Orchid Group, the managed pub operator, is planning to almost double its Pizza Kitchen & Bar concept over the next 12 months.
The brand has flourished since Orchid bought the Bar Room Bar company out of administration in 2009.
There are currently 14 sites with around 11 more planned over the next year. Commercial and people director Simon Dodd told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, sister title to M&C Report, that the sites have yet to be confirmed, but will be across the UK in high-street or secondary high-street locations.
The plans for growth come despite the news that Orchid is expected to breach covenants on its £42.4m of debt, after last week reporting a pre-tax loss of £17.24m for the 52 weeks to 1 January 2011.
A number of existing businesses within Orchid will be converted into Pizza Kitchen & Bars, such as the George in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, which increased takings from £9,000 a week to an average £19,000 post investment in April. It is currently 68% up in the period from April to October on the same period last year with food sales up from 8% to 25% post investment.
The company is doing well across its estate with five sites opening and one site conversion in the two months to the end of October. These include three Classic Carvery sites — the Beehive in Welwyn, Hertfordshire, the Hatfield Chase in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, and existing Orchid site the Mulberry Bush in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, which was converted from an independent local.
The Black Bull in Wakefield has opened as a Contemporary Carvery and the Rose & Crown in Brentwood, Essex, and the White Lyon in Worplesdon, Surrey, will open before the end of October as Dragon sites with a total investment of £330,000.
Year-on-year spend per head is also up across most of the group’s brands with spend in five brands up an average of 21.2p, equating to an average spend per head of £10.80.
Chief executive Rufus Hall told last month’s UK Pub Retail Summit that food turnover had risen to 43% of total turnover compared to 28% when the company was founded in 2006.
“Things are going okay,” said Dodd. “It is a tough market with consumers becoming ever more cautious about parting with their hardearned cash.
“We are cautious about trading in the sector, driven by a possible double dip recession. Orchid will continue to acquire on a site-by-site basis.”
In its results released last week, the company, which went through a pre-pack administration at the end of 2008, forecast that it was to breach some of its existing covenants at the end of September 2011 and “thereafter due to current trading patterns”. The group said discussions were ongoing with its lenders as to possible solutions.
It said that assuming these discussions were successful it “will be possible to establish new loan covenants”, with existing facilities “not appropriate to the group’s long-term needs”.