Revolution Bars Group chief executive Rob Pitcher has told MCA he is encouraged by early signs from the group’s trial of a more experiential late-night offer.
The trial, currently in place at three sites, sees a choreographed entertainment offer throughout the night – including actors in costume, magicians and glitter stations – all geared towards giving customers content for social media.
It is part of a series of initiatives Pitcher has launched since he took the helm of the company in June, including the first new food menu in over a year and a renewed to capitalise on delivery.
Pitcher said he was also bringing in an expert to advise on pricing strategy, saying there was scope to both deliver value to customers and maximise margins.
He said that the brand was gradually regaining momentum after a disappointing year to June 2018. According to chief financial officer, Mike Foster, the combination of extreme cold and hot weather in 2018 had cost the group an estimated 1% in like-for-like sales.
On the impact of the summer weather, Foster said: “We were able to do a fair amount of tracking of the difference in trading between our venues that have outside seating and those that don’t, and there was a marked difference. Between May and June we think the weather cost us about £700,000. Combined with the £500,000 we think the Beats from the East cost us and overall we probably lost about 1% off the total year’s like-for-like performance.
Pithcer said that throughout FY18 food had tracked slightly behind drink sales but said both were down.
On the strategy for reviving the brand, Pitcher said: “We dispatched two groups to New York and to Ibiza over the summer. The message was that Revolution used to lead the market for a great Friday and Saturday night out for a long time and probably lost our cutting edge slightly on that, so we wanted to see what our customers were experiencing when they went abroad.
“Rather than just being a DJ-driven experience, what we’re doing is more of a choreographed night that delights and surprises and allows our customers to have lots of instagrammable moments along the way, providing them content for their social media. It’s everything from glitter stations to magicians, to people dancing in costume to table service delivered in a really interesting way. There should be something happening all night and we have someone choreographing that entertainment.”
On pricing he said: “With all the distractions over the past year, we have come off our A-game when it comes to delivering for the customer and it comes back to that value equation. I’m bringing in an expert to look at where we are on that. Because we haven’t focussed on that area it seems like there’s latent potential both to deliver value to consumer but also maximise margins.”
On food development, he said: “We hadn’t launched a new menu for over 12 months and Simon Dobson and his team have done a great job in pushing that offer forward. On one hand you have the really theatrical element, such as the smoking burger – which comes out under a cloche full of seasoned smoke – then on the other end we have really caught up with the vegan and vegetarian movement and have delivered a menu which 40% is suitable for vegans or vegetarians, which I’d say is at the upper end of what’s on offer on the high street.
On delivery, he said: “We have had a long-standing relationship with Deliveroo but the menu is very limited. I know from my time at Mitchells & Butlers that there is huge potential there and there’s a lot we can tap into with our student audience.”
Asked whether under his direction Revolution would embrace its historic reputation as a late-night focussed business, Pitcher said: “The beauty of Revs is that when it’s on song it can cater for people all day and we need to be best in class at all. There’s an opportunity to be the best party in town but that is coupled with the food and cocktail offering.”
The company would not comment on the ongoing talks between the Revolution board and Deltic Group over a possible acquisition.