Q&A with Jon Birtles, Senior Acquisitions Surveyor
Name: Jon Birtles
Role: Senior Acquisitions Surveyor
Who are Loungers?
We are an award-winning hospitality business founded in 2002, operating three brands across England and Wales currently, Cosy Club, Lounge and Brightside. We floated on AIM in 2019.
A Lounge is an all-day neighbourhood café/bar offer combining elements of a restaurant, the British pub and coffee shop culture. The sites are characterised by informal, unique interiors with an emphasis on a warm, comfortable atmosphere, often described as a “home from home”. The Lounge estate has a consistent look and feel but each Lounge is individually designed, named and tailored to it’s building and local area. Meaning no two sites are the same.
Our Cosy Clubs are more a formal, premium, restaurant/bar offer typically located in City centre locations and large regional centres. We cater for the occasion-led demographic and combine an all-day offer with theatrical flair which provides a genuine wow-factor coupled with our love for heritage buildings and prime locations. Each Cosy Club is unique, with elements often inspired by the building itself, its regional context and the local community.
Brightside is our new roadside dining concept which launched earlier this year. Brightside is bringing proper hospitality back to roadside dining. Inspired by childhood road trips of days gone by, where the highlight of the journey was a stop at aroadside restaurant. The inspiration behind Brightside’s interiors are driven by nostalgic memories of going to Little Chef and Happy Eater in the past.We’ve tried to capture the nostalgia of family road trips and the excitement of finding somewhere to stop off that was a bit of a treat.
How many locations do Loungers currently have?
We have 231 sites in total currently split between 35 Cosy Clubs (with a further site due to open in Oxford later this year), 194 Lounges and 2 Brightsides.
For a Lounge we thrive in good quality suburban High Street locations, market towns and we love waterside locations with good footfall. Basically anywhere there is a healthy demographic and community to enable us to trade right throughout the daytime and evening. Typically we consider towns with an immediate catchment of 15,000 persons, but there will always be exceptions such as those locations boosted by year-round tourism or market towns which offer the main retail provision for a wider catchment. Increasingly we are also considering out of town retail park locations where there is a cluster of retailers and ideally some existing F&B or other evening activity.
Our Cosy Clubs work best in busy city centre locations or regional destinations where there are high levels of footfall throughout the day boosted by a vibrant wet-led offer during the evening. Whilst we absolutely love grand period properties, we work equally as well anchoring new developments and shopping centres as we can bring a real point of difference to these schemes.
For Brightside, we are targeting busy A-Road locations with a minimum of 15,000 vehicle movements per day. We want to be on routes that have an element of tourist traffic to them (into Devon, Cornwall,South Wales etc) and like to be adjacent to infrastructure such as EV charging or petrol stations.
How many new locations are you targeting?
We are targeting 35+ openings per annum across the three brands.
Lounge – 3,500 sq ft + .We can work with a minimum 2,200 sq ft on ground floor providing there is good quality usable accommodation on first floor level or basement.
Cosy Club – 5,500 sq ft+. Needs to be either a statement historic building or a prime spot in an external scheme. We have a number of good performing sites which operate at first floor level providing we have a well-located ground floor entrance and lobby area.
Brightside – 3,500 sq ft +. We are seeking development sites to provide new build units or existing roadside units which we can convert. Typically we require 40-50 parking spaces (which can include EV) alongside our unit.
We ideally want some external seating either to the front or rear of the unit, in some locations we even have a roof terrace! Our amazing look and feel teams, as well as providing some incredible internal fitouts, can work wonders with external spaces that really enhance the visibility and offer of any unit. Otherwise its fairly standard shell spec requirements including utilities and also an extract route as well as a suitable location for our bins.
Whilst we love historic buildings of note we can also make a newly developed shell unit look equally as impressive. We invest significantly in our fit-outs to make every space look amazing and unique.
Use as a café/bar restaurant under Class E in England and Class A3 in Wales.
Freehold or Leasehold?
Leasehold – Typically a 15 year lease term.
Recent openings or new locations in the pipeline?
When we open our new site in Harlow on 12th July, that will be the 30th new opening since I joined the business in late September! That rate is only getting faster and in the next two months we have Lounge openings including; Deal, Morpeth,Thame and Louth, a Cosy Club site to open in Oxford and a third Brightside site opening near Honiton. We are not slowing down!
Which occupier do you admire and why? We seem to be running into them more and more as we open more sites around the M25 but I am always relieved to see a Gails Bakery when I arrive in town. Its usually an indicator of a quality catchment and I know I am going to get a great quality coffee, and usually a great snack too!
What are the main challenges you face when acquiring new property? Whilst our requirement is very broad in terms of the locations we will consider, finding that perfect property in a town that ticks all the boxes and caters for our all day offer is still tricky. There are some towns where we know there is only one or two units that will work for us so it is a case of being patient, an approach which has paid off numerous times previously..
What is your favourite building?
Its been hard work recently but its still Tottenham’s stadium at White Hart Lane. There aren’t many better places to spend an afternoon or evening!
Favourite retail or leisure destination?
I was fairly late to the party in terms of discovering it but we’ve had a couple of really great experiences at BoxPark Wembley recently with the family, great food, drinks and genuinely something for everyone. Can’t wait for the one in Bristol to open!
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel – 07500123102