Loungers now even hungrier for growth after speeding up its new site roll-out reaps rewards

December 1, 2023

Accelerating its new venue opening programme and introducing new menu items means Bristol-based café/bar group Loungers will end 2023 on a high.

The group, which opened its first Lounge on North Street in Bedminster 21 years ago, will have more than 250 in its portfolio by 31 December as it races towards its long-term target of more than 600 venues across the UK.

It also said lower inflation was benefiting its margins, putting them back to the levels the group enjoyed ahead of the pandemic, while consumer spending on going out was holding up in the run-up to the festive period.

Pre-tax profits at the group for the 24 weeks to 1 October rose by 39% to £3.9m on revenue up 22% at £149.6m.

The group, which now operates three brands – Lounges, Cosy Clubs and its recently launched Brightside roadside eateries –  said the increases were down to consistently strong trading driven by both its mature estate as well as its new sites.

Like-for-like sales were 25% ahead of pre-Covid levels during the period, driven partly by continued evolution of its offer, including further food menu innovation and the introduction of a new blended drinks and iced coffees range.

Some 16 new outlets were opened during the six months – 14 Lounges and two Brightsides, with all “performing very well”, it said.

Trading in the eight weeks since then had continued to be strong with a further six new openings – five Lounges and one Cosy Club.

Loungers CEO Nick Collins, pictured, described the half year as “yet another reminder that it is not all doom and gloom in the UK hospitality sector”.

He said the group’s success was “living proof that businesses which can provide outstanding hospitality, great food and drink and excellent value are still capable of thriving, and we see more growth potential for Loungers than ever before”.

The accelerated site roll-out programme continues “at pace”, and the group was on track to open 34 in its current financial year. Each new opening helped boost often-struggling high streets, he said.

“The opening of every new Lounge means an investment of nearly £1m into the local high street, and the increased footfall creates a positive knock-on effect on all of the businesses around us.

“By the end of 2023, we will have added another 1,000 people to our team during the year, and we are particularly pleased that one in eight of those new jobs is in areas that the government wants to ‘level up’ by creating better opportunities and standards of living.”

Earlier this year Loungers announced the 600-plus target – 600 Lounges and 35 Cosy clubs – as sales across its portfolio continued to climb steadily, increasing it from the 500 mark it had aspired to for around eight years.

The 205-strong Lounges chain is based on roughly the same concept it has used since its first venue – all-day opening with a strong food offering and quirky décor.

This template has worked particularly well on suburban high streets and smaller town centres where rents tend to be cheaper and competition is mainly from coffee shops or traditional pubs.

The group now has 36 Cosy Clubs, which tend to be based in larger, city and town-centre buildings, and three Brightside roadside restaurants, all in the South West.

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