Boxpark CEO Roger Wade has said the post-lockdown property market offers a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to expand.
The founder of the food and leisure park concept told CityA.M. it was the “best time to expand” in London as there had been a “major clear out” of hospitality businesses and many empty spaces available.
There are currently three Boxpark ‘eat, drink, play’ sites in London, in Shoreditch, Wembley and Croydon.
A premium version of the Boxpark concept is to open in Bristol, with a Box Hall beer and music hall concept, in summer 2022.
The company plans to roll out future Box Hall sites in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds while “always constantly” looking for additions to the Boxpark portfolio.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand in an affordable and controlled way,” Wade said.
The Boxhall venues will involve small, exisiting sites, compared to the shipping container Boxpark venues.
However, hospitality and leisure bosses have learned “big lessons” during the pandemic and Wade said businesses must not be built on a “house of cards”.
“People have got to look long and hard at his idea of over leveraging businesses with debt and expanding. You’ve got to expand in a logical, more considered and slower approach. It doesn’t have to be expansion for expansion’s sake.”
“Traditionally rent has been so high and stifled businesses,” Wade added. “It’s a new status quo [post-lockdown] where landlords and tenants work together in partnership.”
Boxpark traders were offered full rent discounts for the period they were forced to close, resulting in 95% occupancy across the three sites presently.
“There have been a few casualties but they have been replaced by new tenants coming in.”
A predominantly young customer base has returned to Boxpark’s trio of sites in “waves”, the CEO said.
“It’s been particularly difficult for them as they haven’t been as susceptible to Covid as older age groups but have had the same restrictions. We are social animals and we crave social interaction and being in a community. We don’t want to be locked in our rooms all day, connected to Zoom.”
The business has brought in three additional competitive socialising brands including the batting cage operators Sluggers, axe throwing experience Bad Axe and Pop Golf.
“It’s about creating a perfect night out,” Wade added.