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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 9th Jan 2019 - Loungers reports like-for-like sales up 11% over Christmas and New Year
Loungers reports like-for-like sales up 11% over Christmas and New Year: Loungers, the operator of 139 neighbourhood, cafe-bar-restaurants trading under the Lounge and Cosy Club brands, has reported like-for-like sales up 11% over the Christmas and New Year period. The company stated: “For the five-week period to 6 January 2019, Loungers delivered record like-for-like sales of 11%, building on the strong like-for-like performance over Christmas 2017 and maintaining the group’s track record of consistently outperforming the wider leisure sector. Total sales for the period were £18.3 million, which was 31% higher than the previous year (2017: £14.0 million). The business continues to trade well in the current economic environment and Loungers’ home-from-home, relaxed customer proposition – offering great food and drink, all day, to an increasingly broad demographic – continues to resonate with customers. Trading across both brands in mature sites and more recent openings was strong, and delivered consistently good growth across the entire five-week period. Since the beginning of its current financial year on 23 April 2018, Loungers has continued to grow with the opening of 17 new Lounges and one Cosy Club, bringing the total for both brands to 139 today. A further seven openings are scheduled prior to the group’s financial year end on 21 April 2019. With each new site creating around 30 jobs, over 750 new jobs will be created this financial year. Clio Lounge in Bangor and Navarro Lounge in Manchester are due to open later this month and new Cosy Clubs will open in Norwich in February and Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth during March. While Loungers continues to adhere to rigorous site selection criteria, the pipeline for new sites remains strong and it envisages opening another 25 new sites in 2019 and thereafter, bringing its suburban “third space” lifestyle culture and hospitality to many new locations and communities.” Nick Collins, chief executive of Loungers, added: “I am delighted to report another period of strong trading. Both Lounge and Cosy Club delivered impressive volume-led growth against strong comparatives last year, whilst maintaining a keen focus on price and margin. As in previous years, the vast majority of our sites were closed for both Christmas Day and Boxing Day, enabling our teams to spend time with their friends and families. Huge credit must go to our teams for their amazing hard work and commitment in delivering such a fantastic result. Christmas is a demanding time of year for the hospitality sector and their willingness and determination to provide great customer experiences in the communities in which we serve underlies our success. We are excited about the prospects for the business in 2019 and continue to see great opportunities to expand whilst maintaining our strict discipline around site economics and returns. We plan to deliver our roll-out ambition of 25 new sites per year, expanding into new regions and trading locations, bringing Loungers’ unique hospitality, culture and experience to an increasingly broad customer base.”

Greggs reports 2.9% like-or-like growth in Fourth Quarter: Greggs has reported total sales were up 7.2% in its Fourth Quarter. Company-managed shop like-for-like sales were up 2.9% (H1: 1.5%, H2:4.2%). A total of 149 new shops opened in the year, with 50 closures – 1,953 shops were trading as at 29 December 2018. Chief executive Roger Whiteside said: “We delivered a very strong finish to 2018 despite the well-publicised challenges in the consumer sector. This performance was broad-based, reflecting the strength of our range of freshly-prepared food and drinks, and the strategic changes that we have made in recent years to focus more effectively on the food-on-the-go market. In the year ahead, we will continue to innovate with products designed to reflect changing consumer tastes, and by opening in new locations that make Greggs even more accessible to customers. The investments that we are making in our supply chain will allow us to deliver the outstanding value and quality that Greggs is famous for across a growing shop estate.” The company added: “For our 2018 financial year, total sales grew by 7.2% and company-managed shop like-for-like sales grew by 2.9%. In the fourth quarter company-managed shop like-for-like sales grew by 5.2%, building on the strong trading performance that we reported in our November trading update. Whilst seasonal products such as our iconic Festive Bake and freshly-baked mince pies sold well, we also saw further progress in growth categories such as hot drinks and breakfast. Operational delivery was strong, benefiting from the investments that we have made in systems and in staff training. As we enter the new year we continue to refresh our range to keep step with changing consumer tastes. The launch of our new vegan-friendly sausage roll has proved very popular with a broad range of customers, and can now be combined with our vegan-friendly winter vegetable soup in a meal deal for just £2.25. During the year we opened 149 new shops (including 62 franchised units) and closed 50, growing the estate to 1,953 shops trading as at 29 December 2018, 262 of which are franchised shops operated by partners in travel and other convenience locations. In the year ahead we expect net shop openings to be in the 90-100 range. In 2019 we will continue to execute the supply chain change programme that supports our ambitious growth plans. Whilst there are many economic and other uncertainties hanging over the consumer environment, we enter the new year with good sales momentum and operational execution, a strong offer and a robust financial position. We now expect that we will deliver underlying profit before tax of at least £88 million, slightly ahead of our previous guidance, when we report our preliminary results for 2018 on 7 March 2019.”

