The company behind St Christopher’s Inns and Belushi’s – a finalist in the accommodation category of the 2019 Publican Awards – announced plans to invest in and expand its estate while reporting that turnover for the year ending 30 March 2019 had increased by 8% to £52.5m, while group EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation) increased by 29% to £7.2m over the same period.
Beds & Bars revealed that new hostel openings in Edinburgh and Berlin were in the pipeline alongside refurbishment projects at its St Christopher’s Inns sites and Belushi’s bars in Edinburgh, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Hammersmith in west London.
The planned £7.5m investment over the next financial year follows on from a 12-month period in which Beds & Bars invested £2.5m in projects to revamp London venues in Greenwich and Camden, as well as sites in Newquay and Amsterdam.
According to its latest figures, 50% of Beds & Bars’ accommodation revenue came via its own booking platform – an increase of 3.2% on the previous year – as a result of strategies to encourage visitors to book direct as opposed to using online travel agents.
Moreover, the company also registered a 22% increase in pre-booked bar revenue in the past 12 months in addition to increased trading around the 2018 World Cup in Russia – which put the group 7% ahead of forecasts.
The increase in pre-booked sales reflects a trend seen in operator trading statements released earlier this year demonstrating the increasing significance of pre-booked sales for pubs.
As reported by The Morning Advertiser, Stonegate Pub Company saw a 17.8% uplift in pre-booked sales in 2018, with ETM Group’s pre-booked sales increasing by 13.3% during the five weeks to 31 December.
Moreover, Arc Inspirations, operator of 18 sites across the north of England, saw pre-booked sales increase by almost a third (30%) throughout 2018.
Discussing its latest results, a statement from Beds & Bars explained that a focus on growing the company’s premium offer had yielded impressive returns.
“Since we have rolled out the new and improved Belushi’s brand across our legacy estate in the UK, we have aligned our product offering to match.
“We have moved into the premiumisation of our product and, as part of this, we focused heavily on delivering a better cocktail offering.
“Last year, we grew cocktail revenue by 43%. We have also spent time analysing the customer upsell journey as well as our product knowledge training.
“As a result, we have seen a positive shift across all categories to our sales mix, including a high proportion of premium products.”
This announcement follows the release of figures in CGA Insight and AlixPartners’ latest quarterly Market Growth Monitor, which revealed the number of premium bars and licensed cafés has increased by 4.1% in the year to March 2019.
Investment in sites, brands and tech
Moreover, the company statement further expanded upon plans to invest in new and existing sites.
“In FY20, we are set to launch a new and improved booking journey for the Flying Pig brand, which will be up and running ahead of summer. Once launched, we will focus to do the same for St Christopher’s Inns.
“We are also working on a number of technology launches this year that will allow us to grow both our accommodation and bars pre-booked sales business, including a new portal for customers to manage their bookings, enhanced check-ins, as well as the redesign and redevelopment of the websites and apps across a range of our brands.”
However, the company revealed that in light of disruption caused by Brexit, investment in other parts of Europe presented more enticing opportunities.
“In the wake of Brexit and other political uncertainties, the UK has continued to put pressure on businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector.
“In light of the UK’s current economic state, it is much more attractive for us to invest in other parts of Europe at this current time.
“Despite these hurdles, the group has demonstrated a strong financial performance in FY19 and we are confident this will continue into the new financial year.
“Beds & Bars will continue to search for further opportunities in the UK and Europe and is set to have a positive year.”