Jinnie’s Story – Book Six, Chapter Thirty-Three

New offices

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

The day following the office viewing, Jinnie was in her garden office, when she took a call from the commercial property agent, who said he had been talking to the landlord and made a reduction in the per sq. ft. cost of the lease. It was about as low as Jinnie could have hoped for, but she thanked him and said they hadn’t made a decision yet and she would put the revised cost into their calculations. As soon as she ended the call, she rang Brian who was working on the overall costs. “That’s good,” said Brian. “Belinda has given me a very rough guess at the cost of converting the offices, but until she gets the drawings from Andrew’s design department, she can’t firm it up, so I have no news yet.” Jinnie told him that Nigel was working on a design for a computer room, and he would cost the equipment and pass it on.

As she was finishing the call, she saw Nigel Farage come through the gate between the properties and come towards her. She waved him in and set about pouring the coffee while Larry came over to say hello. It was then that Alberto called to say he had been talking to the other Nigel and he loved the idea of corporate offices and was fully behind the project. With the company growing so quickly it was essential to have offices for the group. He then said that they should be thinking about more space for all the subsidiaries. He knew the building and thought it ideal as it was within easy walking distance of the restaurant. Jinnie explained that the U.K. takeaway division was comfortable running out of its new Manor Royal offices in the same block as the DKL Construction Division, and it used the group services for the likes of finance and procurement and the outsourced HR. The events company had their office space within the DKL construction division offices in Crawley and again used group services as needed. The West Indian operations shared offices with DKL for their own local needs and again shared the group services for the likes of finance but in their case, procurement was locally in-house and HR was contracted out locally.

She continued to talk about computer services, saying that was where they were likely to hit a wall soon and was the whole reason Nigel had been brought on board. They needed to streamline things and an ERP system was the answer. By going for a cloud system, the supplier would undertake all the heavy computing, they would still need local networks but the need for direct links between say the U.K. takeaway division and the group HQ disappeared. Each division had its own network and communicated with the ERP system in the cloud. They each stored data in their own ‘Silo’, a dedicated part of the ERP system and the group computers could, of course, access all the silos. She added that she wasn’t yet sure if the new offshoot sandwich business with P&O should be a separate business unit or operate as part of the U.K. takeaway division.

Alberto said, “You know this is all getting far too complicated for me. When we were running a single restaurant, I could get my head around things easily. Now I can sit in my office and look at the accounts from each of our U.K. restaurants on a virtually instant basis and just about understand what is happening. But I must admit that I might have a peep at the TT Continental figures, it’s a restaurant and I understand it. The numbers coming out of the U.K. takeaways I don’t totally understand and the numbers coming out of Aunty JoJo’s beat me completely as do our sales through the DKL kitchens. I must admit I rely heavily on the daily financial report coming out of the finance department. Heaven knows how I am going to cope with this P&O stuff, Sybaritic or your restaurant with rooms idea.”

Jennie realised Sir Nigel had been listening intently to the conversation when he said, “I know you are in the middle of setting up a sandwich outlet on cruise ships, but my people have not mentioned a ‘restaurant with rooms’ to me, or Sybaritic have they missed something?” “Well, perhaps that’s because it’s still early days for the ‘room’ project but the Sybaritic is happening,” replied Jinnie. “We have not taken ‘rooms’ much beyond concept yet. Brian is going to be digging into the financial viability soon, but he’s tied up with our corporate offices plan at the moment. Besides, it very much depends on a number of things coming together. We need to buy the target business, buy the building next door to increase the number of rooms available, do a deal with P&O to help market the rooms as part of their holiday packages and find a considerable amount of money. I should be able to get my hands on the money in a few months, but I’m worried it will be needed before then and, as a group of companies, we don’t like borrowing from the bank. They are always trying to get us to borrow these days, but I always remember when Trattoria Trevi were starting out and no one would loan them money because they were Italians.”

“I remember that well,” said Nigel. “And you loaned the money from your inheritance and so the business took off.” “Absolutely,” said Jinnie, “the company is heavily committed to new U.K. and overseas dark kitchens, new Trattoria Trevi restaurants, new Artisan Sandwich Shops, and new Aunty JoJo’s in both the U.K. and Caribbean. Brian is happy that we can manage all that out of existing profits and organic growth and still declare a dividend. A new sandwich shop normally has paid for its investment in six months and an Aunty JoJo’s branch is probably quicker. A Trattoria Trevi takes a bit longer because the investment is so much more, and now we are about to commit to a huge investment in Southampton, an updated computer system and staff which means foregoing the dividend for this half year and new corporate offices which will dig deeply into our reserves and could overstretch us.”

