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Fri 14th Jul 2017 - Oakman reports like-for-likes up 12.4%, updates on pipeline
Oakman reports like-for-likes up 12.4%, updates on pipeline: Oakman Inns & Restaurants has reported like-for-like sales were up 12.4% for the quarter ending 2 July 2017 with trading “significantly ahead of expectations”. Three major fund-raising exercises have produced more than £24m in total with the lion’s share being available for a raft of major developments that will see the group operating an anticipated 30 units within the next two years. Chief executive Peter Borg-Neal said: “We are absolutely delighted with our performance over the first quarter and it reflects a lot of hard work by my very talented colleagues. The good weather has been a factor in the 12.4% like-for-like growth – as has our investment in some of our older sites last year. However, when you strip everything back our comparables are at +4.4%, demonstrating the health of the underlying business. We now face the task of maintaining this excellent core performance while embarking on a very aggressive expansion plan. I have every confidence that Alex Ford, operations director, and his team are up to the task. I am delighted that we have already raised the cash we need and I would like to thank and recognise my finance director, Joseph Evans, for the skill and tenacity he showed in getting our £7m senior debt facility with Santander over the line. We have also developed innovative ways of raising debt to supplement this facility. Of the £24m we have raised, more than half is available to fund our capex programme. We still have some dry powder and will consider raising more cash if the right acquisition opportunities become available.” The Oakman management team has been strengthened with the promotion of Jill Scatchard to the position of human resources director. Borg-Neal said Scatchard has been instrumental in the development and introduction of the internal training and development programme, “Oakmanology”, and in Oakman being named as eighth-best employer in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For 2017 – the highest ranked hospitality company in the UK. Scatchard is replaced as HR manager by Paulina Szydlowska, who joins from Jason Atherton’s restaurant group. Borg-Neal added: “The financial impact of the swingeing imposition of ridiculous increases in business rates has actually reduced the number of sites we will be opening in the next 12 months by two. Nevertheless, we still have an excellent pipeline in place and it looks like being an exciting 12 months ahead of us. Given the challenges that come with expanding a business, our decision to build a strong central support team ahead of this growth looks to be fully vindicated. Particularly because we need to be confident that we have a team who can recruit and retain talented individuals to operate our pubs. To this end, it was a great pleasure to give Jill her richly deserved promotion and we are delighted to welcome Paulina into the Oakman family. Their task has been made slightly easier by the fact the government seem to have finally realised how important it will be to retain non-EU people in the UK workforce post-Brexit. In conclusion, I would recognise that there are some uncertainties in the wider economy that may present challenges to our industry. However, the Oakman strategy remains the same. We intend to think in clear and simple terms about what matters to this evolving market and will retain a focus on quality, great people and excellent sites. We see further opportunity to obtain sites where we identify strong consumer demand alongside poor supply side provision – with places such as Harpenden, the Chalfonts and the Bedford area being among our key targets.” Oakman is awaiting planning permission for a £5.2m redevelopment of the Royal Foresters in Ascot. Planning permission has been granted for the £1.8m development of The Cherry Tree in Olney, which is now expected to open in early 2018. Work will start in August on the fourth Beech House with a £1.7m investment in a large site in central Amersham, which is expected to be open in November. Oakman recently gained planning permission to extend and refurbish The Betsey Wynne in Swanbourne and the site is now closed with the £1.3m project completing in August. Oakman has acquired the building next door to its flagship site, The Akeman in Tring, and will extend and refurbish the site in a £600,000 project with completion due for October this year which is just before the tenth anniversary of the site opening. This project will mean that Oakman has refurbished all of its first five sites over a period of two years – The Akeman, The Old Post Office, The Red Lion, The Kings Arms and The Blue Boar. Oakman’s partnership with Ei Group, Hunky Dory, has taken over The Walter Arms in Sindlesham, near Woking, and will be applying for planning permission to develop and extend the site. The Walter Arms is the third in the group. Oakman said the first site, The Beech House, Solihull, continued to trade well ahead of its investment target and averages just short of £40,000 net per week since it opened last August. Planning permission is awaited to develop the second Hunky Dory site, The Four Alls in Welford-upon-Avon. A further five sites have been identified for the Hunky Dory pipeline. The Dog & Badger in Medmenham, Marlow, has become the 19th Oakman site after agreement was reached with the freeholders for a free-of-tie 25-year lease. By the time these projects are completed next spring, Oakman will be operating 22 sites with annualised sales of circa £37m. In addition to the five Hunky pipeline sites, Oakman has identified three further sites and hopes to exchange contracts in the very near future meaning the total business would expect to exceed 30 sites in the foreseeable future. In August, Oakman will complete a programme of installing super-fast broadband into all sites. This has meant a substantial capital investment but Oakman said it would create a platform for a raft of key operational initiatives as well as enriching the customer experience.

Nick Young hired as Byron chief operating officer: Nick Young has been appointed as chief operating officer of better burger brand Byron. He joins from Aubaine, the all-day French restaurant and bakery business, where as chief executive he oversaw the transformation of the business.Young’s career includes a spell as commercial director at Moto Hospitality and managing director of O’Brien’s Sandwich Bars. He joined PizzaExpress in 2006 and as operations director played a key part in driving the strategic development of the business and leading the operations team through a period of accelerated growth. Young then spent five years as operations director for the 775-strong managed pub estate at Spirit Pub Company, where he was part of the management team that transformed the business, culminating with a record-breaking year in 2015. He will report to acting executive chairman Dalton Philips and will work closely with managing director Simon Cope, who was appointed in May. Young said: “I’m joining Byron at a very exciting time. There is a huge amount of passion within the team and I’m looking forward to working with all our restaurants, continuing to evolve the outstanding service that Byron is famous for. The team’s desire to be at the top of this highly competitive market convinced me that Byron is the right place for me and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.” Philips said: “I am delighted to welcome Nick to the Byron team. In this market, to win, you must constantly outperform your competitors in terms of the service proposition. Nick has a first-class record within the sector and brings a wealth of operational know-how to the team. I’m sure he’s going to make a significant impact within Byron and help take us to the next level of service delivery for our customers.” 

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