Managed pub and restaurant operator Orchid has revealed that like-for-like sales at its 16 Premium Bars & Restaurants outlets revamped since 2009 at a cost of £3m are 20% higher than in the rest of the estate. Orchid bought the 36-strong division, made up of the Living Room and Ultimate Leisure businesses, in 2009. In Living Room, eight investments with a total spend since 2010 of “just” £1.5m saw, for example, Living Room Manchester achieving a 14% YOY sales increase after a £150,000 investment. The figures for Liverpool and Leeds were 28% and 10% respectively. Staff turnover fell 28% and there’s been an increase in training, with 98 Management Development Programme modules completed over the past 12 months. Menus have been “refined”, with less than 20% of all menu items being bought in, compared to more than 60% in 2009. Menu innovation has included new Express menu, more premium ingredients and support for small producers. An updated Living Room website now has more than 500k customers in its database, up 40% on 2009. Meanwhile, eight Ultimate Leisure venues have seen capital investments varying from £50,000 to £250,000. Year-on-year sales at Riverside in Newcastle increased by 239% in the 12 months after investment. Other examples include Cotton Factory (Huddersfield) +44% YTD and Halo/Quilted (Leeds) +57%. New ideas have included “Party Pods” karaoke booths that allow customers to record their efforts at Bambu in Newcastle. Sales at the venue were up 28% on the pre-investment level. A pizza offer in three sites has seen food sales increase as it taps into both the late night snacking market and daytime market. Orchid launched a new website for every Ultimate outlet, and worked with social media for each venue. Web traffic for Ultimate Leisure stands at 25,000 visitors a month with over 60,000 fans on Facebook, Orchid said. A database of 60,000 18-30s has been created from a “zero start”; this is predicted to grow to over 100,000 by the end of 2011. In addition, 15,000 people have signed up to the ULOVE IT privilege card. And Orchid tapped into the popularity of reality TV stars, with visits from the cast of the Only Way is Essex leading to 400 incremental admissions at Halo in Leeds and 100% sales increase at the Cotton Factory in Huddersfield. Elsewhere, Orchid also reported “strong” food margin performance, up 4% from when the company bought the business. It also reported a 4% saving in wage efficiency versus 2010 after introducing a new payroll system from Fourth Hospitality. Simon Dodd, Orchid people and commercial director, said: “We’re very proud of how far Premium Bars & Restaurant has come in just two years under Orchid’s care. The division fits in perfectly with our existing portfolio and our shared learning and skill-sets have been mutually beneficial across the business. “It goes to show that with strong management and evolution, it is possible to do well despite the current economic situation.”