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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 20th Jan 2020 - Update: Social Entertainment Ventures, Fever-Tree
Social Entertainment Ventures reports strong December growth and expansion plans: Social Entertainment Ventures (SEV), the operator of various experiential leisure concepts in the UK and US, has reported it delivered strong growth for the four weeks to 29 December with total revenue up 16.5% on the previous year and like-for-like growth of 7.5%. The company, which opened Flight Club Boston under licence in the middle of last month, said that all three of its US venues performed well over the holiday period with AceBounce, SEV’s US sister brand to Bounce, in Chicago the standout performer with like-for-like growth of 20%. The Toby Harris-led business said that Flight Club in Chicago also performed strongly with double-digit revenue growth whilst both Bounce venues in London achieved growth versus the same period in 2018. The strong festive trading completed a solid first quarter’s trading of SEV’s new financial year, and comes on the back of the group achieving 23% revenue growth in the previous financial year ending September 2019. Group revenue for that year was $23.4m (£18m). As of next month, SEV will have fully spun off Puttshack, having completed a “very successful” three-year contract incubating and launching the concept. During the period of SEV’s management three Puttshack venues have opened in the UK at Westfield, Lakeside and Bank, with the company reporting that all are trading well. SEV said it remained a highly supportive shareholder of the concept. SEV launches its next new concept, Hijingo, in March 2020 in London’s Worship Street and plans to open four venues in total during the year, including two more Flight Clubs in the US. SEV said it expected to double that number of openings to eight in 2021, with at least five of those in the US. Harris, SEV chief executive, said: “We’re pleased with trading over the holiday period on both sides of the Atlantic and generally with the progress we’ve made over the last 12 months. Our US team is now well set to ramp up growth this year and beyond so we can take advantage of the opportunities that are being presented to us across North America.” In November, SEV secured a $20m growth fund to aid its expansion plans in Britain and internationally. Acropolis Capital, a family investment office with experience in leisure and hospitality in both Europe and the US, led the funding round.

Fever-Tree – Christmas trading was subdued: Premium tonic producer Fever-Tree has reported a subdued Christmas in the UK – and reported total revenue dropped by 1% to £132.6m in 2019 in the UK compare to the year before. The company stated: “As reported, the wider retail environment in the UK experienced a challenging Christmas with the mixer category not immune from the weak consumer confidence and corresponding slowdown in spending. Whilst Fever-Tree remained the clear market leader, the expected improvement in trading during this important period did not materialise with the macroeconomic uncertainty leading to a subdued end to the year across both the on and off-trade. Whilst we expect conditions for the category to remain challenging in the first half of 2020 reflecting the current level of consumer confidence, our brand strength, operational improvements, distribution opportunities, and our innovation pipeline, alongside softer comparatives in the second half, provides us with confidence in returning to growth during the year.” The company added: “Group revenue is expected to be £260.5 million representing growth of c.10%, reflecting the significant progress made during 2019 across many of our regions. However, this performance is below the board’s expectations, primarily reflecting subdued Christmas trading in the UK. Our key growth markets delivered a strong performance with sales accelerating in the second half in the US and Europe as well as a notable end to the year in Australia and Canada. As we enter 2020, the group is seeing this good momentum continue across multiple regions. While the UK has performed below expectations, it has been a year when we have lapped exceptional comparators and despite that we have retained our clear category leadership position and are very well placed to return to growth as we proceed through 2020. Despite the softer trading than expected in the final months of the year, we have continued to invest behind the brand for the longer term, most notably in our growth regions. As a result, margins have ended the year behind our expectations and we expect earnings to decline by c.5% when compared to 2018. As outlined above we plan to continue to invest in our growth regions in the year ahead and resulting in gross and Ebitda margins adjusting to c.49% and c.28% for 2020 respectively. The group’s balance sheet remains strong with the year-end cash position anticipated to be £128m.”

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