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Mon 12th Mar 2018 - Update: Escape Hunt and Azzurri Group
Escape Hunt opens first UK site in Bristol: Escape Hunt, the global entertainment network offering “escape the room” adventures to the public and corporate clients, has opened its first UK owner-operated site in Bristol. The company stated: “This site is the first of three to open this month, alongside Birmingham and Leeds, with a further five locations to open in the coming months. All of these venues are located in prime sites in the centre of town with high footfall and in close proximity to potential large corporate customers. As previously announced in the operational update on 19 December, securing these premium sites and obtaining planning permission has contributed to delays in opening the initial UK sites and their associated revenues but the company has a strong pipeline of sites. In addition, in the week before Christmas, the company acquired an escape room business in Bournemouth from a single site competitor for a nominal sum. This is a well-invested site with four games rooms which had only recently opened. Since admission to AIM the company embarked on a detailed strategic review of the marketplace, following which significant effort was expended in enhancing every aspect of the business with the objective of differentiating itself from its competitors. Management has made many design and operational changes to the original model culminating in a rebranding of the business. The resulting quality and differentiation of these initiatives has opened up the possibility for exciting partnerships with content providers and franchise opportunities. Escape Hunt also embarked upon a thorough review of its game portfolio and decided to further optimise its offering by developing higher quality and scaleable games alongside the rebranding. This will enable the company to better take advantage of the significant market opportunity, and to consolidate its position as the premium escape room operator for both corporate customers and consumers. The Board carefully considered the consequential delays to the opening programme resulting from this strategic work and determined that the shift in the site opening plan to be well worthwhile and believes it will lead to enhanced longer term benefits.” Richard Harpham, Escape Hunt chief executive, said: “We are delighted to have opened our first UK site and are excited about the further openings in the coming months. I am proud of the team for delivering such a good quality site and the learnings from our first opening will help our UK roll out and benefit the international franchise network.” 

Azzurri Group subject to bid interest: The Times has reported that Azzurri Group, owner of the Zizzi and Ask Italian brands, is the subject of potential bid interest. The Times said: “Bridgepoint, which backed a £250 million buyout of Zizzi and Ask in 2015, is not running a sale process, (but) it is thought to be open to offers that might provide a good return. The potential interest in Zizzi’s parent company comes despite a surge in painful restructurings and restaurant closures across the industry. To problems of declining sales and oversupply have been added rising labour and food and drink costs, business rates and rents. Azzurri is understood to have continued to trade strongly, in line with the positive trading it reported in October, and it continues to open new sites. It said that the Zizzi and Ask brands had delivered their fifth consecutive years of like-for-like sales and earnings growth amid continuing investment in design, menu innovation and staff. The group has a total of 293 restaurants.”

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