The Brighton Pier Group, the Luke Johnson-led company which includes Eclectic Bar Group, is shaking up its food and drink offer on the recently acquired pier, MCA has learnt.

Anne Martin, managing director of the group’s pier division, said the attraction’s Palm Court Restaurant and Victoria’s Bar would be combined to create a new offer.

The space will aim to capitalise on the seaside’s resort’s popularity as a conference destination and will be available for private hire.

Existing fish and chip and doughnut stalls will also be developed, while a winter food market will be introduced to improve footfall during the off season.

Martin was speaking as the group announced a return to profit following the acquisition of the pier in April and improved midweek and student trade in its bar division.

In the year up to June 2016, the group recorded a profit of £0.9m – compared to a loss of £0.5m on the previous year.

John Smith, chief financial officer, said the bar division had reinvented its student offering following focus groups.

He said: “What students were saying were they tend to drink less and they were concerned about getting good degree result, so going out in the middle of the week wasn’t seen as the best thing to be doing. They go out less and when they do, they come home earlier.”

Initiatives which helped a return to profit included a new ‘Loyal’ card scheme, with 664,000 drinks sold during the student year, the installation of free Wi-Fi and the launch of Smash, a new ‘ping pong’ bar in Reading.

The group also re-negotiated its principal supply contracts at the end of February 2015, bringing revenue and margin benefits as well as the logistical simplicity of a single drinks supplier.

Meanwhile executive chairman Luke Johnson said the group was looking for a family leisure attraction to complement the pier business.

He told MCA: “We want to grow by acquisition and it will almost certainly be in the visitor attraction space. The summer is very focused on trade, but now the season is over we hope we can find something that is well run, with growth potential and that fits with the group.

“We are very unlikely to buy another pier, but similar family attractions, UK based, that we think have further potential to grow.

“UK tourism is a very large industry and I don’t see why it won’t continue to grow. I think the quality of our hospitality be it food and drink or entertainment is definitely getting better, I think we’re upgrading our offerings. Expectations are higher but nevertheless it’s a bigger market, its growing and I think there are opportunities.”