Urban & Country Leisure Ltd (UCL) has today announced as part of the 2011/2012 strategic review, that it plans to invest £20m over the next three years with the roll out of its highly successful “THE LAZY COW” (TLC) boutique hotel and restaurant blueprint.
The announcement comes after a strategic review of the UCL estate, which currently operates fourteen country pub/restaurants across the UK. Taking into account current market/economic conditions and hospitality trends, UCL predicts a downturn in the growth of the country pub sector in 2011/2012. Accordingly the Midlands based company is refocusing its acquisitions policy. The company had originally earmarked a £15m expansion plan last year for its country pub operations, which will now be reversed. The company will re direct and increase funding into the roll out of its TLC boutique hotel and restaurant blueprint along with fewer and more selective country pub acquisitions
UCL has also revealed that it is actively seeking key sites in major cities and market towns throughout the UK for its TLC brand including Bath, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Solihull, Newbury, Poole Lincoln and Henley On Thames.
The decision comes after the phenomenal trading success and launch of its first “THE LAZY COW” boutique hotel and restaurant which opened in November of last year in the historic town of Warwick. Already tipped by The Sunday Times Travel Hot List “Where To Party”, UCL has invested £1.5m to transform the former Globe Hotel into a sixteen room boutique hotel and quality dining experience, recruiting head chef David Philpot who was previously senior chef at the renowned London eateries Le Caprice, The Ivy and head chef at Soho House in New York.
Despite tough trading conditions in the sector with severe weather conditions hampering trade in December, it still achieved strong and impressive trading results. In the first nine weeks of trading, the Warwick unit was consistently 97% over its weekly budget and for the nine week period was £100k over its trading budget. With a strong performance in its food and wet sales, takings have been in excess of £50k per week with further room for growth in its room occupancy.
UCL, the Midlands based pub/restaurant management operator and owner, run by hospitality entrepreneur ROSS SANDERS, has earmarked £20m of private funding to launch fifteen more “TLC” units over the next three years. Funding will come through private investment raised through its joint venture with Innventive Property Holdings, chaired by former investment banker Sir Aubrey Brocklebank (6th Bt).
Commenting on the expansion plans and strategic review ROSS SANDERS said; “We are delighted with the trading results for The Lazy Cow at Warwick. Despite the continuing tough economic trading conditions and the recent severe weather, these results far exceeded our budgets and expectations.
The success of the TLC brand is focussed on the fact that we have an exceptional product, quality offering and strong location. We are striving to establish TLC as a chain of intimate, stylish boutique hotels that have a strong accent on unique, quality accommodation, stylish interiors and exceptional food and drink offerings.”
He continued, “Whilst our expansion plans will be aggressive with the TLC brand, we will be following a much slower and more cautious acquisition policy for other country pub/restaurants in the 2011/2012 trading period, focussing on more intense and detailed viability on the demographics. We predict a much slower growth in this sector based on the tough trading conditions, which we see continuing through until 2012. Increased VAT will have an impact on peoples leisure and hospitality spend, along with the “ripple effect” of such things as fuel costs and travelling to out of town country pub destinations. The country pub restaurants that will not suffer will be the one’s who have a strong local community supporting them and those who are not dependant on travelling footfall and trade. We believe that the stronger performance will come from brands with a quality offering in town and city based locations.”