“This time I just don’t have two or three million looking for a home to make a director’s loan,” continued Jinnie. “I have the money, but it is all tied up in long-term investments and the house. Perhaps I shouldn’t tell you this, but the oldies have left me and the twins every penny they had, and it is a huge amount and would easily see me able to make the director’s loan many times over. But it is stuck in probate and won’t be released until the three estates are agreed with HMRC for death duties and that is likely to take months, but I want to move quickly, before someone else steps in.” “I already know about most of this,” replied Nigel, “but can you tell me more about this ‘restaurant with rooms’ idea?”

Jinnie took a deep breath and quickly decided that Nigel wouldn’t let it lie until he knew all the details, but he would keep it secret. So, she explained about the Ennios, the restaurant, the rooms, the idea of packaging rooms for cruisers before a trip with parking, dinner and breakfast and limo or taxi to the ship and back. Nigel thought for a moment and asked, “But aren’t 12 rooms too few?” “Yes,” said Jinnie. “We need to also purchase the rest of the building, ideally we would add at least 50 luxury bedrooms.” “So, P&O would market the rooms to passengers, and you pay them commission.” “Yes, that’s the idea,” said Jinnie. “I see a problem,” said Nigel. “They only have seven ships and often have two in the Caribbean and one based in Malta or Tenerife. Three ships a fortnight aren’t going to fill the rooms.”

“That’s just a starter while we only have 11 rooms. But we would market the packages ourselves directly to cruisers and once we have more rooms, we could approach Cunard and Princess, they are P&O sister companies.” “Why limit it to that?” said Nigel. “There is hardly a day without a cruise ship in port in Southampton, you need to talk to Royal Caribbean, NCL, MSC, Celebrity, Saga, Fred Olsen, in fact, anyone who starts a cruise there.” “I plan to,” replied Jinnie, “but not until we have the product up and running, the bugs ironed out and the costing sorted.”

“OK,” said Nigel. “You might not have the cash to hand, but I do. So, here’s a couple of ideas to start. I could loan you the money, personally, at a nominal rate or I could buy into the business as an equal shareholder and be elected to an enlarged board, you would need to issue more shares. I have no idea what the shares are worth, but I suspect that would raise considerably more than you need.” “Interesting,” said Jinnie, “I need to talk to the board and see what they think.”


Jinnie sat in the board meeting where the discussion was going round and round in circles. She, Brian and Giuseppe were all for issuing the new shares and inviting Sir Nigel Farage to join the board, but the other three directors were not so sure and were worried about diluting the value of their holdings. Alberto was keeping quiet and Jinnie really didn’t know which way the final vote would go. It all depended on the Chairman’s vote.

Finally, Alberto spoke, “When we started this business, we were stuck for money, we knew that we needed to grow the business, but we couldn’t borrow the money. Jinnie came along with an imaginative suggestion, and we struggled to make a decision, but, in the end, we went for it and look at the business we have today. You are all multi-millionaires. Today we are in a similar situation, we have the opportunity to launch another division. Brian says that the restaurant alone is worth buying the business for, we will make money even if the hotel side fails. We need more short-term cash; in six months the various divisions will have generated enough profits to have replenished our reserves and more. But we don’t have six months, the opportunity of this business will likely have disappeared by then. I think we must be bold and go for this opportunity. When it comes to the vote, I intend to vote in favour of the motion to issue additional shares, sell them to Sir Nigel, invite him to join the board and proceed with the Ennios project.”

As soon as the meeting was over, Jinnie rang Sir Nigel to give him the news and promised Brian would be in touch just as soon as the legal work was done. Nigel replied that the money was in this bank account and was ready as soon as they were. In the meantime, Alberto wanted to see the Ennios for himself and surprised everyone by taking Saturday off and booking a double room for him and his wife so they could try the accommodation and the restaurant.


Alberto rang Jinnie on Sunday morning. He said he and his wife were on the train home. He said he had enjoyed their meal and night at the Ennios, and he was in full agreement with her. The rooms were superb, and the restaurant had been really busy, it was after all Saturday night. The food had been excellent and the service good. He had however been surprised at the limited wine list. If the restaurant was ever to come up to his standards, it needed to improve there.

