The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Ayrshire fine foods supplier expands
into new larger Kilmarnock premises

A TOP Ayrshire supplier of quality game, cheese and other fine foods completes the latest stage of its expansion programme this week.

Braehead Foods Ltd of Kilmarnock, which supplies chef Gordon Ramsay and top store Harvey Nichols, moves into its new factory in the town on Tuesday 1 April.

At 30,000 square feet, more than 6 times the size of their existing premises, the new building will allow for a larger production range and stock holding capacity. It also comprises a production kitchen, staff canteen and shop.

In addition, the new building will house a demonstration kitchen where chefs from far and wide will share their knowledge, a cookery school and restaurant.

Four new vans will also be added to the company’s vehicle fleet during 2008/9.

Founded in 1988 on the Craufurdland Castle Estate, Kilmarnock, Braehead Foods has become synonymous with fine food and game.

Managing director Craig Stevenson (pictured above and below) purchased the company in 1999 with the aim of making high quality foods more readily available to chefs.

The Real Cheese Company was bought in 2000, adding quality cheeses to the product range. With this expansion of products came further technical knowledge in the form of technical manager Alistair McLean, appointed in 2001.

In 2002 the firm moved to a modern 10,000 sq ft EU-standard game processing facility, and in that same year Wilson Smith was appointed as operations director.

As the customer base increased in size and diversity, the commercial side of the management team was strengthened by the appointment of customer services manager Linda Queen in 2003. This expansion continued with the appointment of sales managers Aileen Stevenson, (Ayrshire, Stranraer), Alan Winning (Glasgow, Borders) and Ian MacDonald (north, Fife, Edinburgh). The team now comprises fully qualified and experienced specialist staff.

The company’s quality game products are now augmented by a wide selection of cheeses sourced throughout Europe, dry goods, Belgian chocolate and other specialist food products from some of the world’s leading manufacturers. Braehead Foods is the sole distributor in Scotland of Gressingham Duck, the classic bird of choice for leading chefs.

The company also prides itself on being the supplier of the first bagged grouse to the US within 48 hours of the season starting on the Glorious 12th of August

Braehead Foods, together with Michelin-starred chef Martin Wishart set up the Scottish Food Scholarship in 2006 to encourage and develop the culinary skills and talents of young working chefs in Scotland. The Scholarship, judged by a selection of Scotland’s Michelin-starred chefs, gives the winner the opportunity to work with some of the best in the food and catering industry. The winning chef carries out a series of internships, working with some of the best in the food and catering world, both at home and abroad.

Braehead Foods is a sponsor of the Federation of Chefs, Scotland, and has been used by Scottish Food & Drink as a Best Practice Supplier case study, and won the Scottish Chef’s Supplier of the Year award in 2003. In 2001 managing director Craig Stevenson was awarded the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland award. The company holds a European hygiene licence (Number 1690) and now exports to Belgium, France and Italy.

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Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Scotland economy continues to expand,
but more slowly - outlook brighter

THE latest Lloyds TSB Scotland Business Monitor, now in its tenth year, shows the Scottish economy continuing to grow, albeit at a slower rate.

[Pictured: Lloyds TSB Scotland chief economist
Professor Donald MacRae.]

This latest edition for the three months ending February 2008 shows 36 per cent of firms surveyed reporting an increase in turnover, 36 per cent reporting static turnover and 28 per cent reporting a decrease, giving a net balance of +8 per cent, down from the previous quarter and less than a third of that recorded for the same quarter one year ago.

The slowdown in growth is affecting both manufacturing and service businesses, with manufacturing reporting a net balance of +5 per cent and services +9 per cent. Although both sectors are experiencing a slowdown, both continue to grow.

In contrast, expectations of increasing turnover in the next six months have improved, reversing the trend of falling expectations of the previous two quarters. The overall balance for turnover for the next six months is +23 per cent, up on the +17 per cent of last quarter, but still well short of the +39 per cent of the same quarter one year ago.

With a net balance of +26 per cent for production businesses compared with +21 per cent of services, there is a higher level of optimism in the manufacturing sector. Expectations are now close to the long-term 10 year trend of the Business Monitor.

Over the ten years of the Business Monitor there has been a general trend increase in the importance attached to staff availability projected for the following three months. However, for the second quarter in succession, these concerns have reduced amongst all types of business.

Despite the “credit crunch”, respondents anticipate little change overall in the risk of a fall in credit availability, while the risk of increasing credit costs is assessed as unchanged overall though slightly up by production businesses.

Lloyds TSB Scotland chief economist Professor Donald MacRae said: “Scottish economic growth is slowing from the latest annual underlying growth rate of 2.1 per cent. However, consumer confidence remains robust as evidenced by the latest annual increase in retail sales of 7.1 per cent. Claimant unemployment at 2.5 per cent is the lowest for 33¼ years. House prices in Scotland continue to increase year-on-year, but at a reduced rate.

“Although this Business Monitor has recorded a slowing in the Scottish economy at the end of last year and the beginning of 2008, business expectations for the next six months have improved. There is no evidence of restriction in credit or rising levels of concern about credit costs. Costs overall are however a concern for most Scottish businesses. After above trend growth in 2007, the Scottish economy is facing reduced growth in 2008 nearer to its long-term growth rate.”

