In-toto rescued

EXCLUSIVE: Kitchen franchise secured in management buyout

The assets of kitchen franchise in-toto have been acquired in a management buyout headed by ex-Paula Rosa managing director Rob Brew (pictured left) and funded by asset management company Robus.

It is understood that Robus has provided a multi-million pound investment for the venture, aimed at winning back trust among in-toto franchisees impacted by Alno UK’s slide into administration following the collapse of its German parent company.

A new contracts business – Stolz – is also being set up.

The new management team have promised to rebuild and add security to the in-toto network by offering a supply chain from multiple international sources. They also insist franchisees will be given more training, better terms, improved lead generation and greater involvement in the overall decision making process.

German manufacturers Brigitte and Warendorf have already agreed supply chain partnerships with the new company while other partnerships, one with an Italian supplier, are thought to be in the pipeline.

As part of the buyout, the group have acquired a number of Alno-branded showrooms which will be re-branded in-toto, strengthening the coverage of the in-toto brand across the UK.

None of Alno UK’s former directors are involved in the new venture although some of the other staff made redundant by the administrators have now been re-employed.

“In the past, everything was in one legal entity, which was Alno UK,” Brew told kbbreview, “but we’ve now launched a new company called Quality Kitchens Holding Limited. This owns three new standalone companies – the in-toto kitchen franchise, Stolz Kitchens – which is the new contracts business – and Precision Stone.

“What’s exciting about it for us and Robus is that Alno UK was a really good business. The one thing that had gone wrong was the parent company and that was its sole supplier. So we’re taking the best parts of Alno UK but then putting in a supply chain behind it rather than having a parent company, so the same thing can’t happen again. We’ll have multiple suppliers and if anything starts going wrong with those suppliers we’ll have a plan B and plan C.”

Brew, who has worked outside the industry for the last two years, becomes the new CEO of the holding company and is joined by Damian Sheridan (right) – another former Paula Rosa employee – who becomes sales director for the contracts side Stolz, which in German means proud.

Brew has now begun the task of rebuilding the in-toto franchise network with a team headed up by new retail and franchise director Dan Lloyd, who has worked with in-toto for several years.

Brew accepted that some dealers have already looked elsewhere for suppliers, particularly German buying group MHK. However, he rejected industry claims that the new venture has come too late to save in-toto and that time has run out on any attempt to rebuild trust among dealers and consumers.

“That’s totally wrong,” he countered. “In-toto is still a good name on the high street. The end consumer won’t know about the problems. Plenty of businesses go through new ownership and we’re passionate about returning it to the same level it was at before, if not further.”

“It would be naïve of me to say all the franchisees are going to stay but at the same time they’re not all going to go. There’s a trust issue and I would totally understand people wanting to do their own thing. But at the same time our view of the franchise model is very different to how it worked with Alno. It’s a partnership with far more involvement from them in the decision making process. People will have to give us time to prove it.”

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