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Wed 6th May 2015 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Hummus Bros launches £250,000 crowdfunding campaign: Hummus Bros, the London-based hummus restaurant chain, has launched a campaign to raise £250,000 in return for 4.35% of its equity through the Seedrs crowdfunding platform, valuing the company at £5.5 million. More than £105,000 was raised yesterday from 65 investors, meaning the campaign is 44% funded already. The company said the fundraising would enable Hummus Bros to open two new high street outlets and continue the expansion of its network of pop-ups, which it has introduced in corporate restaurants in the City of London, including at the offices of Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. Hummus Bros, founded by Christian Mouysset and Ronen Givon in August 2005, now serves close to 10,000 meals a week. In March 2014, Jon Hassall, previously UK operations director of Patisserie Valerie, joined the business and has helped rebrand all the current units, pushing sales up 33% year-on-year and restaurant Ebitda up 413%. Mouysset said: “We have achieved some important milestones in the past few months. It is now a perfect time to open more stores and expand our network of corporate pop-ups. We chose Seedrs as our partner for this fundraising because it is clearly the firm trusted by investors as equity crowdfunding done properly.” Seedrs claims to be the most successful equity crowdfunder in Europe, having funded 110 deals in 2014. Potential investors can find more information about the offer at www.seedrs.com/hbros. In April Hummus Bros, beat a £150,000 target to raise through an 8% interest-paying mini-bond on the crowdfunding platform Crowd2Fund. A total of 53 investors pledged £174,102. The bond term is 60 months.
 

Industry News:

Date announced for Propel Operators and Investors Dinner: The annual Propel Operators and Investors Dinner will take place on Wednesday 17 June at the Banking Hall in Cornhill in the City of London, sponsored this year by Britvic and Carlsberg. There are 100 places at the dinner for operators of multi-site companies and investors from major banks, private equity firms and elsewhere. Tickets to attend cost £100 plus VAT. Propel's managing director, Paul Charity, said: “The dinner is a great opportunity to extend mutual networks in an informal setting. We launched the event last year and it was a great success, so we’re delighted to hold another dinner this year.” Anyone who would like a ticket should email Paul Charity on paul.charity@propelinfo.com.

Average annual earnings for FTSE 100 chief executive stands at £4.96m: The average annual earnings for the chief executive of a FTSE 100 company stands at £4.96m, a survey by the Daily Mail has found. Diageo's chief executive, Ian Menzies, earned £7.8m, SAB Miller's chief executive, Alan Clark, earned £6.5m, Whitbread's chief executive, Andy Harrison, earned £6.4m and the chief executive of Compass, Richard Cousins, earned £6.3m.

Chris Muller – Easterbrook’s turnaround plan for McDonald’s may change the way companies segment international markets: Professor Chris Muller of Boston University, the leading multi-site foodservice academic, has hailed the recovery plan outlined this week by McDonald’s chief executive as setting a new course for multi-territory companies. He said: “(The) announcement by McDonald’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook, has the potential to change the way all multi-national companies segment changing markets, not only international restaurant leaders. Moving from the traditional regional or country-centric structure (US, Europe, APMEA) to one based on the similarities of consumer needs (US, international lead markets, high-growth markets and foundational markets) redefines the global marketplace for the future. The turnaround vision for a new global segmentation strategy potentially redraws the geography of international business. With 80% of operating income coming from the USA and just five other countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the UK) McDonald’s has firmly declared that consumers in Paris have more in common with those in Sydney than Moscow or Hong Kong. Easterbrook represents a new generation of leadership for McDonald’s, one not built on operations experience or financial acumen, but on the dominance of marketing and brand management.”

BHA – sector chief executives criticise treatment of leisure as Cinderella sector: A survey by the British Hospitality Association (BHA) of chief executives and leaders at 42 UK-based hospitality company, including Domino's Pizza, Fuller Smith & Turner, Spirit Pub Company, Tragus, Casual Dining Group, Whitbread and YO! Sushi, has revealed concern over the negative impact the result of the general election could have on consumer confidence and business this year. Chief executives were vocal about politicians treating hospitality as the "Cinderella" sector, with a massive disconnect between Westminster and an industry that delivers more than £40bn in tax revenues and is the UK's fourth largest employer. Setting aside the uncertainty of the general election, almost three quarters of executives (72%) were positive about the UK’s economic growth outlook, while more than two thirds predicted moderate or significant growth for their own company (67%). More than half reported that their business was performing better this year compared to last year. Executives raised their fears on how the fragility of consumer confidence could be affected by any incoming government that hurried through “rash” policy initiatives. Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: “As the country's fourth largest employer, biggest contributor to new jobs over the past five years, and one of the greatest conduits to spreading wealth across the entire country, the incoming government needs to step up to the plate and effectively serve our three million-strong workforce. Ensuring a conducive policy environment to support the hospitality and tourism industry is not rocket science. It just needs commitment, leadership and a government that works with our private sector, rather than against it.”
 