As for the menu, he thought it needed tweaking. It was a little on the expensive side but the buying power of being in a big group should allow for some reductions in prices for the likes of fillet steak and lobster. It was supposed to be an Italian restaurant and despite its menu being laid out like one there was a distinct lack of Italian main courses. He hadn’t been offered a degestivo and he didn’t much like the coffee he was served. Alberto told Jinnie there was nothing wrong that he and the other directors couldn’t rapidly put right, and he was fully behind the idea.

Then he said he had taken photos of the block that the restaurant was in from the front and the rear, and the restaurant occupied four of the nine units in the run. Unit one was a convenience store then came the Ennios units. Of the final four units, two were a ship’s chandler, one was empty and the very last was a greasy spoon catering for dock workers and students from the nearby university. Most unusually, the kitchens seem to be on the first floor at the rear of the building, this somewhat limited the available space for rooms.


Jinnie anxiously waited for any and all news on the new offices, the issue of shares to Sir Nigel, the sandwich deal with P&O, the new hotel business, Nigel’s new IT department and the ERP software. She had a trip to Barbados organised for the opening of the first six DKL kitchens and with it the Auntie JoJo’s and the TT Continental’s takeaway businesses. The opening date was just two weeks after the Trattoria Trevi Group board meeting, and she wanted most things in place before she spent four days in the Caribbean.

The visit this time was strictly business, but she had been invited to stay with Belinda and Brian at their house. Numerous DKL board members had found it important to attend the official opening of the Bridgetown kitchen and Ro was going as Jed’s other half. She, Brian and Alberto were going to be there in a dual role representing both DKL and Trattoria Trevi. The only other U.K.-based TT person travelling out was Brooke, but she was the managing director of Trattoria Trevi (Fastfood) Ltd and in the complex and convoluted world of Trattoria Trevi companies, she was also on the board of Aunty JoJo’s (Operations) Limited.

The first news to break was the P&O/Artisan Sandwiches outlet. They had shaken hands on a deal, so it had been down to Brooke, Brian and the lawyers to finalise the deal’s details of the license, like payments, agree the design of the outlet, sort out the training, agree standards and quality control, and the lawyers to draft the final contract. Jinnie was delighted when Brooke popped up on ‘Teams’ to tell her everything was agreed, and she was off to Southampton the next day with Brian to sign off the contract. They had agreed to pay a monthly fee to use the name on a per-ship basis and a fee per sandwich, sausage roll, pie, cake or Blue Mountain coffee selected. P&O had agreed to Artisan Sandwiches having a blind quality inspection six times a year per outlet, with the inspector having on board passenger accommodation.

The first outlet was to be on P&O’s Britannia and would be installed during the ship’s March refit. Brooke had been invited to fly to Germany to see the finished work and was to travel on the two-night trip back to Southampton, before its first post-refit round-trip cruise to the Mediterranean. Jinnie asked if Brooke had any projections on how much income would be generated and was told it was all dependent on how many sandwiches were consumed, but the license was £1,000 a ship per month. But sandwiches, pies and sausage rolls generated a 20p fee and cakes a 10p fee. P&O had predicted on the 5,200 passenger ship they would serve a minimum of 250 sandwiches a day, but it could be double or treble, they wouldn’t really know until after a few cruises, but however much they received the Artisan Sandwiches business were doing virtually nothing for it.


Brian was next to report. Belinda’s quote for the fit-out of the new offices had been very much in line with her rough costing and Nigel’s computer room came in under Belinda’s initial guess because on talking to the two big ERP providers, both had suggested repurposing the company servers to handle communications and saved having to buy specialist computers. Consequently, Brian had signed an agreement for a five-year lease with an option to renew for a further five years.

There were, of course, the usual break clauses and rent reviews and two special clauses that Trattoria Trevi had insisted on. The first one gave them the right to take further space in the building, if required, at the same per sq. ft. cost as they were paying at the time it was needed, and the second, which Brooke had suggested, was that Trattoria Trevi (Fastfood) Limited had exclusive rights to sell sandwiches, hot snacks, cakes and drinks within the building. At first, Jinnie had assumed this meant including the building on one of the van rounds, but Brooke had bigger ideas and with Belinda’s cooperation, they had conceived a snack bar in the building’s shared reception. This was going to be built and fitted out very quickly and would be open well before the Trattoria Trevi Group HQ was ready. Brooke pointed out how easy it was to supply the snack bar with fresh bread, cooked ham, turkeys, sausage rolls, cakes etc. from their dark kitchen just up the road and to make sandwiches to order on the premises.

