Rapid-growth Loungers opens its 250th venue and declares: ‘We’re only just getting started’

February 1, 2024

Bristol-based all-day café/bar group Loungers has repeated its ambition to open a record 34 new venues in its current financial year in the week it achieved the landmark of launching its 250th outlet.

The group, which opened its first Lounge on North Street in Bedminster nearly 22 years ago, threw open the doors of the Pionero Lounge in Rochdale as its 250th this week – with its chairman declaring: “It feels like we are only just getting started.”

Loungers increased its target of a total of 500 venues – which it had aspired to for around eight years – to 600-plus last September.

Its Lounges chain is based on roughly the same concept it has used since its first venues in Bristol – 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.

Since the group’s interim results on 28 November – when it posted a 39% rise in  pre-tax profits to £3.9m on revenue up 22% at £149.6m – the group has opened five new Lounges in locations from Paignton to Penrith.

Openings scheduled for the coming months include eight more Lounges in towns ranging from Yeovil in Somerset to Ilkley in Yorkshire.

These will range from new developments to conversions of former high street banks, shops and restaurants, demonstrating what the group described as the variety and versatility of the Lounge concept.

The group also 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.

Loungers, which this week reiterated that the 600 figure was over and above its Cosy Club and Brightside brands, said for each new Lounge site nearly £1m was invested into the local high street, creating an average of 30 jobs.

Last year the group created 1,000 jobs in total and expects to repeat that number in 2024.

Loungers chairman and co-founder Alex Reilley said: “The opening of our 250th site is a hugely satisfying landmark for a business that started in 2002 in Bristol with a single cafe-bar called The Lounge.

“A lot has changed since then, but our commitment to providing our customers with excellent food and drink all day, while doing everything that we can to make a positive impact on the local community, has never wavered.

“In many ways, it feels like we are only just getting started and there is so much more for us to go after.”

Loungers recently published its first sustainability report, called The Good Stuff, which draws together initiatives it has in place to support its people, customers, suppliers and the planet.

It also launched Lounge Community Kickstart, a pilot scheme across 26 lounges which aims to donate more than 10,000 meals back to Loungers’ communities every year.

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