Propel offers pair of free ticket to pub’s rock concert: A small country pub in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside might not be the first venue that comes to mind if you are thinking of holding a rock concert. But at Wadworth’s Kings Arms pub in All Cannings, near Devizes, landlord Richard Baulu is preparing to host the fourth annual Concert at The Kings on Saturday 30 May. An idea thought up four years ago by Baulu, sound engineer John “Grubby” Callis and Andy Scott, guitarist with The Sweet, Concert at The Kings seeks to raise awareness and funds for a number of local, and cancer charities. With the help and support of a some big names over the years, such as Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Bob Geldof, the pub has raised an astonishing £70,000 for Cancer Research UK, Above and Beyond Urology, Teenage Cancer Trust, Macmillan Cancer Support, and the parish of All Cannings. This year concertgoers, who travel from across the UK can look forward to performances from the likes of Howard Jones, Squeeze, Lindisfarne and The Sweet, with rock legends Brian Johnson and Cliff Williams from AC/DC also pledging their support. In celebration of the event the Wadworth brewing team has been hard at work, brewing a special Concert beer, which is ready and waiting in the cask. Wadworth's trade marketing manager, Emma Cottam, said: “Wadworth is delighted to support this fantastic event with the brewing of the special beer and with a charitable donation. There are very few small country pubs that could stage and promote such a big event year after year. We are very proud of Richard and his team at the Kings Arms whose hard work contributes greatly to the success of the concert.” Propel is offering one lucky reader the chance to win a pair of tickets to The Concert at The Kings. To enter, email adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com, quoting the word “rock”, to be entered into our draw.
 
Report by People 1St highlights impact of lack of soft skills shortage:
The latest research report by People 1st has shown the challenges faced by employers in recruiting staff with the right range of "soft skills" such as customer service, teamwork and the ability to deal with complaints. Soft skills are worth £88bn to the UK economy and almost £8bn to the retail and food services markets alone, the report says. However, four out of five skills that employers report missing in job applicants are soft skills. The report also shows that the problem is also found among existing staff, as three in five hospitality and tourism businesses experience a lack of skills in customer handling and a quarter of businesses in the sector believe that they have lost business to competitors as a result. Martin-Christian Kent, executive director at People 1st, said he believed that the hospitality and tourism sector was struggling more than other industries to attract staff with the necessary soft skills. He said: “The impact the lack of soft skills has upon hospitality and tourism businesses is huge. We are a people-oriented industry and if staff don’t have these skills, it can be highly damaging. It can result in loss of business, difficulty meeting quality standards and overworking the existing workforce. We need to compete better when it comes to attracting more able applicants into the industry or, alternatively, find more effective ways of developing these skills.”

Company News:

Analyst Nigel Parson – Greene King’s lacklustre results are a reminder of importance of Spirit deal: Canaccord Genuity's leisure analyst Nigel Parson has argued that yesterday’s lacklustre Greene King results, with managed like-for-likes up just 0.4%, are reminder of the importance of securing the takeover of Spirit Pub Company. The Competition and Markets Authority is due to decide next week whether the deal, which would create the UK's largest managed pubs operator, can go ahead. "The deal is more than purely defensive; we believe the combined entity will be a much stronger investment proposition with higher quality earnings, stronger free cash flow and better growth prospects. This goal is where investors need to remain focused," Parson said.
 
