Alex Reilley, who has overseen the impressive growth of Loungers, has been singled out by his peers as the stand-out individual in the eating-out and drinking-out market.
The managing director of the cafe bar operator collected the Best Individual prize at this year’s Retailers’ Retailer of the Year Awards, organised by M&C Report.
Reilley emerged from an assorted shortlist of eminent business leaders from the eating and drinking-out market, narrowly beating: Andrew Page, The Restaurant Group chief executive; Tim Bacon, Living Ventures, chief executive; Tom Byng, chief executive of Byron; Paul May, chief executive of Patisserie Holdings; Jillian McLean, managing director of Drake & Morgan; and Rob Papps, UK managing director of Nando’s.
The awards, in their 16th year, are unique in that they are the only ones voted for by senior executives from the industry itself. They are, therefore, a true reflection of what the market thinks, identifying the best companies, concepts and individuals.
Reilley, who co-founded Loungers in 2002, has led the growth of the Lounge and Cosy Club operator from a regional player to a national chain. The company, which is on track to report full-year sales in excess of £33m, is on track to open 15 sites in total in this year, with deals agreed on the majority of those already. It remains on target to reach 90 sites by 2017.
The prestigious awards, which took place on 5 March (last night) at The Dorchester on London’s Park Lane, take their name because they identify retailing excellence in an eating and drinking-out environment. Market positioning, great products, attention to detail and flawless execution are the hallmarks of past and present winners.
There was a double celebration for Ed’s Easy Diner, the Andrew Guy-led brand, which secured the Evolution Award and came top in this year’s Zolfo Cooper Profit Tracker, which tracks companies with the fastest-growing profits within the UK’s eating and drinking out sector, with a compound annual growth rate of 127%, putting it ahead of Hawksmoor (106%) and Bill’s Restaurants (85%).
The Best Company award went to Hawksmoor, the highly-regarded steakhouse concept, which narrowly beat off competition from The Restaurant Group, Living Ventures, TGI Friday’s, Nando’s and JD Wetherspoon.
Bill’s Restaurant, the fast-growing, Richard Caring-backed chain, collected the Best Concept prize, ahead of Be At One, Byron, Cote, Lounge and Wahaca.
The Rising Star prize went to Scott Collins and Yianni Papoutsis the founders of Meatliquor, the influential fast-casual concept.
Tesco’s £48.6m acquisition of Giraffe, described in some quarters as a game change for the industry, won the Deal of the Year awards.
Luke Johnson, who sold Giraffe to Tesco through his investment vehicle Risk Capital Partners and also took positions in Grand Union and Red Hot World Buffet over the last 12 months, was named Investor of the Year.
Chicken Shop, the Soho House Group-owned brand, won the Best Emerging Concept award, narrowly beating: The Botanist, Harris + Hoole, Cleaver, Coast to Coast, Sticks n Sushi, and MeatLiquor.
The Best Venue award went to Red’s True BBQ, the trend leading concept launched in Leeds at the end of 2012.
The awards were generously supported by event partners: Barclays, Bidvest Logistics, Britvic Soft Drinks, Freshdirest, Hammerson, Lavazza, Miller Brands, Olswang, Pernod Ricard, Zolfo Cooper and Zonal Retail Data Systems.
The process to determine the winners saw a 700-strong bank of senior operators, industry experts and suppliers - known as the Retailers’ Academy - nominate the shortlists in each category. The shortlists were then sent back out to the Academy for final voting, with the finalists with the most votes emerging as the winners.