Living Ventures (LV), the north west-based restaurant and bar company led by Tim Bacon, is planning to invest c.£8m on new openings next year, including the rollout of its Oast House pub concept. The 26-strong group, which earlier this week secured £4m in new funding, plans seven new openings in 2012, including a new family-restaurant format and a fine dining venue. The expansion plan comes as the group’s latest accounts saw it swing back into profit for the year to 31 March 2011 – a period it described as the busiest ever for its restaurants – with a forecast that turnover in its current financial year is expected to reach around £40m. The openings will include two under the group’s Oast House pub concept, which is based on a 16th-century Kent oast house and offers traditional ales, Continental beers and sharing platters – in Liverpool and Greater Manchester. It is thought that a site in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, has been lined up for the next opening. The first Oast House opened at the end of September in Manchester’s Spinningfields development and it is thought that the group will look to rollout the concept even further over the next few years. Bacon told M&C Report: “I see the Oast House as our onslaught into the ‘pub’ market, very much focused on the basics and what a pub should actually be in terms of the way it reacts to the whole community rather than just sections of it.” The group, which operates the Gusto and Blackhouse brands, also plans to launch two sites under a new family-restaurant concept next year in Manchester and Liverpool. The company also plans to launch a second site under its Alchemist brand – its cocktail bar with a full service restaurant format – in Manchester. Bacon said that Alchemist was “a city bar with food and a third place mentality” that has a mantra “experimentation at speed”. He said that the group also aims to open a new top end fine dining restaurant in Manchester during the year and that he had another secret project the business was working on that would also open in the city. Next year’s openings will take the group from seven to 12 sites in Manchester and to 33 units overall. He said: “The new concepts are more born out of opportunity rather than need. It keeps me interested and we have the sites that are in close proximity to other operations of ours so they need to be different." The group is currently concentrating on expanding in the North West, but is expected to explore opportunities to open in London in 12 months time. Bacon said that the group had reported like-for-like growth of c.4% this year, just down from the 5% increase it experienced in 2010. For the year to 31 March 2011, the group reported a 2% rise in turnover to £24.6m. It swung from a pre-tax loss of £631,000 in 2010 to a profit of £119,000 during the year. Group profit for the year stood at £295,000, against a loss of £859,000 the previous year. The company said that both its nine-strong Gusto and eight-strong Blackhouse chains had both achieved over 20% site EBITDA and that consequently, company EBITDA “improved significantly” from £1.6m to £2.1m. LV said it remained strongly cash generative, with a net cash inflow before financing of £1.8m, which was used to pay down bank debt and increase cash balances. It said that since the year end sales had continued to grow. In accounts filed at Companies House it said: “As expected, the difficult economic environment presented many challenges for companies in our sector. These included weak consumer confidence, tighter credit conditions, inflation and higher taxes. “Despite these conditions, our continued emphasis on service excellence, food quality and marketing has meant that our restaurants had their busiest year ever.” The new £4m funding deal, which was arranged with Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets, included a refinancing and an increase in the group’s existing credit facility. The funds will be partly used to refresh the group’s existing estate, which also includes the Red Door restaurant brand; Australasia, its restaurant, bar and late lounge venue; and the recently opened café/deli Peppermint Bay.