Sadler’s Brewery targets six tap houses in Black Country: Black Country brewer Sadler’s is targeting a network of five or six tap houses across the region. The company recently opened its new Brewhouse and Bar in Lye, Stourbridge, more than doubling the size and scale of its operations. The new Sadler’s Brewhouse and Bar, located in a redeveloped industrial unit in Station Drive, complements the firm’s established brewery at the Windsor Castle pub nearby in Stourbridge Road but offers a far greater brewing capacity. The Windsor Castle brewery had a ten-barrel brew while the new facility has a 30-barrel brew and Sadler’s is now brewing five days a week. Brewhouse operations director Tim Hodgkinson said: “We are looking at expanding in the pub world and would like to have five or six tap houses in the Black Country, that’s the next dimension for us.” The new Stourbridge Brewhouse and Bar represented a £500,000 investment.

Prezzo lines up first Isle of Wight opening:
Prezzo is eyeing a new Isle of Wight branch in a former Newport post office. The High Street Post Office has been empty for several years, since the branch moved into the Co-op supermarket in South Street. According to notices posted in the High Street, Prezzo wants permission to erect illuminated signs on the building. At the weekend the Sunday Telegraph lined Prezzo, which went private at the start of the year, with a possible bid for La Tasca, where an auction process is due to start shortly.

Hotdog concept Top Dog to open in June: Bar, nightclub and restaurant owner Matt Hermer and his US-born wife Marissa are to open a new US-inspired hotdog concept, Top Dog, serving West Coast style hotdogs, in Soho’s Frith Street, London on 1 June. Fortnum and Mason executive Ewan Venters will serve as non-executive chairman. It will offer a menu of seven hotdogs. A spokesman said: “Marissa will be uniting the anatomy of an American dog with the very best British ingredients to showcase a new breed of “cleaner fast food”. The premium all-natural juicy dogs will include the Kimchi dog, Chicago dog, a pulled pork and apple slaw dog, and a “dog of the week”, to be enjoyed alongside signature ice cream milkshakes, rapeseed-cooked skin-on loaded fries, sides of smokey baked beans, guacamole and chilli. Design will channel biker culture of the 1950s. As well as featuring a hidden ‘party room’ there will be a motorcycle downstairs in the restaurant on which guests can capture their true American inner self.” Marissa Hermer said: “I’m so excited to launch Top Dog and bring a little of my favourite American food to the UK. I cannot wait to share my interpretation of the best American hotdog with London.”

Giggling Squid completes on Prezzo Billericay Cleaver site:
The Thai chain Giggling Squid has completed on a new site in Billericay, Essex. The latest acquisition for the group, which is co-owned by husband and wife team Andrew and Pranee Laurillard,  takes its portfolio to 14 sites. Giggling Squid aims to have a nationwide string of 70 restaurants within seven years. It is currently in advanced legal negotiations to acquire seven more sites, five in the Home Counties, one in East Anglia and another in the Midlands. Giggling Squid expects to open a 120-seater restaurant on the High Street in Billericay in July or August, after a £50,000 refurbishment. It will occupy the former Prezzo Cleaver chicken, ribs and burger restaurant, next door to Waitrose, and will create 20 new jobs. Andrew Laurillard said: “Opening in Essex has been a crucial stage in our growth plans for quite some time. With its high proportion of City-bound commuters, Billericay is a great location from which to take the brand forward. Billericay people are a demanding bunch, they know what they want, they enjoy the finer things in life and go out and get them.” The company has appointed the accountancy firm Grant Thornton as its commercial adviser, as part of a strategy to secure further finance for continued growth by the end of 2015.

BrewDog launches 2015 graduate scheme, reports success with previous schemes: The Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has launched its 2015 graduate scheme, looking to recruit two graduates. It said: “We are after a protégé for each of our two co-founders, so the successful graduates will have to be as determined and adaptable as James and Martin are, as they guide BrewDog forward as a company. This is now the fourth year that we have run the scheme, and it has unearthed some incredible talents who are really shaping the future of BrewDog, from our brewing engineer and pilot kit supremo Nick Zeigler to Zarah Prior, who arrived at BrewDog as James’s protégé and is now head of our People Team. Our two most recent additions via the graduate scheme are Marissa Urbank and Becky Rothwell. Marissa hails from sunny California and is our projects assistant, managing every kind of epic scheme from our new website to beer popcorn. Becky hails from even sunnier Manchester and went straight into it as our Equity Punk liaison. Shortlisted candidates will be brought to Aberdeen for a mega-group interview, where we’ll be putting you through your paces to determine who gets permission to board.”

