The boss of Loungers has criticised chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s decision to not extend business rates relief to larger firms, describing it as a “cruel blow”.
Speaking to City A.M, the chief of the casual dining chain, Nick Collins, said: “It’s going to add to the inflationary pressure, at a time when hospitality really struggled with the cost of living crisis.
“To receive that inflation uplift with business rates was a cruel blow.”
Last week, Hunt handed a £4.3bn business rates relief package that included an extension of the 75 per cent rate relief schemes for another year – but only for smaller retailers and leisure groups.
This means that a host of bigger business groups – including Loungers – will see their rates bill rise 6.7 per cent next April in line with inflation.
However, Loungers, which also owns both the Lounges and Cosy Club restaurant and bar brand, has managed to weather the economic well, posting a 23.6 per cent rise in revenues in the half year.
During the term, adjusted EBITDA also reached £23.9m, up from 23.6 per cent on last year’s figures.
Collins has chalked the firm’s success in a time of economic upheaval to its “all day community based offer”.
“We are making sure that we represent great value for money and we’re doing that right from nine o’clock in the morning, right the way through to 11 or 12 o’clock at night and competing with coffee shops, restaurants and pubs.”
The group, which has over 200 sites across England and Wales, also said that it plans to recruit staff members to fill 1,000 new roles across the UK’s local high streets in 2024, as part of its growth strategy.
In the last two years the group has opened 59 new sites, with 39 per cent of openings in former vacant retail stores such as former Topshop’s and Argos sites.
Loungers said it is targeting 600 Lounges sites and 65 Cosy Clubs around Britain over the coming years.
An HMT spokesperson said: “We have taken one third of properties out of paying business rates altogether and the Autumn Statement was unashamedly pro-business.
“Making full expensing permanent will help companies invest for less, while our £4.3 billion business rates package will support cafés, pubs and other small businesses to grow across the country.”