Top 100: Alex Reilley, Loungers
Overall ranking: 33 (new entry)
Restaurateur ranking: 9 (new entry)
What we think Reilley is no longer overseeing the day-to-day running of Loungers, having handed the reins over to chief executive Nick Collins, but there is no denying the influence he has had - and continues to have - over the direction of the business.
Perhaps the company's single most effective weapon is its ability to fly under the radar. While it has grown to a size that, at least in terms of number of sites, rivals the larger casual-dining chains, ask customers and they are likely to believe that their local Lounge is an independent business. To an extent they are right - each has its own name and distinct identity - but Reilley has been clever to ensure that the scale of Loungers has remained relatively unknown, while simultaneously not being ashamed of the fact that it is becoming a big business.
Reilley, winner of the Pub and Bar Award at the Cateys in 2014, also deserves plaudits for recognising the value of locations that comparable operators simply wouldn't have touched with a barge pole.
In a recent interview with The Caterer, Reilley took great pride in pointing out that the Lounge in Keynsham, Somerset, was the company's third-best-performing venue. "The nice thing for us as a business is that we are more often than not completely surprised ourselves when certain sites just charge off like a train and never look back," he said.
The company has ambitions to go much further. Lion Capital bought a majority stake in the business at the end of 2016, valuing it at £137m, and both Reilley and Collins have talked in terms of being able to grow Loungers to 400 sites, although the precise timescale for that is not defined. Regardless, Loungers' and Reilley's impact on the hospitality sector looks set to increase.
Loungers' turnover passes £90m mark >>
The Caterer Interview: Alex Reilley and Nick Collins >>
Alex Reilley: Government should take hospitality seriously to avert recruitment crisis >>
You need to be a premium member to view this. Subscribe from just 99p per week.
Already subscribed? Log In