29 December 2017

Loungers was founded in 2002 by a trio of long-standing friends, Dave Reid, Alex Reilley and Jake Bishop. Having spent years in the restaurant and bar trade – not to mention just as many propping up the bars in Bristol (all of course in the name of research) – they decided it was time they did their own thing.

The motivation was simple and very selfish; they wanted somewhere to drink themselves.

The group sitting on the sofas underneath the paintings in the Corn Street, Bristol branch of Cosy Club could be friends catching up or holding a serious business meeting. That’s precisely the point behind the Loungers business model. Whether you come to socialise, do business or indeed both, you can enjoy a coffee, a drink or some great food as your mood takes you.

The four gentlemen sitting around the sofa are in fact Jake Bishop, Loungers’ commercial director, Mark Shepherd, corporate partner at Burges Salmon, Nick Collins, Loungers’ chief executive and Alex Reilley, Loungers’ co-founder and chairman.

Thanks to this group, you have the opportunity to enjoy the hospitality at a Lounge or Cosy Club.

“We talk about the Lounges being democratic, ageless and classless and see the Cosy Club as the slightly more glamorous sibling. Lots of people refer to them being a third space and how the atmosphere changes across the day. They are very flexible, so can be used precisely as our customers want to. “It’s a home from home,” explains Nick.

“We’re opening a new Lounge or Cosy Club at the rate of around one per fortnight at the moment,” continues Nick. “We’ve taken a model that worked in our original Bristol market and expanded it across the UK. Our growth has been impressive, but it has never been at the expense of the customer or the principles of hospitality and quality on which the business was founded.”

Mark picks up the story: “It’s been a delight to be there for Loungers at various stages in its growth. We’ve advised on day-to-day operational matters, incentive schemes and on milestone private equity investments to support its growth, together winning Insider’s South West Deal of the Year in 2012 for Piper Private Equity’s highly successful investment. Then we advised on the subsequent investment that Lion Capital made into the business in 2016, which brought its experience in leisure facilities. The business today is both familiar in format and yet also very different from the one on which we first advised in 2009.”

There’s something quintessentially British about a slightly slower paced business meeting in a lounge context and in the days of increasingly flexible, remote, and agile working, that is a model that appears to be attractive to business people of all generations.

Continues Alex: “As we were accelerating our rate of openings, we recognised very early on that people and culture were the most important aspects of the business and nurturing and evolving this side of the business was paramount to our continued success.”

“You know, the advice hasn’t been just one way,” says Mark, rather tongue-in-cheek. “I remember in the early days of working for Loungers. They used to come into our offices, ignore our biscuits and bring their own more ‘interesting’ ones. We took the hint.”

“It proves you listen to your clients,” smiles Jake.

What others say...

We’ve taken a model that worked in our original Bristol market and expanded it across the UK.
Nick Collins, Chief Executive, Loungers

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