Union Hanover Securities wins go-ahead for £126m leisure scheme in East London: A new boutique hotel is due to be built in Stratford City, East Village, in east London after the hotel developer and operator Union Hanover Securities secured planning consent for its £126m, 249-bedroom Penny Brook hotel scheme. Eric Jafari, managing director of Union Hanover Securities, said: “The unanimous backing of the London Legacy Development Corporation shows that they are as committed as we are to adding a new element of character to the Stratford masterplan. The planners share our vision of creating a leisure-led cultural quarter, underpinned by the unique essence of our hotel. We will seek to appeal to Millennials who embrace the ‘anti-brand’ experience.” The hotel will have restaurants and cafes at ground floor level, and conference facilities and event space with a terrace incorporated into the second floor. A "high end" eaterie and bar for hotel guests and members will be available on the upper floors. The development also includes an adjacent 137-bed Adagio aparthotel split between 95 studios and 42 one-beds.
 
YO! Sushi opens first two new US locations itself: YO! Sushi has opened two locations in the United States itself rather under franchise, it has emerged. The restaurants opened at malls in Sarasota, Florida and Paramus, New Jersey. The 1,700-plus sq ft YO! Sushi in Sarasota seats 60 and the 2,200 sq ft outlet in Paramus seats 75. YO! Sushi will also open in Tampa, Florida and Short Hills, New Jersey, in the autumn. The new openings represent a fresh start for YO! Sushi in the US after a site in Washington under a different franchise partner, closed last year
 
Pizza Hut capitalises on royal baby arrival with Charlotte promotion:
Pizza Hut UK moved to capitalise on the arrival of the royal baby at the weekend by offering free pizza to customers called Charlotte. The company said the first 100 Charlottes through the doors at their restaurants in the Strand in Central London, Kirkstall Road in Leeds, Liverpool One, Hanover Street in Edinburgh and the Trafford Centre in Manchester would get a free main meal. Kathryn Austin of Pizza Hut said: "The royal birth is such a momentous occasion, we want to celebrate and welcome the new arrival in a way that our customers can also enjoy. A new royal baby and a free pizza, sounds like the perfect combination."
 
Zizzi signs for Intu Derby site: The Italian restaurant brand Zizzi has taken a 3,000 sq ft unit, due to open this summer, opposite Eat Central, Wagamama and TGI Friday’s, in Intu Derby. The announcement comes after the signing up of Byron and Joe’s Kitchen for units in the shopping centre. Marc Ward, group head of acquisitions at Azzurri Restaurants, said: “The addition of Zizzi will further enrich Intu Derby’s restaurant provision by providing a variety of restaurants for its 25 million annual customers to enjoy throughout the day and into the evening. As a gateway to the Peak District and Derbyshire Dales, which both attract high levels of tourism, Intu Derby is an essential shopping destination and Intu is focused on creating the perfect environment for customers to shop, eat and relax.”

CPL Training nominated for training award: CPL Training Group has been announced as one of the four finalists in the Scottish Training Award at the 2015 BII Scotland Awards. The ceremony, which this year will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Glasgow, celebrates and supports the licensed trade in Scotland. Dennis Forsyth, owner of the "Most Friendliest Pub in Scotland", Cheers Cafe Bar & Tavern, put CPI forward for the award. He said: "Our commitment to staff training has seen us win staff training awards for both Scotland and Great Britain. In the past four years we've won over 20 various national awards, all of which would not have come about without the investment and development of our staff, who are the backbone of our success.” The winner will be announced alongside the other eight awards on Sunday 17 May.
 
Peach Pub Company reported 20% drop in staff turnover with learning management system: The gastro-pub operator Peach Pub Company has reported a 20% reduction in staff turnover after using GEMacademy, the learning management system from HospitalityGEM, the guest experience management company. HospitalityGEM introduced its GEMacademy system into the company, branding it PeachTeach for Peach. The operator said all its requirements for its training system were fulfilled, new starters are now quickly introduced to Peach culture using materials that are unique to the company, and managers are able to ensure all staff members are fully trained on what they need to know, from COSHH ("control of substances hazardous to health") to meat and fish to cocktails. Use of the system has evolved to support personal development needs, with many team members working towards a recognised status for outstanding hosts, "Master Peach". Nicolette Glashan, project manager at Peach Pubs, said: “We believe Peach culture is both unique and a key factor in our success. With PeachTeach, we have a system that is directly aligned with this culture and gives us proper control over team members’ learning and development. The GEMacademy team is always on hand to help us explore the latest Peachy ideas and how we can adapt the system to deliver them.”
 
