Creating inclusive spaces that breathe new life into the UK’s towns and cities is central to the Loungers brand mission, group MD Justin Carter told MCA’s Pub Conference.

In a panel discussing investing in the high street and the future of branded bars, Carter spoke alongside Yasha Estraikh of Piper Private Equity, Deepesh Thakrar, director at OakNorth Bank, and Kate Nicholls, CEO at UKHospitality

Carter described Loungers contribution to revitalising areas through new openings, as “one of the things that I’m most proud of”. 

“Every week, I will go to a Lounge opening, quite often in a place I’ve never been to in my life, and I’ll talk to the team whose jobs have been created, and I will talk to our customers, who will almost inevitably tell me that, for example, the Lounge was exactly what Ramsgate needed.”


“And that fills me with huge pride”.

Founded in Bristol in 2002 by Alex Reilley, Jake Bishop and Dave Reid, the neighbourhood café-bar business was created as an alternative to local pubs and coffee shops. Today, it operates over 250 sites across the Lounges, Cosy Club and Brightside brands.

Piper Private Equity invested £16m in Loungers in April 2012 when the business comprised 20 Loungers and three Cosy Club venues across the UK. Since then it has celebrated its 262nd site opening, and intends to open at a rate of 35 sites per year.

A collaborative effort between Loungers and Piper to define the brand’s core mission was fundamental early on. Reflecting on this, Carter said, “Back in the day, when Piper invested, Yasha and I spent a long time thrashing out what we called ‘the cause’, trying to define what a Lounge is all about.”

“And at the heart of that is that, we exist to bring people together. That’s what we’re there to do, so in that sense, we’re like every other pub.”

The concept of the ‘pub of the future’ was a focal point of discussion, with Carter highlighting the essential role pubs play. “We talk about pubs being part of everyday life, and that’s so critical, and that’s why our volumes are where they are.”

This sentiment was echoed by Estraikh, “Piper has always been thinking about the pub of the future. I think Loungers is the proper future, in terms of really thinking about it from a brand perspective. Equally, scalability is really important for us as investors, if you can get pubs right.”

Carter also emphasised the inclusive nature of the Lounges, which attracts a diverse range of customers. “We are fortunate in appealing to a very broad cross-section of society.”

“If you go into a Lounge, you’re likely to meet all sorts of people. So that could be families, mums with buggies, students, older people, people on a business meeting.”

Perico Lounge

Perico Lounge in Ramsgate

He largely attributes this draw to an all-day offer and extensive menu. “We have always worked through the day, and that has been the strength for us. We’ve also got a broad menu which appeals to a lot of people,”

“Value for money is critical for us as well. And like everyone, our prices have gone up, and that makes us nervous, but we’re fortunate that the volumes continue to grow.”

Carter pointed out that spending in hospitality continues to significantly benefit the local economy, unlike some other consumer activities. “If you think of the other ways in which people might spend their money compared to hospitality, a lot of them have absolutely no impact on our economy whatsoever.

“They might be watching Netflix, or they might be going on holiday abroad. Our businesses really help keep the money turning around, and we collect a lot of tax on the government’s behalf, so I hope that will be recognised [by the next government.]”

He also called for government support to sustain and enhance this positive impact, highlighting concerns around national living wage increases.

“There are a few things to worry about. The thing that we’re talking most about is what might happen to wages, the potential lack of flexibility we’ll have in terms of rotas which is fundamental for a business which employ lots of people.

“We would love to be able to pay everyone more. We love to have more stable rotas, and so a VAT cut to help enable that would be excellent,” he added.