The parent company of Novus Leisure, the London-based premium bar and restaurant group, has reported a 3.1% fall in like-for-like sales at uninvested sites in the 48 weeks since its incorporation (to 30 June 2013), but with an improving picture since the period end.
Survivor Group Holdings, which last October named Graham Turner as executive chairman and Tim Callum as chief executive and has since seen a major shake-up elsewhere in its senior team, reported an operating loss of £29.8m in the period. This reflected an exceptional cost of £30.9m relating to its £100m acquisition by LGV Capital and Hutton Collins in 2012.
However, the company has seen EBITDA growth in Q1 of its current financial year, while current indications about Christmas are “positive”, with food cover bookings and average spend metrics ahead of last year. In addition, new supply contracts has seen margins improve by 0.3%; gross margins in the 48-week period fell from 76.8 to 76.4, reflecting fewer walk-in late-night sales.
During the 48 weeks, the firm generated adjusted EBIDTA of £8.4m on sales of £116.1m. Venue-level EBITDA for the 47 sites at the period end was £19.6m.
The company said the performance was impacted by a number of factors. This included the 2012 Olympics, which although it caused some West End venues to see the kind of sales weekly sales only experienced at Christmas, these were insufficient to offset shortfalls in “quieter” City venues.
The group invested £6.1m in 11 sites in the period, which “negatively impacted profitability” in Q3, while the company also cited “increasing competition” that impacted on its walk-in business.
In order to restore sustainable EBIDTA growth, a number of steps were taken including £1.7m of cost savings, delivered in Q1 of the current year, via reduced head counts.
In addition, the operational management has been “strengthened” and there’s been a programme of targeted capital investment to “reposition and reformat” venues.
Meanwhile, a new customer relationship management system was rolled out, with phase one completed in August 2013, with the new Tiger Tiger and LateNightLondon websites going live in Q2 of the current financial year.
Over the 48 weeks, the company invested £8.6m in the development of its venues (£7.5m) and its digital platform (£1.1m).
It disposed of three sites in the period, generating disposal proceeds of £5m, of which £3m was used to prepay bank debt. It also closed a fourth site where the lease was not renewed.
At the period end its net third party debt was £33.7m, representing 4x adjusted EBITDA, “a level of gearing that the directors believe is appropriate”.
Since the year end, the majority of the group’s management team have changed. This includes head of property and development David Lodge, HR director Karen Davies, head of recruitment Paul Glenn, and more recently, head of operations Marc Rust, with Stephen Hill promoted to operations director.
Among the sites that the company has exited include a unit in Long Acre, Covent Garden, for which American burger chain Five Guys is believed to have paid c£2.3m for the premium.
Novus, under the new management team, is currently going through a period of assessing its estate and also what direction it wants to take some of its sites, with many believing a more food-led offer may be explored. The group’s former Apt bar in London’s Queen Street is set to be relaunched as Core at the start of next month. It is thought that the new venture will focus heavily on cocktails, including a Brew & Brew – a coffee cocktail, plus craft beers and a menu featuring salt beef sandwiches at lunch and aged rib-eye steak for dinner.