Multiple operator Rocket Leisure began its journey in 2010 when three business partners pooled their skills to create a successful operation.
The business prides itself on a live music and cocktail offer across its estate and it revealed this month (July), it was set to expand with the opening of a new site.
It announced it was set to launch a fourth site in London this autumn, replacing a former Maplin shop in Monument, central London.
Rocket, which is behind Venn Street Records and Northcote Records in Clapham, south London, as well as Old Street Records in Shoreditch, east London, will be calling the new site Eastcheap Records.
The business also opened a café and record store adjoined to Old Street Records in November 2017.
It states its staff are renowned for being friendly and engaging, with an atmosphere that is always appropriate and high energy, and a premium, varied and approachable product.
The new venue and Rocket’s fourth venture in the capital, will span 4,000sq ft with a capacity of up to 350.
In keeping with its existing sites across Clapham and Shoreditch, the operator’s latest site will focus on live music, an extensive cocktail offering and freshly cooked pizza.
The Morning Advertiser spoke with Rocket Leisure to find out more about the business as well as their thoughts on the challenges operators are facing and how going multiple impacts
How did Rocket Leisure start?
In 2010, Russell Taylor came across a small venue in Clapham Common’s Venn Street that was up for sale. Rightly believing this was perfect for his next business venture, he ran through the idea with his brother Howard, and together they invited Tom Jackman to become part of the team.
With Howard’s passion for live music and his flare for business finance, Tom’s skill in front-line operations and cocktail creativity, and Russell’s broad hospitality knowledge and ability to negotiate a good deal, this new business became Rocket Leisure, with Venn Street Records being the first site.
What makes its venues stand out from competition?
A dependable offer of varied live music that is accessible for everybody. This is the main contributor to our much-loved high-energy atmosphere, which is also enhanced by our staff, who are renowned for being friendly and engaging, and our premium yet affordable product.
Why are all the venues based in London?
Back when Venn Street Records opened 10 years ago, Clapham was crying out for an operator that provided a varied live music schedule, accompanied by great-tasting drinks at an accessible price. It didn’t take long to realise there was ample opportunity to take this ‘neighbourhood bar offering’ into other London areas that were, and are, in need of a great night out.
Are there plans to open outside of the capital?
Yes, despite the directors’ lives being centred around the capital, expansion plans do involve other UK and European cities, as and when the right opportunities arise.
What has been the most challenging time since opening the first site?
Every venue throws up a new challenge, but the reoccurring issues for us are finding decent, well-trained staff who want a serious career in hospitality, as well as public authorities challenging new and existing licences.
What advice would you give aspiring multiple operators?
Patience. We don’t rush to open new venues for the sake of opening new venues. The location and the space has to be just right for us to get excited.
What is your biggest achievement?
Organically creating three amazing venues that our customers have a strong affinity with through the amazing nights they have experienced with us. With these three venues, we put on over 1,000 gigs a year, welcome up to 5,000 people through the doors each week, and give a stage to a roster of over 50 live bands – we are excited to continue to build on this as we grow.
What does the future of Rocket Leisure look like?
Our plan is to open two new sites in the next 12 months, one of those being Eastcheap Records in Monument later this year. As well as expanding in London, we’re looking into opportunities to open in ski resorts (Records on the Piste), popular beach holiday destinations (Records on the Beach) and flagship rooftops in key cities across Europe and further afield (Rooftop Records). All the while keeping our independent feel and not losing the fun out of what we do.
Name some big trends that are going on in the pub trade at the moment
Beyond the obvious – sustainability, plastic straws, pink gin, craft beer, etc – what’s capturing London’s attention is the trend of appealing to the ever-growing popularity of social media. Thanks to the immediacy of these online channels, something as simple as a cleverly placed neon sign, or seriously snap-able menu item, can make your venue instantly recognisable almost overnight. A lot
of operators are realising this and are opening venues based on how they look and operate for their appearance on social media.
What are the biggest issues for operators at the moment?
Increasing direct costs such as business rates, leasehold rents and product cost alongside a decreasing skilled labour pool, are all having a big impact when trying to sustain and grow any hospitality brand.