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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 1st Dec 2021 - Update: Loungers, Patrick Dardis and Chapel Down
Loungers reports like-for-likes up 23.4%, sales outperform pre-pandemic levels: Cafe bar operator Loungers has reported it had “continued to consistently outperform the sector”, with like-for-like sales growth of 23.4% across the 28 weeks to 28 November. Loungers reported revenue increased 91.4% to £102.4m for the 24 weeks to 3 October 2021, “reflecting the very successful resumption of trading from 17 May”. This beat pre-pandemic sales levels, with the company having achieved sales of £79.8m in the same period of 2019. Adjusted Ebitda for the 24 weeks to 3 October 2021 was up 105.1% to £27.1m (2020: £13.2m), driven by strong sales and margin growth. Pre-tax profit increased to £12.8m (2020: £117,000). The company stated: “Whilst mindful of the news of the Omicron variant, we are optimistic looking ahead to trading over the Christmas period and beyond. The Lounge business is very balanced seasonally, while Christmas trading is more important for Cosy Club and we are encouraged by the level of bookings. We anticipate 25 new site openings during the financial year ending 17 April 2022 and have the infrastructure in place to accelerate that pace as circumstances permit.” The company said its suburban/market town focus protects against longer-term behavioural changes brought about by covid. Increased sales, efficiency and margin was being delivered through the order at table app and the reduction in the number of dishes on the menu. The company opened 12 new sites opened in the period, comprising 11 Lounges and one Cosy Club. A further four sites have been opened post the 3 October half-year end – in Ringwood, Reigate, Colchester and St Neots, taking the total number of sites to 188. The company said the pipeline strength and depth “reflected in the quality of the period’s new site openings”. Loungers said the introduction of differential pricing in July “allows additional pricing flexibility while we retain our critical focus on value for money”. The group added it continued the control of labour and supply costs, “where we continue to benefit from our increasing scale”. Utility costs were hedged in May 2020 through to September 2024. Chief executive Nick Collins said: “Our value for money, all day offer appeals to a very broad demographic, and this underpins our market-leading performance in towns and suburbs across England and Wales. We will open 25 sites this year as we continue to benefit from the changing dynamics of the high street and our pipeline of new sites has never looked so strong. Our sustained growth alongside our operational discipline are enabling us to manage and mitigate most inflationary pressure. As we move into the Christmas trading period any potential impact of Omicron remains to be seen, but as we look ahead to 2022, I am very optimistic with regards to our prospects and the continuing roll-out of both Lounge and Cosy Club. All categories and dayparts across both Lounge and Cosy Club are in growth and there is no one stand-out contributing factor to the sustained sales growth we are experiencing. In terms of trends, we continue to see strong performance in the brunch day part and shoulder periods either side of lunch and continued excellent like-for-like performance in respect of cocktails, puddings and premium drinks. We have always traded well from coastal locations and in the summer months we benefited in these sites from the staycation boom in the UK. This consistent outperformance of the market is in part attributed to how both Lounge and Cosy Club are positioned and located. In Lounge our concentration in market towns and suburban high streets has meant the business has benefited from the behavioral changes we have seen as a result of covid. At the city centre Cosy Clubs, where our pitches usually benefit from both leisure and retail footfall, we have found ourselves protected against the worst aspects of covid. In addition, I believe the continued emphasis on community which has become increasingly forefront of mind throughout the pandemic suits the Lounges, which are driven by a desire to improve communities and high streets across the UK. The informality and flexibility of trading all-day in both businesses also really suits consumers who might be adapting to new working routines or looking to eat outside traditional meal times and avoid the crowds. I do believe our actions during the lockdowns and our broader approach to how we wanted to emerge from covid have had a material impact on our sales. We were determined covid would not interfere with our standards of hospitality nor the atmosphere and warmth within our sites and our customers have recognised this by coming back again and again. Equally the innovation and evolution in the business during the various periods of lockdown, particularly in respect of our order at table app and menu development have been significant contributing factors to our sales success.”

