Revolution Bar Group is to focus its site investment programme on Revolution in a bid to “revitalise” the brand, with 12 of its 15 upcoming refurbishment projects to be carried out at these sites, chief executive Rob Pitcher told MCA.

The business, which yesterday reported an increasing loss before tax of £5.6m (-£3.6m in 2018) for the full-year to 29 June 2019, said Revolution had been the weaker of its two brands, with sales for the full year down 4.6%, while Revolución de Cuba continued to perform more strongly.

The group has implemented thirty different workstreams as part of a turnaround strategy for the business, including a refurbishment programme across its estate. In the previous financial year eight bars where refurbished – six Revolution and two Revolución de Cuba – at a cost of £1.4m. Six of the planned 15 for this year have already been carried out.

Pitcher said that while all the workstreams were having a collective impact, the refurbishment programme was realising a 45% return on investment. “Those sites are having a material impact on underlying growth, hence we are doubling the amount of investment into the estate as can see that’s one of the key pillars that is really helping to drive like-for-likes,” he said.

A key focus of the refurbishments has been on making the most of the individual character and architecture of each of the buildings the bars were located in, in order to make them more Instagrammable, he explained.

“Getting back to that entrepreneurial spirit and look and feel in our bars has been important. In each one we have placed the design features that the building has naturally and enhanced that for the customer so there is a wow factor at each of the bars when you walk in,” he said. Other changes to Revolution have included a new food and drink menu – both of which have seen positive volume growth.

Pitcher said that all the focus had been on the customer proposition from a Revolution brand point of view. “The workstreams were born out of our research and the delivery of those from the team has been fantastic. We have made steady progress throughout the year,” said Pitcher.

The business has seen underlying like-for-like growth of 1.2% for the first quarter, “and we expect that to build from there”. “If we can run at between 1-2% for the rest of the year then we’ll be pretty happy with that,” he said.

In the coming twelve months the business will be placing particular a focus on building guest loyalty – one of its three strategic pillars. Pitcher said the group was predominately looking to achieve this through the launch of its Revolution app, which was introduced four weeks ago. “We have got 65,000 registered users of the app within those four weeks. It has currently got our best offers and promotions within the app, and over the coming months we will look to add a loyalty mechanic into that,” he said.

The experiential side of things is also a trend which the group is looking to tap into. It has created several entertainment packages on Saturday nights and has also further developed its Project Event Space offering, holding 300 different events over the past six months. “Another trend is that people want to know they have got a space, so the pre-booked function is becoming more and more important to the big night out,” he added.

The group has disposed of two of its sites since the year end – it sublet its Swansea site and closed its Wood Street site in Liverpool. Pitcher said that while he did not envisage “too many more along those lines but said as with all businesses it was constantly reviewing its estate and if the right opportunities presented themselves then it may well take them.