Majestic Wine reports 6.3% sales growth at end of 2018: Majestic Wine has updated on trading for the ten-week period ending 31 December 2018, reporting an increase in both group sales and gross margin. Group sales growth accelerated to 6.8% (6.3% on an underlying basis) compared to the same period last year (3.2% and 4.1% underlying), and the group trading gross margin increased by 0.4%, led by strong performance in Naked Wines together with a solid performance from Majestic Retail despite the challenging market backdrop. The group delivers c.30% of total annual sales during the Christmas trading period. The company stated: “Naked had a great Christmas delivering both sales growth and gross margin expansion across all markets in the period. Performance in the US, where we are accelerating investment to capture the attractive growth opportunity, was particularly strong with sales up 21%, and Naked UK returned to double digit sales growth. Retail, in common with the rest of the UK sector, encountered difficult trading conditions amidst economic uncertainty and weak consumer confidence. While sales were up 1.5%, reflecting growth in our online and Concierge propositions, and we grew market share, gross margins were 1.2 percentage points lower year-on-year in a very price promotional market. While the Christmas trading period was more challenging than expected for retail, the group expects to report group adjusted PBT for the full year broadly in line with current market consensus. Naked remains on track, and we will continue to seek additional investment opportunities which we will execute if proven.” Rowan Gormley, group chief executive, added: “The team have worked really hard over the Christmas trading period and have delivered sales growth across all our business units. As we said in November, consumer behaviour is changing and we’re seeing a revolution in retail. We think there will be winners and losers, and we believe we have what it takes to be one of the winners. We are uniquely placed, with the people, data and skills in place to succeed despite the headwinds we are seeing. While trading has been challenging over the Christmas period, the trends we reported in November are the same (namely strong growth in our overseas markets and our digital propositions but headwinds for our UK Retail stores). We look forward to setting out more of our future plans for the group, including the retail business with our full year results in June.”

Propel launches Leadership Summit, open for bookings: Propel is launching the Leadership Summit, which will see a select group of the sector’s most experienced bosses share their expertise on leadership. The full-day event, in partnership with Elliotts, will take place on Tuesday, 12 February at One Moorgate Place and is open for bookings. Speakers will include Will Stratton-Morris, UK chief executive of Caffe Nero, who will talk about building high-performance teams. Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King, speaks about the role of leadership in business turnarounds. Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott will talk to Des Gunewardena, chief executive of D&D London, about the lessons of leadership he has picked up in his career in the sector. Duncan Garrood, chief executive of Ten Entertainment, will give his views on leadership and the customer experience, while Jo Fleet, managing director of Flat Iron, will talk about empowering people and trust and getting the team to “buy in” through clear communication and vision. Mark Jones, chief executive of Carluccio’s, will explain how the company is building the quality and skillsets of its general managers to lead the business out of decline. Simon Townsend, chief executive of Ei Group, will give his views on the challenges of leadership during a period of immense change and Zoe Bowley, managing director of PizzaExpress, will give her top ten tips on leadership. Meanwhile, Loungers founder Alex Reilley will talk about the adaptations involved in growing a business from one site to more than 100, celebrating success and the art of succession, while Ann Elliott will give her views on the power of mentoring to grow talent in organisations. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “With the industry facing such challenging times, effective leadership has never been more important. This is an unmissable opportunity to learn from high-profile leaders in our sector.” Prices are £295 plus VAT for Premium members, £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers. To book, email

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