Second Haycocks and Tailbar to open, this time in Leicester: Businessmen Martin Stevens and Sam Dale are to expand their Haycock and Tailbar brand into Leicester. Young's in Belvoir Street, which was the oldest high street business in the city when it closed five years ago, is being turned into an outlet for the brand, which is already operating at a site in Northampton. Stevens and Dale also run two Hakamou Hawaiian-style bars. The new restaurant is being dubbed a "supper club" and will create 17 jobs when it opens in the summer. Young's of Leicester shut its doors in December 2010, after going into voluntary liquidation.

MasterChef winner finds permanent sit for Nanban concept: MasterChef winner Tim Anderson will open a Japanese soul food restaurant called Nanban in Brixton, South London this summer, in a former 1920s pie and mash shop on Coldharbour Lane, the London Evening Standard has reported. Anderson has been running regular pop-ups, supperclubs and residencies under the Nanban name since he won the TV cookery contest in 2011 and released a Nanban recipe book, but until now he has been unsuccessful in finding a permanent site. The restaurant will be a cross between a ramen bar and an izakaya, a form of Japanese pub, and will serve food inspired by southern Japan. It will acknowledge its Brixton setting by also incorporating some Caribbean influences on the menu.

Nando’s submits revised plans for second site on Teesside: Revised plans to open a second Nando’s site on Teesside have been unveiled. An application has been submitted to Stockton Council for a purpose-built single-storey restaurant at Teesside Park, near Stockton, which would create up to 40 full-time and part-time jobs. The proposed location for the 4,000 sq ft development is in a corner of the retail park next to Outfit and Asda Living. The site is currently used as a staff car park and was formerly the garden centre area of the now closed Homebase DIY store. A statement supporting the application said: “Currently there is no restaurant space in this area of the park, which is served only by temporary kiosks offering a limited range of food and drinks. It is believed that the new development will have a positive contribution to the vibrant shopping environment with the food and beverage offer more appropriately located than that proposed in the alternative phase of the scheme.” Plans to open a Nando’s on the nearby site of the former Spring Health Club at Teesside Park were rejected by Stockton Council in 2012. The planned Nando’s was part of a wider £7.5m hotel and restaurant scheme, which also included a 66-bed Travelodge and a Harvester pub.

Douglas Jack – we expect Marston’s to report strong underlying trading: Numis Securities' leisure analyst Douglas Jack has forecast strong underling trading at Marston’s when the company reports interim result on 14 May. He had an “add’ recommendation and a 180p target price. Jack said: "We forecast PBT being up 2% to £29.5m, held back by an anticipated £2m increase in pension costs (all occurring in H1) and disposals taking £3m off Ebit (including £2m to NewRiver). If we adjust for these factors, we forecast underlying H1 PBT growth of 15%, the same pace of growth we forecast for H2. We forecast double-digit earnings growth this year and next, with net debt/Ebitda falling by 0.2x pa despite strong freehold expansion and attractive dividend, yielding over 4%. We estimate that Ebitda growth/dividends should drive a 28% equity return over the next two years if the EV/Ebitda rating holds.”
 
Intertain makes second major investment after restructuring: Walkabout operator Intertain has invested £400,000 in the refurbishment of its Walkabout venue in Newquay, Cornwall. It is the second refurbishment of the year for Intertain after completing a restructuring. The company reopened a modernised Walkabout in Bristol in March. John Leslie, chief executive of Intertain, said: “We’re very excited to unveil our new-look Newquay bar as it continues the evolution of Walkabout. We’ve moved the brand on considerably over the last couple of years and Newquay is a great example of the future of Walkabout. The Bristol refurbishment project is already showing signs of a great return on investment, especially for daytime food trade, so we’re feeling very positive about the new opportunities our refurbishment in Newquay will bring.”
 
Wetherspoon to open two pubs on 12 May: JD Wetherspoon is to open a new pub in Blackpool on Tuesday 12 May, with the creation of 160 jobs. The company has spent almost £4m developing the pub, the Velvet Coaster, on the site of the former Lucky Star amusement arcade in the town. The pub, set over three floors, will have three bars, a ground floor-level beer garden to the front of the premises, and a balcony terrace on the first floor and a roof garden and bar. On the same day the company will be opening The Ritz in Wallsend, Tyneside, creating a further 50 jobs.
 
