Bill's posts £9.1m loss, but says turnaround has begun

By Finn Scott-Delany

- Last updated on GMT

Bill's posts £9.1m loss, but says turnaround has begun

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Bill's Restaurants made a £9.11m loss last year – but has returned to above market like-for-like sales growth across its estate following a major refurbishment programme.

Turnover at the Richard Caring-backed restaurant group was £175m for the 74 weeks to December 2018. Adjusted EBITDA was £9.88m, down 31.6% from £13.6m in the previous accounting period.

The losses relate to £10.3m in exceptional items, including £4.1m in impairment and property lease premiums, £2.5m in refurbishment costs and a £1.2m write off for an abandoned Bill’s to go concept.

Writing in a strategic report, head of finance James Lawrence said after recognising the continuing challenging trading climate, the board of directors opted in early 2018 to begin reinvesting in the estate.

After an initial three sites were trialed, followed by a further 10 refurbishments, by December the entire estate was trading ahead of the Coffer Peach Business Tracker. A further nine refurbishments were completed April to June 2019, and another five over the summer, bringing the total to 27 restaurants, around 40% of the estate by volume.

By August 2019, the company has traded for nine months ahead of the CGA Coffer Peach tracker.

Like for like sales in the first three quarters of 2019 across the total business have been up 8.8% on 2018, with the refurbished restaurants 'significantly ahead', it said. The company has spent around £12m on refurbishments so far, with a further £10m earmarked for the rest of the 78-strong estate throughout 2020.

Back in April this year the company reported like-for-like sales were up 12.2% across the group​in March 2019.

More recent trading figures confirm Bill’s has been performing ahead of the market, since the refurbishment programme. In September 2018, it was 6.1 percentage points (pp) behind Coffer Peach. By October, this had narrowed to 1.2pp, and by December Bill’s was 6pp ahead of a near flat market (0.5%).

Since then, the estate has barely dipped below 5% in like-for-like sales growth, peaking at 14% in July 2019.

Since December 2018, last 12-month (LTM) sales and EBITDA have grown steadily.

In December LTM sales were £120.7m, growing to £127.5m in September. During the same period EBITDA has grown from £5.5m to £8.8m.

In the refurbished estate, like for like sales growth is up by as much as 23% year on year.

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