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Hot 100 2013 – 38: Zonal Retail Data Systems

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The basics

Company name: Zonal Retail Data Systems
What they do: Point of sale systems for the hospitality market
Headquarters: Edinburgh
The Boss: Stuart McLean

The financials

Latest turnover (£,000): 36,166
Four-year compound sales growth (%): 37
Latest Ebitda (£,000): 1,654

The details

The 1979 creation of a computerised till system that could track food and drink purchases changed the way that restaurants, pubs, hotels and bars do business. Stuart McLean, Zonal’s MD, worked in his family’s hotel in Edinburgh, but noticed that barmaids used to give drinks away to their boyfriends and put cash in their pockets.

“We did a stock take every night and worked out we were losing £50 – my dad was a bit tight and wanted to do something about it,” says McLean. So they went on to develop the first electronic point of sale system, which could track sales and reduce costs and wastage.

“Our lucky break came when someone from Scottish & Newcastle stopped by for a pint of lager one night,” McLean explains. The pub company went on to adopt the system for its entire estate, using it to monitor its own pub managers, while the managers used it to monitor their staff.

Zonal is still the market leader today, with its technology used daily in 20 of the top 30 managed house pub companies in the UK. Wetherspoon’s, Greene King, Spirit – they all use Zonal. The company has no borrowings and has a £3.9m cash pile in the bank ready to fund future growth. Turnover is now £36m a year, with pre-tax profits of £1.7m.

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