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Fri 7th Feb 2020 - Exclusive – new venture acquires remaining La Tasca sites in UK
Exclusive – new venture acquires remaining La Tasca sites in UK: Independent Spanish Restaurant Company (ISRC), a new company supported by the team at Tapas Revolution, has acquired four sites from Casual Dining Group (CDG) including the three remaining UK-based La Tasca sites, Propel has learned. ISRC, which is led by Tapas Revolution director and former La Tasca group operations director James Picton, is understood to have been formed to “operate high-quality Spanish restaurants in the UK”. The deal for the four restaurants – the La Tasca sites in Lakeside, Leadenhall and Liverpool plus the last La Vina site in Manchester – is expected to be the first of a number of acquisitions ISRC hopes to make. Propel understands the deal may not mean the end of the La Tasca brand in the UK, with ISCR expected to cement its plans in the coming months. ISCR said its management team has significant experience in the UK restaurant sector and “market-leading” expertise in Spanish restaurants, food and wine. Picton is non-executive director of a number of Spanish businesses. He joined eight-strong Tapas Revolution last year as part of a management team shake-up. The Mobeus Equity Partners-backed group opened its latest site, in Westfield Stratford, in October. CDG, the operator of Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, acquired the then 41-strong La Tasca in summer 2015 from Icelandic bank Kaupthing in a deal valued at £25m. At the time it also operated five restaurants in the US. The two remaining La Tasca sites in the US are not part of the new deal. CDG has overseen several conversions of La Tasca sites to its core brands and carried out a number of disposals during the past five years. A CDG spokesman said: “The successful sale of these four remaining La Tasca locations enables us to focus investment in our core growth brands of Las Iguanas, Bella Italia, Cafe Rouge and our concessions division. We are pleased our teams’ jobs at these locations have been secured, and we would like to wish them very well, and thank them for their service and dedication.” La Tasca was founded in Manchester in 1993 by Neil Gatt, who now owns the Pesto restaurant and pubs business. In September 2001 it was acquired for £28.2m by James Horler, then managing director of Frankie & Benny’s, who brought in John Barnes, former chairman of Harry Ramsden, as chairman to oversee the then 16-strong brand. The business listed on AIM in February 2005 when it had 47 sites including two under fledgling brand La Vina. It was priced at 110p, valuing the business at £54m. In 2007, Robert Tchenguiz-backed Laurel Pub Company, which operated the Slug and Lettuce brand, took the business private in a £123m deal, beating Tragus Group (which would eventually become CDG) in a bidding war. The business, which had by then grown to 67 sites including three under the La Vina brand, separated from Laurel (then Bay Restaurant Group) in 2011 and was backed by Kaupthing and Commerzbank. The brand underwent a company voluntary arrangement in 2012 that saw 16 of its restaurants close until a turnaround under a new management team. By 2015, the team had overseen more than two years of continuous sales and Ebitda growth, which led the business to review its options and subsequent sale to CDG.

Tourism Minister celebrates apprentices across the industry at Hospitality Apprenticeship Showcase: Tourism Minister Helen Whately congratulated apprentices from across the hospitality sector and welcomed the ongoing commitment from industry in support of the Tourism Sector Deal. Speaking at the fourth annual Hospitality Apprenticeship Showcase event which took place during National Apprenticeship Week at the House of Commons this week, Tourism Minister, Helen Whately MP said: “We want to give visitors to the UK a world class welcome and that depends on having a skilled hospitality workforce. The Tourism Sector Deal is a bold commitment between Government and industry, and as part of this, our aim is for 30,000 apprenticeships to start each year to help strengthen the domestic workforce and support the future of the industry.” Hosted by Mike Wood MP, the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group (APPBG) and Perceptions Group Chairman and chief executive of the multi-award-winning Beds & Bars business, Keith Knowles, the Hospitality Apprenticeship Showcase saw more than 200 representatives from across the industry come together to meet MPs and showcase apprenticeships in the hospitality sector. The event aims to shine a light on an exciting industry giving young people unique opportunities, as well as challenging the negative perception of careers in the hospitality industry and encouraging them to look at the sector as somewhere where they can pursue a rewarding career. The industry supports 3.2m jobs, represents 10% of the economy’s employment, 6% of businesses and 5% of GDP, making hospitality the third largest private sector employer, double the size of the financial services industry and bigger than the automotive, pharmaceuticals and aerospace sectors combined. The sector collectively invested £10bn in new business over the last year, which saw a further 4.3% of growth in 2019 and created 19,000 new jobs. Apprenticeships in the pub, bar, brewing, hotel and casual dining sectors play a key role in filling gaps in the workforce, offering a wide variety of careers with opportunities for fast-track progression. UK Hospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “Last year’s launch of the tourism sector deal demonstrated the government’s recognition of the vital contribution made by the leisure, hospitality and tourism industries. Post Brexit however, the industry faces a very challenging period, as ending the free movement of people will invariably lead to skills shortages in certain areas. To fill the gaps, one obvious solution is to recruit more young British workers. Apprenticeships offer the perfect opportunity across all entry levels. The government’s commitment to introduce 10,000 new apprenticeships in the sector each year is welcome, as is the work that is being done collectively by our industry to support investment in skills and career progression in hospitality roles.” Keith Knowles OBE said: “It was fantastic to see such a great turn out at the event again this year. It is so important that politicians understand the impact that the hospitality sector has on the economy; at the moment we have a massive shortfall in the work force by around half a million people and we need government support to help us address this. The ambitious plans laid out in tourism sector deal to grow tourism to the UK to over 49 million visitors by 2025 are welcome, but with hospitality forming such a key part of this plan, addressing the skills shortage is even more of a priority. There is also still more to be done to alter public perceptions about the sector and about apprenticeships in general. Hospitality has changed dramatically, but many people still believe that a job as a supermarket manager offers better career opportunities than a pub manager position, when that’s simply not the case. Hospitality can offer fast-track progression; you can go from being one of the cleaning team to a director in ten years if you have the hunger, skill and the desire to succeed. There is also still some negativity around the term ‘apprenticeship’; many still see apprenticeships as being for people who are unable to get into university, whereas in fact they offer the opportunity to earn while you learn and gain confidence and experience as well as a nationally recognised qualification, even up to degree level. That can put young people ahead of their counterparts who have taken three years or more out to study for a degree.”

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