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Monday, 24 March 2008

Ayr Racecourse and Western House Hotel
win Business Excellence Award

By: Iain Ferguson

AYR Racecourse and Western House Hotel were awarded the Business Excellence Award in the manufacturing and service category at the annual Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce Dinner held in the Princess Royal Suite at the racecourse last Friday.

[Pictured left to right: Des Browne, Secretary of State for Defence; William Gorol, General Manager, Ayr Racecourse and Jim McGeechan, Chairman Ayrshire Business Excellence Awards. CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW / DOWNLOAD FULL-SIZE VERSION.]

The award, presented by Business Excellence Ayrshire managing director Jim McGeehan to Ayr Racecourse general manager William Gorol, caps an amazing turnaround in the fortunes of the business.

In June 2003 Ayr Racecourse was bought by Alan Macdonald, owner of the Dawn Group, and Richard Johnstone, managing director of healthcare provider Thorntoun, in a £10 million deal.

The course and its buildings were in need of a major investment in order to re-establish Ayr as Scotland’s premier racecourse.

Since then there have been massive improvements to the course and its facilities, with many more in the pipeline. One of the most significant changes was the £4.5 million transformation of Western House from the HQ of the Western Meeting Club to a four-star hotel.

In under three years the Western House Hotel (pictured above) has established itself as one of Scotland’s quality wedding venues, and won a string of awards including the Scottish Wedding Hotel of the Year in both 2007 and 2008 and the coveted VisitScotland Thistle Award for Customer Care – Serviced Accommodation 2007.

Other improvements include the opening of the Princess Royal Exhibition, Banqueting and Conference centre in 2005 - Ayrshire’s first ever dedicated venue of its kind.

And next month the £4.5 million Ayrshire Suite will open on the ground floor of the Princess Royal Stand. This will provide a 2500 capacity Grandstand sports bar on racedays and state of the art conference and banqueting facilities on non-race days.

Among the first events to be held there will be the 2008 Scottish Conservative Party conference in May.

Over the past year the racecourse has also staged its first ever rock concert – Rock At The Racecourse featuring The Saw Doctors and Deacon Blue, and in May this year Burns Rock At The Racecourse takes place with Status Quo and special guests From The Jam.

The legendary Saints and Sinners race night will also be staged at Ayr for the first time ever in June after organisers decided to move from Hamilton in order to raise even more money for the charities it supports.

The Racecourse itself has scooped the Racegoers Club Racecourse of the Year Award for Scotland and the North East for four successive years from 2004-2007.

Now more than 80 full-time staff are employed at the Racecourse and Western House, with the number reaching around 700 on major racedays.

[Pictured: Ayr Racecourse general manager William Gorol.]

Ayr Racecourse general manager William Gorol said: “It is a great privilege to receive this award on behalf of the team. Alan Macdonald and Richard Johnstone had a vision for the racecourse, and they are already well on their way to achieving that.

”Not only is Ayr Racecourse one of the top courses in the UK, but in Western House Hotel and the Princess Royal Centre we have two marvellous facilities that combine to make Ayr a much more attractive destination for conferences and tourism.”

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Sunday, 23 March 2008

Who needs Trinity Mirror when you’ve got Fame?

TRINITY MIRROR’S local weekly Ayrshire newspapers the Ayrshire Post, Kilmarnock Standard and Irvine Herald have further reduced their business coverage, taken what little remains in-house, and dispensed with the services of former freelance business editor Murdoch MacDonald.

However, Ayr-based Murdoch is unlikely to find himself under-employed.

Already the proprietor of an innovative PR business Fame Publicity Services, last year Murdoch helped to set up the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle, an association of some of the top local companies.

And the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle has stepped into the breach left by Trinity Mirror by providing up-to-the-minute comprehensive news and feature coverage for Ayrshire businesses on its website Ayrshire Scotland Business News, which Murdoch edits.

And if that wasn’t enough, a book written by Murdoch and his wife Lilian (pictured above has recently been adopted by a major American university, the Alliant International based in California, as a set text for its doctoral psychology students. “Phoenix in a Bottle”, available from the publishers Melrose Books and on Amazon, is an account of Murdoch and Lilian’s struggle with and recovery from alcoholism.

Dr. Gary W. Lawson (pictured above) is Professor of Psychology at Alliant International University. He says: “I adopted ‘Phoenix in a Bottle’ because the dilemma this couple struggled with and the questions they ask themselves are like so many others I have encountered in 35 years of clinical experience treating addictions.

“However, nowhere in addiction literature have I seen these issues examined and explained as well as Lilian and Murdoch do in “Phoenix in a Bottle”.

“I also recommend ‘Phoenix in a Bottle’ to many of my patients as well.”

Now Lilian and Murdoch are kept busy answering e-mails from Professor Lawson’s pupils in California wanting to know more about the couple’s challenge to conventional wisdom about alcoholism.

And 61 year old Murdoch, once called “the grandfather of the PR profession in Scotland” can’t find enough hours in the day.

Who needs Trinity Mirror when you’ve got Fame?

Murdoch MacDonald

"Phoenix in a Bottle" is obtainable from the publishers Melrose Books and from Amazon.

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Lilian and Murdoch's website:

Fame Publicity Services:

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