Propel launches Premium Advent Video Calendar today, Sarah Willingham to feature: Propel has launched its Premium Advent Video Calendar, giving subscribers access to a great video each day in December from our autumn conference series. Each day in December in the run-up to Christmas, Premium subscribers will be sent a video featuring some of the sector’s leading operators, who will share insights, advice and expertise. The first video, which will be sent at 9am today (Wednesday, 1 December), features Sarah Willingham, founder of Nightcap, acquirer of drinks-led businesses including The Cocktail Club and Adventure Bar, who talks about her life and learnings as an entrepreneur, how they helped her create Nightcap and where she sees opportunities in the market over the next three years. Premium subscribers will also receive the fifth edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday (3 December), at midday. The database will show the details of 366 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches. Premium subscribers also receive access to two other databases. The latest Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, was sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (26 November). The go-to database provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Premium subscribers also receive the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. To subscribe, email jo.charity@propelinfo.com.

Dardis – government needs to think very carefully before making an already bad situation far worse: Patrick Dardis, chief executive of Young’s, has implored the government to think very carefully before making “an already bad situation far worse”. Writing in the Daily Mail, Dardis said: “Alas, it did not take long for the Omicron hysteria – for that is what I believe it is – to reverberate through the hospitality sector. Within hours of the country being told that a new variant of covid had been identified in southern Africa, the phones started ringing in the 300 pubs, restaurants and hotels in the Young’s chain. And it wasn’t good news: the cancellation of Christmas parties, dinner bookings scrapped, weekend events in December delayed until who knows when, mini-breaks binned. This scenario is being repeated up and down the land, be it in small rural establishments or large city hotels. As the respected South African medic Dr Angelique Coetzee, who first identified Omicron, pointed out in yesterday’s (Tuesday, 30 November) Mail, the effects of the variant so far seem to be mild in those infected. Yet this has not stopped the government reneging on its promise of the ‘irreversible’ easing of restrictions, and hastily rolling out fresh measures – among them compulsory mask-wearing in shops and on public transport – with the threat of more to come. And, of course, we’ve seen this ‘mission creep’ before. The timing could not be worse. It’s difficult to overstate just how important Christmas is in the hospitality calendar: for some businesses it can generate over a quarter of the entire year’s profit. This latest lurch into fraught over-reaction is yet again placing livelihoods at risk – and all because of doomsday predictions by scientists whose worse-case-scenario prophecies rarely stand up to scrutiny in hindsight. And this continual scaremongering is matched only by the inconsistency of government messaging, which flip-flops from Pollyanna-ish cheers of ‘freedom’ to the gravest possible pessimism. Just about the only consistent link in all of this is the irrationality that appears to seize the government every time there is a new covid mutation. Whatever happened to that sacred mantra of ‘following the science’ rather than this kind of knee-jerk panicking? And so we find ourselves contemplating a festive ‘pingdemic’ and further restrictions. Let me be very clear: this risks a catastrophic impact on an already reeling sector, and one which may see thousands more businesses go to the wall in the new year if we continue down this path. I believe there is no justification for it and I implore the government to think very carefully before making an already bad situation far worse.”

Chapel Down reports trading remains strong as it makes board changes: Chapel Down has said trading in 2021 to date remains strong as it reported a number of board changes. The company stated: “Richard Woodhouse, chief finance and chief operating officer, will be leaving the business at the end of May 2022. Richard has been a highly valued member of the board and executive leadership team for the last 17 years, during which time he has successfully led the financial and operations functions of the business. To support Chapel Down’s growth going forward, the board will restructure the executive leadership team to separate the head of the finance and operations teams into two distinct leadership positions. A recruitment process for these roles is underway, and Richard will continue in his current role until the end of May 2022 to ensure an orderly handover to the new chief financial officer and operations director. Mark Harvey will move from his current role as chief commercial officer to chief marketing officer of Chapel Down, bringing an increased focus to the development of our premium Chapel Down wine brand in the UK and international markets. Mark has been a board director for Chapel Down for more than five years and has been a key architect of Chapel Down’s brand success. Tom Hepworth-Bond will join our UK executive leadership team as UK sales director. Tom brings a wealth of premium and luxury drinks sales experience to Chapel Down from his time at Chase Distillery and Bibendum. Tom will be responsible for the leadership of our sales team and the delivery of our trading plans and customer partnership across the UK off and on-trade channels and our flourishing direct-to-consumer e-commerce business. Following the announcement of the appointment of Andrew Carter as chief executive, the board have been working on the business roadmap to deliver our refocused business vision to be the number one and most celebrated English winemaker. The 2021 year to date Chapel Down trading performance remains strong and in line with management expectations and the board is excited about the future opportunities to both premiumise and grow the scale of our dynamic and exciting English wine and spirits business.”

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