Jinnie realised that what Brooke was building was a mini–Artisan Sandwich shop without the in-shop kitchen and cafe. Talking with Brooke, Jinnie further realised that what Brooke was doing was testing a new outlet idea. Brooke pointed out that years ago companies built staff restaurants, which they subsidised, but that rarely happened these days, with some exceptions like hospitals and some big factories. Companies often had offices in shared multi-storey blocks in city centres and staff frequented local sandwich bars. What she was proposing was bringing the sandwich bar to the building. She suggested approaching the company’s leasing offices in the Maple House and offering discounts to their staff on items purchased. To make the scheme attractive to employers, she suggested giving employees whose employers signed up to the scheme, say a 15 or 20% discount but charge the employer 5 or 10% more.

Jinnie said it sounded like a modern version of the old luncheon vouchers her dad had told her about. It made the employer look good by subsidising lunches, while, in reality, it cost them next to nothing compared to a staff restaurant. The employee got a discounted lunch and Artisan Sandwiches got volume trade. Jinnie asked how customers would be identified for a discount and at what level and Brooke said, “That’s simple, everyone entering the building uses an electronic identity RFI card to pass through the turnstiles, we just read their employer from the card and that automatically sets the discount on the till. I bet Nigel could programme that in minutes. Oh, and as a staff perk, we could give our employees everything at cost like DKL do with their vending machines. If it works, and I have no reason to doubt it will, we could approach any office block near a dark kitchen or even expand the scheme to existing shops”.


Brian approached the Ennios Restaurant & Hotel, and they were reluctant to sell, they had a profitable and thriving business. Brian had done his research and knew exactly what the business was worth. His first offer was set just under the business’s value and was immediately turned down. He then offered the full value but hinted that if Trattoria Trevi were unsuccessful in buying the business, they had another site in mind and wouldn’t hesitate to set up in opposition. The Ennios managing director came back and suggested a slightly higher offer would probably swing the deal. Brian was now in a bit of an awkward spot, without Sir Nigel’s investment, the company had the money to buy the business but not the rest of the building, or to undertake the proposed alterations, or to buy somewhere to park cruisers’ cars.

The deal with Nigel was in the hands of the lawyers and was taking too long for his liking. Not for the first time did he think about how easy it was dealing with Michael Watson in Barbados. He just got on and did things. The firm they were using in Potters Bar were much slower and more costly. Brian thought, ‘Should Trattoria Trevi be looking for new solicitors, or are we now big enough to bring legal work in-house?’

He would have to talk to Jinnie, but he decided to investigate the cost implications first, so that he could be fully prepared for any questions she might ask. Eventually, Brian decided to up the offer to value plus 7.5%. Without Sir Nigel’s investment, he could go to plus 10% but that would leave virtually nothing in the reserve. So, he made the offer, hoped it was accepted and decided on one more try at spurring the firm of solicitors into action.


Nigel told Jinnie he was progressing well with the IT project. While at DKL he and Jed had virtually decided to install the ERP software offering from SAP. There was little in it when it came to cost or capabilities. Both SAP and the rivals, Oracle, had impressive reference sites and they had visited customers of both companies who swore they had chosen the best system. SAP had been just that bit quicker in responding to questions and seemed to understand the project better, but it was the integration with the existing software run by DKL that had swung the deal towards SAP.

SAP had demonstrated how other customers were successfully using their legacy programs with the SAP software. On the other hand, Oracle were inclined to say they probably could use the legacy software but Oracles own offerings were better. Nigel and Jed had been reluctant to move away from the core software that ran their kitchens from ordering, billing, cooking to delivery. SAP didn’t want to touch it other than to extract data to store in their systems. Oracle however, really wanted to ‘update’ the system with the own software.

Nigel and Jed had seen no reason to ‘update’ software that worked well. It was their HR, Salary, Finance, Procurement, and General Accounting that was the problem so when he had left DKL they were well on the way to placing an order with SAP. Nigel knew that the DKL ordering / cooking /dispatch software had been based on the ordering / cooking software installed throughout the TT chain where it was core to their restaurants and even to the Sandwich outlets and their in-house cafes, to the new Aunty JoJos chain.

Like at DKL that core software needed to stay. The in-house system wasn’t yet creaking as badly as DKL, partly because they currently contracted out things like Salary and HR but he had one overriding need, whatever he installed had to communicate seamlessly with the DKL system they now had two kitchens on each of the 16, and growing, DKL UK sites. This pointed him heavily toward SAP.

