Loungers today confirmed that it plans to get all its restaurants back open by 17 May – and even expects four new branches to begin trading within two weeks of that date.
Despite its estate being completely closed since the end of last year due to the lockdown restrictions, the chain is aiming to return with a bang and commence its expansion programme.
It has declared it is ready to return to a run-rate of 25 new site openings per year during the course of the year ending April 2022, assuming no further Covid interruptions.
It will initially open 47 existing sites in England on 12 April for takeaway and external trading, and five sites in Wales on 26 April on the same basis, in line with the respective governments’ suggested roadmaps.
Assuming no changes to the roadmap, Loungers intends to reopen all of its English sites by 17 May and its sites in Wales later in May subject to confirmation from the Welsh government.
In addition, four new Lounge sites in Wolverhampton, Stourbridge, Welwyn Garden City and St Ives will be open by 26 May, bringing the estate to 172 sites in total.
These new sites were partially fitted out going into lockdown at the end of December 2020 and are currently being completed.
The company described its pipeline of new sites as “exceptionally strong” and said it continues to see a large number of attractive opportunities in the locations it is targeting.
Nick Collins, chief executive of Loungers, said: “Having been closed since 30 December, it is really exciting to be back in some of the sites, preparing to open our terraces to customers on Monday.
“Whilst it is frustrating that we have to wait until 17 May to re-open more fully given the steps we have taken to ensure our business is Covid-safe, it does allow us to re-open gradually, bring our teams back from furlough and get the supply chain back up and running.
“We expect to trade well once the estate is fully re-opened, particularly with our strong coastal presence as we look forward to a summer of staycationing. Planned new openings in Blackpool, Scarborough and Aberystwyth ahead of the summer holidays will reinforce this position. Our suburban and market town locations, combined with our flexible, all-day model, mean we are well-positioned as we look to the future.”
Loungers said it has strengthened its financial and liquidity position ahead of the reopening, with its lending banks, Santander and Bank of Ireland, approving a 12-month extension to the incremental £15m revolving credit facility that was put in place in April 2020.
This additional facility now runs to October 2022 and provides the company with total RCF facilities of £25m.
Covenant tests at 18 April 2021 have been waived and subsequent quarterly tests until 26 December 2021 have been re-set to provide appropriate headroom to enable a full resumption of the company’s new site roll-out programme.
Mr Collins added: “The most recent lockdown has given us a real opportunity to build a fantastic pipeline of new sites in what is undoubtedly a tenant-friendly environment. We will approach the coming months cautiously but are very keen to get back to opening 25 sites a year at the earliest opportunity with such excellent properties being presented to us, and we are grateful to Santander and Bank of Ireland for their continued support.”