Casual Dining Group is one of the largest independent restaurant groups in the UK.

Casual Dining Group run some of Britain’s best-loved brands such as Bella Italia, Café Rouge, Las Iguanas, La Tasca and Belgo.

It operates 300 restaurants across the UK, employing nearly 10,000 people and serving over 20 million meals a year. CDG has firm ambitions to become the largest casual dining business in the UK and to expand internationally. With an injection of equity investment, the management team set about pursuing this goal, through revitalisation and growth of the original brands, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, the acquisition of two competitors, Las Iguanas and La Tasca, and also opening its first international franchise businesses in Dubai and India. Project One have been working with CDG since October 2015 to help shape and drive the necessary business change projects to support this ambitious growth agenda.

THE CHALLENGE

CDG acquired the Latin American chain Las Iguanas in July 2015 and Spanish tapas chain La Tasca in August 2015. They set out to integrate both companies into CDG’s existing shared services centre within just nine months.

It was important to do this without losing the essence of the Las Iguanas brand, and whilst bringing the hearts and minds of its people on the journey. Maximising the financial value of the La Tasca acquisition required a different strategy, one of rebranding a number of its restaurants in key locations.

“While our internal team focused on the day job of growing our current businesses, we quickly realised that our six-to-nine-month timeline to integrate the two new businesses was in danger of going off track, if we tried to tackle this on the side of our desks. We simply didn’t have the necessary senior management bandwidth to do what needed to be done.”

THE APPROACH

Project One quickly mobilised a team of three consultants bringing change capability, acquisition integration, IT strategy and supply chain expertise, to work alongside our existing team. “Project One helped us to work through the issues, understand our requirements and help identify, on one page, the support we needed and how we’d manage it. The programme was always in control and if things were ever in danger of going off track, it was flagged and managed straight away.”

CFO, Casual Dining Group.

Three work-streams were run in parallel:

  1. Integration of the two acquired businesses to maximise operational synergies, efficiencies and savings across the Group. IT, Property Management, Procurement and Finance were central to the change process, as was HR in terms of harmonising terms and conditions and managing the organisational change.
  2. Optimising the supply chain by switching to a single warehouse and distribution supplier for all restaurant brands.
  3. Defining a simplified and common target IT architecture, and a roadmap to implement it across all the brands and restaurants, eliminating end-of-life technologies along the way.

“Our existing systems were 10 years old, whilst our competitors were using modern order-taking and integrated table management systems. Changing this situation was critical to our business. We now have a solid platform for growth that is leading edge in our industry.”

Tim Doubleday, CFO, Casual Dining Group

THE OUTCOME

  • Revenue growth through increased market and geographic penetration and demographic diversity – effectively growing CDG restaurant footprint by 50% across the UK
  • Reduced overhead costs through streamlining the central functions and systems
  • Strong like-for-like sales growth, significantly outperforming the industry average
  • Margin improvement through enhanced buying terms with suppliers
  • Harmonised employee benefits, conditions of employment and pay cycles

“The business has gone from a sub-optimised environment in terms of infrastructure and technology to one that is in line with, or ahead of, our competitors. It offers us a better platform from which to take full advantage of future opportunities. Thanks to Project One for leading us through it, allowing our brand MDs to stay on the front line, growing their businesses whilst the integration completed in parallel. Project One were central to the success of this work, bringing greater certainty of execution.”

CFO, Casual Dining Group

 

“The way the change was controlled and managed also allowed our general managers to continue to focus on their ambitious re-development plans within the Bella Italia and Café Rouge brands. So together, we completed a very successful year of growth in a difficult market, and established solid foundations for future success.”

CFO, Casual Dining Group

WHAT’S NEXT?

“We have benefitted from a real step-change in capability. We are more confident about landing change internally, but if we have a substantial integration to deal with in the future, then we’d pick up the phone to Project One again. The market is challenging but provides real opportunities. We have ambitions to be recognised as the clear leader in mid-market UK restaurants, so watch this space for future developments.”

CFO, Casual Dining Group

WHAT WE ALL LEARNED

  1. SING OFF THE SAME HYMM SHEET
    The business leadership team must speak with one voice at all times. Any “off message” communications by individual leaders will be amplified with their staff, risking losing the hearts and minds and building resistance to change.
  2. BE SELECTIVE IN THE INITIATIVES YOU PURSUE
    You cannot change all the things you want to change all at the same time. Carefully choose what your priorities are, basing them on the real imperatives in the business.
  3. PLAN THE WORK, THEN PLAN THE PLAN
    Construct an ambitious but achievable roadmap and secure the leadership team’s commitment to execute it. Ensure the right people own the outcomes of the plan. Good ideas are welcome, but make sure that all the ramifications are thought through before adding them to the plan.
  4. PREPARE BUSINESS-AS-USUAL SUPPORT
    Carefully design, agree and implement the changes in advance of go-live, including the “hypercare” support to the business teams whilst the changes are bedded in.
  5. KNOW WHERE YOU’RE STARTING FROM
    Time spent up front understanding the “as is” processes and tools enables you to fully understand the scale of the change you are asking people to take on. Consider other initiatives going on in the business that could be consuming change capacity within the business.
  6. CHOOSE TRIAL SITES CAREFULLY
    Pilot the changes so that issues are flushed out and learnings can be applied to drive up the success rate of the main rollout.

“The Project One team brought different characters and skills that complemented each other and our team.”CFO, Casual Dining Group.

POSTED BY: Hayley Greenhill

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