Before getting involved in detailed negotiations Nigel had spoken with Jed just to ensure that he was still going with SAP and as soon as he had confirmed that he was on the verge of signing the contract, Nigel put most of his efforts into negotiations with SAP but be kept up the charade of talking to Oracle. He needed SAP to think they weren’t in a one-horse race.

Nigel had recruited his staff and was itching to set them to work as soon as they became available. But where to put them while waiting for the offices in Maple House to be fitted out. Nigel talked to Jinnie and with Brian’s input they decided to rent temporary furnished offices, so they Googled the question ‘temporary office space Potters Bar’ and on the first page was Regus offering fully furnished offices in Maple house. He and Jinnie had arranged a viewing and although not ideal it was pretty close, so space had been leased for two months while Belinda’s people got to work fitting out the Group offices and building the Artisan Sandwiches outlet.


The following day Brian reported that Ennios had accepted his latest offer, and it was now in the hand of the solicitors. He also said that the solicitors had now confirmed that the additional shares had been created and offered to Sir Nigel. He had purchased them and the £3.75 million was now in the company account. It was now necessary to hold a board meeting and invite Sir Nigel onto the board. What Brian didn’t yet tell Jinnie was that while talking to them he had asked how much longer they were going to be with the share issue and had been told they were waiting for him to reply to an email. He checked his inbox, and there was nothing. So, he checked his junk folder, again nothing, so he checked they had the correct email address and bingo they were spelling Quarendon incorrectly and no one had noticed the emails were bouncing back. He was more convinced than ever the company needed to do something about its legal work.

What else Brian did say to Jinnie was that he wondered if they needed an ‘estates division’ as he was spending a disproportionate amount of this time on the purchase of property for the group. He also said Alberto was happy to take on all the existing Ennios staff and for them to carry on running it. However, the board had gone, so then, on a strictly temporary basis, the manager was going to have to report to someone and Alberto was suggesting that should be Jinnie. Brian said he was setting up a new company, Trattoria Trevi (Ennios) Limited, to run the hotel and any others they may expand into over time. It was to be another company owned 100% by Trattoria Trevi (Holdings) and Brian suggested that they needed to recruit a couple of experienced hotel people onto the board before transferring ownership of the Ennios Hotel from its temporary home under the TT Group and into the new vehicle.

Jinnie agreed this made sense, as COO of TT Group, the Trattoria Trevi master company, she was also managing director of Trattoria Trevi (Holdings) and was on the boards in various positions of all the subsidiary companies but many of the boards included experts in running that subsidiary, Brooke at the fast-food company, Miranda at the events company, and so on. The new TT (Ennios) would eventually report to her as MD of TT (Holdings), so the manager might as well start reporting to her now.

She suggested to Brian that he and Nigel need to get down there ASAP to get their computers talking to the groups as a minimum financially. Brian said he was going to be tied up for a couple of days because now the money was in the bank, he was going to be trying to buy the convenience store, the empty unit, the chandlers and the cafe, but Alberto and Giuseppe wanted to show their faces and to start making a few ‘tweaks’. Above all else, he wanted to get the Trattoria Trevi name associated with the hotel and wanted it to get a corporate makeover and become the TT Ennios. For that he needed Belinda to measure up and produce signage.

Jinnie sat back in her garden office chair. The hotel plan was beginning to come together, and the short-term money problem had been overcome. The group business all seemed to be trading well. Even the event’s company had now grown to the point that it was profitable all year round and not reliant on the Christmas party side of the business to see it through the year. But she had to admit that Miranda’s introduction of a dodgem car track to the parties at the Showground site as an experiment had been inspired. They were predicted to be really busy and make TT Events and the owners a lot of money. Miranda already had plans to introduce dodgem cars to following years’ parties wherever there was space to do so. She was also talking of a carousel and air rifle range at the Showground for next Christmas and it was only the end of February! Jinnie liked the idea of a rifle range, she could already see herself winning the top prize and wondered if it would be one of those giant teddy bears.

The only business not doing really well was her investment in Wedding Dress Bargains. True it had regularly made a profit, but it wasn’t growing as fast as she would like. Sitting there, Jinnie pondered the problem and decided that the difference between it and all her Trattoria Trevi businesses was that it was just not well-known enough. It just wasn’t generating enough money for an advertising campaign and without an advertising campaign it would go on not generating a decent profit that would allow it to expand. Jinnie decided that when she got back from her trip to Barbados, and her new inheritance was settled, she would put a cash injection into the business and insist on an advertising campaign. She was certain that with a bit of careful nurturing, WDB would be a successful as her other businesses.

In Chapter 34 – The opening of DKL Barbados

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