Trispan private equity partner Robin Rowland told delegates at MCA’s Food To Go conference that healthy eating concepts are at the forefront of his interest, but finding one that is both profitable and scalable is “still a little bit tricky.”

Rowland, who spent 18 years as the CEO of Yo! said that when considering a new investment, he concentrates on the ‘Five P’s’: product, people, property, promotion and profit.

“It has to be a killer concept that’s differentiated by its food. It has to have a fantastic team around it who are going to make the journey. And it has to have a very good property portfolio,” he said.

In May 2018 Trispan acquired a majority stake in Rosa’s Thai Café, an investment that Rowland considers “absolutely textbook.”

Since its acquisition the brand has grown from ten to eighteen sites across the UK and continued to see double digit growth, a trajectory that Rowland said he intends to maintain.

“I want us to move at the same pace over the next 18 months, but we won’t do sites that we’re not 100% sure on, it’s just too dangerous. We want to keep the business’ consistency in place.”

In terms of the wider Trispan portfolio, Rowland predicted the firm will do two more European acquisitions this year and will use Rosa’s as a model on which to base its future investments.

“I think we’ll do two more investments this year in Europe,” he said. “We’re looking at some cracking businesses. They’re grown up businesses run by grown up people. They have fantastic trajectories, and really good backstories. I want the founders to always stay involved but I need a professional management team and a business model that’s proven. We’re learning from Rosa’s.”

“We’re the same as many other private equity houses in that we don’t like really big boxes. We’re much happier with smaller footprints and clever metrics rather than breaking the bank on two or three sites. It’s much better if you have a repeatable model.”

In the future, Rowland said that the number of food to go operators with ethical, healthy and vegan offerings will grow, and if executed well will prosper.

“People want companies to stand for something. That’s my philosophical view on this. If you don’t execute well and stay true to your promises to your customers and staff you won’t have a reason to be in business,” he said. “But also, for god’s sake, don’t run out of cash. There’s nothing worse than a business that’s starved of cash.”

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