McDonald’s develops a take-out bag that turns into a tray: McDonald's has designed a new take-out bag that turns into a tray. The BagTray was developed by McDonald’s Hungary and the ad agency DDB Budapest. Pulling a strip of paper near the bottom of the bag detaches the tray, which is made from reinforced cardboard. The tray acts as a plate, making it, the company says, a lot easier to eat food on the go.
 
Corbin and King’s new restaurant will open in the autumn: Industry consultant Adam Hyman has reported that the operators of the Wolseley restaurant in Piccadilly, Central London,  Chris Corbyn and Jeremy King will open their new restaurant in Islington, North London in the autumn. He said: “Chris Corbin and Jeremy King have announced further details on their new Islington restaurant. Bellanger will be a 200-cover brasserie in the proper Alsace tradition, in the former Browns site on Islington Green. It takes its name from Societe des Automobiles Bellanger Freres, which was a French automobile manufacturer. Bellanger will be designed by Brady Williams and is due to open in the autumn.”
 
St Austell toasts 23% sales rise in first quarter of 2015, with new brew helping: St Austell Brewery is celebrating another success story as the newest addition to its range of award-winning ales proved a success during the first four months of sales. Cornish Best sold more than 400,000 pints in the first quarter of 2015, with a significant proportion of sales outside the South West, as interest in the ale from pubs across the country began to take off. The 3.5% ABV brew is "a traditional, well-balanced bitter designed to have a wide appeal", the company says, made with British hops, Maris Otter barley and Cornish spring water. The brewery said sales of all its own-brand beers during the first quarter of 2015, were up 23% on last year. Jeremy Mitchell, director of marketing and communications at St Austell Brewery, said: “We are delighted with the interest we’ve had in Cornish Best since we launched it in January, especially how well it has been received nationally. Our own research shows that the Cornish brand is very strong with consumers right across the UK, and this matches with our company values of a traditional family brewer producing the finest quality ales. It’s a winning formula and we’re delighted that beer drinkers across the country are enjoying the taste of the very best of Cornwall.”
 
Wildwood signs for Gloucester scheme: Wildwood has become the latest leading catering operator to join the restaurant line-up at the Crowngate shopping centre in Worcester after agreeing a lease for a 4,800 sq ft unit in Chapel Walk. When it opens in the summer, Wildwood will join the likes of Bill’s, Carluccio’s and The Green Room. Jonny Plant, chief executive of Wildwood, said: “We are pleased to be opening in Worcester’s Crowngate Centre, which has over the last two years established itself as a top destination for high quality dining in the region. Our main goal wherever we work is to provide great food, in a relaxed, welcoming environment and we are looking forward to bringing that philosophy to Worcester. We will be particularly focused on the all-day offer and will be introducing daily specials including a selection of salads, freshly baked breads and exclusively imported products for the deli takeaway or restaurant dining experience.”
 
Nick Batram – Just Eat has had strong start to the year: Peel Hunt's leisure analyst Nick Batram has issued a “hold" note on Just Eat shares with a price target of 456p after yesterday’s trading update, which revealed a strong start to the year. He said: “Just Eat delivered another positive quarterly update, which is likely to see consensus revenue nudge around 5% higher – although continued investment means we are not moving our 2015 Ebitda. The risk in the short term continues to look on the upside. However, the current valuation allows for no setbacks, and long-term we continue to be cautious on the robustness of the pricing model. For a digital business Just Eat is a little mean with the KPIs in its quarterly announcements. However, the one given, group orders, was impressive, with the total up 51% and underlying 47%. Given the relative scale of the international businesses, we know that the UK will be the key driver, and this is ahead of where we would have expected (from a revenue perspective). There appears to have been little change in the overall colour, with 2014 trends continuing into 2015, which does mean that the Benelux region remains challenging, while competition in Italy and Spain from Rocket is tough. Order momentum is ahead of where we expected, although the year-on-year growth is likely to slow as we move through the year. The weakness of the euro will have some dampening effect but overall we see room to nudge up our revenue numbers by £10m per annum (up around 5%). However, management continue to invest in product and marketing and therefore we are leaving our Ebitda forecasts unchanged for now. Nevertheless, the risk to forecasts very much remains on the upside.”

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