Orchid Group on a bargain hunt to expand its estate

24 February 2010 by
Orchid Group on a bargain hunt to expand its estate

Pub and restaurant operator Orchid Group aims to boost its estate to 500, and has plans to double the number of its recently-reacquired Bar Room Bar venues.

Speaking to Caterer, Orchid founder and chief executive Rufus Hall said the company, which is currently the fifth-largest managed pub and restaurant company in the UK with 288 outlets, remained on the lookout for distressed assets.

Last year the company rescued 43 Premium Bars and Restaurants (PBR) venues from administration, including 13 Living Room sites, four Bel & The Dragon food-led pubs and three Prohibition bars. It also picked up 10 Bar Room Bar outlets in summer 2009, a brand it originally owned, after the Birmingham-based operator it sold them to for £20m in 2007 also called in the administrators.

Hall said that Bar Room Bar, whose food offering specialises in pizzas, would be expanded through a mixture of new acquisitions and converting some of the existing PBR outlets.

He said: "Bar Room Bar is performing very well and we are going to do more. We think that pizza is growing in popularity and I think we understate the quality of the offering - it is fresh ingredients and fresh dough.

"I think we could double the size of that estate using some of the PBR venues. And we're on the acquisition trail generally. I think that there are a lot of distressed pubs that would also work on that formula."

Hall added that he expected the company's estate, which also incorporates Oriental Restaurant Group, 50 Dragons venues (a mix between a traditional English pub and a Thai restaurant), and hundreds of unbranded pubs, to grow to around 500 outlets over the next few years.

"We don't want to be a Punch or Mitchells & Butlers with thousands of pubs or thousands of restaurants. We do things very differently and our modus operandi has always been around pubs and people. I know every pub and restaurant, and every manager. If we got so big that I didn't, I think we would lose what makes Orchid special," Hall said.

Orchid, which briefly went into administration itself in 2008 after buying 290 pubs from Punch close to the height of the property boom, is backed by private equity firm GI Partners. Food sales now account for 43% of all sales within the business.

Living Room MD to leave following acquisition by the Orchid Group >>

Orchid Group rescues 43 Premium Bars and Restaurants sites >>

Orchid buys 10 Bar Room Bars from administrators >>

Orchid Group rescued from administration >> By Neil Gerrard

E-mail your comments to Neil Gerrard here.

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