day passed slowly, Jinnie took the opportunity to read her Kindle and top up her tan. Dan and Paolo played beach football with Willie and Millie. After the picnic lunch Jinnie found herself dropping off, so she shut her Kindle and dozed off trusting Izzy to watch the twins who were now playing football with the local children. Suddenly she was dragged back awake by a message arriving on her phone as she shook herself awake, she saw Penny doing the same thing. The message simply said, ‘Report immediately to B2 for briefing – Alan’. Jinnie looked at Penny and asked, “You too?” Penny said, “Yes. It looks like it’s only you and me, Dan and Paolo haven’t got messages. Let’s go in my car and leave the others to come back in the people carrier.”
In Chapter 10 – A trip to Martinique
© WorthingGooner 2023