Living Ventures Ltd
Living Ventures is the multi-brand restaurant and bar operator founded by Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts.
The first brand, Living Room, is a piano bar and restaurant concept that can be mixed and matched with a number of different modules. The add-ons include the high-energy lounge-style Mosquito bar, the more traditional Dining Room restaurant, and the non-fee-paying private members bars The Study and The Vampire Suite.
Other standalone brands developed by the company include Prohibition bars (which it sold in late 2005) and Grill and Bar restaurants.
In 2005, The Restaurant Group bought a 40% stake in Living Ventures and sold its ailing Est Est Est Italian restaurant chain to Living Ventures, which is revitalising the brand.
Managing director: Tim Bacon
Commercial and finance director: Jeremy Roberts
Operations director: Danny Fox
Director of bar operations: James Moroney
Executive chef director: John Branagan
Sales and marketing director: Paul Newman
Director of operations, Living Room: Rob Preston
Director of operations, Prohibition, Bar & Grill: Paul Moran
Director of operations, Est Est Est: Tim Moss
Group financial controller: John McNally
Director of operational development: Sue Crimes
Bacon and Roberts have ably demonstrated their entrepreneurial flair since leaving hotel and restaurant operator the Celebrated Group in 1996. Their Life Restaurants developed two restaurant chains– the six-strong Via Vita Mediterranean restaurants and two Life Cafés respectively– in partnership with brewers Marston and Whitbread respectively.
Living Ventures is a trendy, multi-level concept that has grown both rapidly and profitably. Conscious that private equity backer Bowmark was ready to exit its investment, Living Ventures started seeking a new partner in 2004 to fund its expansion plans. Although a planned merger with the three-strong Bank Restaurants group collapsed in July 2004, a solution appeared in April 2005 in the form of The Restaurant Group (TRG), with whom Living Ventures shares a chairman in Alan Jackson.
TRG was attracted by Living Ventures’ success, roll-out potential, unique atmosphere and creativity. The deal gave Living Ventures critical mass, access to Plc management skills and infrastructures – and the underperforming Est Est Est restaurant chain. .
With the help of a development chef from Tuscany and a £500,000 investment in a new look, Living Ventures unveiled the first revamped Est Est Est in June 2005 at Alderley Edge, Cheshire, where like-for-like sales soared by 174% in week one. The group plans to convert restaurants in Knutsford, Didsbury, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh to the new format by the end of the year.
Although Bacon says 2005 will be a year of consolidation, the group opened a new Living Room in Oxford in August and plans another for London’s Heddon Street in November. More will follow next year in Leadenhall Street in the City of London (in January) and in Cambridge.
Before then, the Hale Grill will replace the Manchester Est Est Est in September. Bacon says this will be the final prototype for the Grill format which will be applied to the first two sites in Smithfield and Liverpool.
Living Ventures also looks set expand its partnership with Niche Hotels to another two sites, although not necessarily with the Living Room brand.
In December 2005, the group was named the the 34th fastest-growing company in the UK in the Sunday Times top 100 thanks to an annual sales growth of 99.25% between 2001 and 2004.
“The addition of Est Est Est is a transformational deal for Living Ventures, providing great opportunity for the company to expand its product range and become even more food-led. We believe that we can redefine Est Est Est as an aspirational, high-quality brand. We will be focussed on delivering performance and on expanding an already successful business.”
Source: managing director Tim Bacon, March 2005
For the year to 31 March, 2005, Living Ventures reported a turnover of £28.5m (2004: £19.5m) and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) of £6.1m (2004: £2.2m).
For the year to March 2006, the group is forecasting sales of £47m and Ebitda of £10m.
Weekly sales average £46,500 at the Living Room and £27,500 at Prohibition bars. At Est Est Est, average weekly sales have grown from £17,000 to £20,000 and are expected to hit the high £20,000s when the revamp is complete.
Number of venues: 33 (12 Living Room, two Bar & Grills, 18 Est Est Est restaurants.
Living Room and add-ons: Birmingham, Chester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds (the Study, Mosquito, the Dining Room), Liverpool (Mosquito, the Vampire Suite), London, Islington (the Drawing Room), Manchester (the Dining Room, the Study), Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, York,
Bar & Grill: Smithfield, East London; Liverpool
Est Est Est: Alderley Edge, Cheshire; Bury; Chester; Didsbury; Edinburgh; Glasgow; Harrogate; Knutsford, Cheshire; Leeds (two); Liverpool; London (Chiswick, Islington, Wandsworth Common, Wimbledon); Heswall, Wirral; Manchester; Newcastle upon Tyne