Loungers shrugs off impact of pandemic as it prepares to resume national expansion programme

April 9, 2021

Fast-growing Bristol-based café-bar chain Loungers plans to open 25 new outlets over the next year as it bounces back strongly from the impact of Covid on the hospitality sector.

The group, which opened its first bar in Bristol in 2002, now operates 168 neighbourhood café/bar/restaurants across England and Wales under the Lounge and Cosy Club brands. 

Today it said it plans to open four new Lounge sites in Wolverhampton, Stourbridge, Welwyn Garden City and St Ives by May 26.

These new sites were partially fitted out going into lockdown at the end of December and are currently being completed.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, the group also it said it was ready to return to a “run-rate” of 25 new site openings a year during the course of the year ending April 2022, assuming no further Covid interruptions.

“The pipeline of new sites is exceptionally strong and we continue to see a large number of attractive opportunities in the locations which we are targeting,” it added.

It said it had further strengthened its financial and liquidity position through a 12-month extension to the incremental £15m revolving credit facility (RCF) that was put in place in April 2020 with its banks Santander and Bank of Ireland.

This additional facility now runs to October 2022 and provides the company with total RCF facilities of £25m.

The firm also said it intended to take a phased approach to reopening and will initially open 47 sites in England on April 12 for takeaway and external trading, and five in Wales on April 26 on the same basis, in line with the respective governments’ suggested roadmaps.

Assuming no changes to the roadmap, it plans to re-open all of its English sites by May 17 and its sites in Wales later in May subject to confirmation from the Welsh government. 

Loungers chief executive Nick Collins, pictured, said: “Having been closed since December 30, it is really exciting to be back in some of the sites, preparing to open our terraces to customers on Monday.

“Whilst it is frustrating that we have to wait until May 17 to re-open more fully given the steps we have taken to ensure our business is Covid-safe, it does allow us to re-open gradually, bring our teams back from furlough and get the supply chain back up and running.

“We expect to trade well once the estate is fully re-opened, particularly with our strong coastal presence as we look forward to a summer of staycationing.”

He said planned new openings in Blackpool, Scarborough and Aberystwyth ahead of the summer holidays would reinforce this position.

“Our suburban and market town locations, combined with our flexible, all-day model, mean we are well-positioned as we look to the future,” he added.

“The most recent lockdown has given us a real opportunity to build a fantastic pipeline of new sites in what is undoubtedly a tenant-friendly environment.  

“We will approach the coming months cautiously but are very keen to get back to opening 25 sites a year at the earliest opportunity with such excellent properties being presented to us, and we are grateful to Santander and Bank of Ireland for their continued support.”

Loungers put its early success down to opening neighbourhood café-bars on Bristol’s busy suburban streets that attracted a wide variety of customers throughout the day and into the evening.

This approach, honed in Bristol suburbs such as Fishponds, Westbury-on-Trym and on Gloucester Road – where it found a ready market for its ‘home-from-home’, laid-back venues – was repeated in towns and cities across the country. Its Cosy Club outlets were later added as city centre venues.

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