Hit cafe chain plans another 250 outlets
A BRISTOL-based cafe chain is looking to open hundreds of branches across the country thanks to the enormous success of its brand.
The Loungers chain, which was set up by three friends a decade ago, is in the throes of a major expansion after winning the backing of private financiers in a multi-million pound deal.
The company owns more than 20 branches and its original plan was to add another 50 Lounge bars over the next four years. But its enormous success over the last year means that the firm is now planning something far more ambitious and is considering opening another 250 outlets.
There are already plans in place for a new Lounge bar in Portishead and another bar in Bristol but the firm is now looking further afield.
The north west, in particular, has been identified as ripe for expansion and plans are already in place to open cafes in Manchester and Liverpool.
In spite of the worst recession in more than two generations, the company has seen its profits rise by more than 27 per cent, to £3.14 million. At the same time, the company's turnover increased by a staggering 38 per cent, to more than £15 million.
Loungers ended its financial year with 23 cafes and opened its 24th, in Sutton Coldfield, in May. The company is planning to open another ten bars this year and managing director and founder Alex Reilley is confident that the firm is on the brink of creating a nationwide brand.
He said: "The company has analysed population sizes and demographics and we have come to the conclusion that there could be at least another 250 locations for the Lounge concept."
The Lounge formula was first launched in 2002 by longstanding friends Mr Reilley, Jake Bishop and Dave Reid. The original aim was to create a casual and welcoming bar for their friends and family to use.
The decision to serve food in the Bedminster bar came at the last minute and helped to make the chain the success it has become today.
The concept is based around neighbourhood bars in suburbs which have seen an influx of young professionals. Lounge bars serve food throughout the day and then become bars in the evening.
The company also has a sister chain called the Cosy Club, which is aimed at town centres rather than the suburbs.
The Post reported earlier this year that the firm had signed a £16 million deal with investment firm Piper, the company behind the Pitcher and Piano brand. It currently employs more than 200 staff but is expecting that number will increase dramatically over the next five years.
There are now five Loungers in Bristol and more than 20 across the country, stretching from Plymouth to Birmingham.
The firm buys up unusual, well-known buildings which have become empty and until now has preferred to stick to the South West.
Mr Reilley said: "We have got a number of great sites lined up to open before the end of 2012 and we're busy loading up the pipeline for 2013 and beyond."
The businessman said the chain had seen business increase as a result of the miserable summer weather.
He said: "Providing it's not torrential rain, if it's grey and fairly overcast that is very good weather for us."