News & Analysis

Make mine a Money Shot please barman! Dragon's Den star's Nightcap goes for gold

Andrew Saks, Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Sarah Willingham is a well-known figure in British popular culture.

The entrepreneur, whose personal fortune amounts to just over £12 million, is a regular presenter on prime-time television, having appeared on various TV programmes, including Daybreak, This Morning, The Wright Stuff and Sky News.

Perhaps best known for her regular slot as a 'Dragon' on BBC Television's Dragon's Den from the thirteenth series which began airing in July 2015, Ms Willingham is no stranger to sharing her story of success with a mainstream audience.

Whilst the majority of her televised efforts focused on her interest in the restaurant and hospitality industry, things are very different today compared to the mid 2010s when Ms Willingham's restaurant-related success story was beamed into living rooms across the country.

In 2010, Ms Willingham invested in the London Cocktail Club which is a well known chain that is omnipresent in Central London. The first cocktail bar opened in 2011 on Goodge Street, London, and in February 2012 the London Cocktail Club added its second cocktail bar on Shaftesbury Avenue, followed by a third n Great Portland Streetin  2013. There are now eight bars with their latest having opened in Bristol in September 2018.

She was a restaurant inspector and investor on three series of Raymond Blanc's The Restaurant and as an independent investor on the Sky television series Cooks to Market, however perhaps her most successful venture has been Nightcap, which is a publicly listed cocktail bar company.

It would be very easy to assume that the past year would have been somewhat disastrous for Nightcap, given the lockdowns that have crippled the entire business environment, and with forced closures of all of Nightcap's locations, the assumption that shareholder nervousness may have set in would be a fair guess.

It hasn't however, and Ms Willingham has managed to steer the company through the most challenging of times.

Nightcap was established primarily as an investor in drinks-led business. The firm was launched to acquire and organically grow existing firms in that sector, and roll them out nationally.

Nightcap admits that there have been large parts of the hospitality industry that have been suffering from the burden of expensive rents and high levels of capital expenditure, discount offerings, increased food prices and a shift to home delivery, all of which have been accelerated by lockdowns, however the interesting dynamic is that shares are on the up.

The company has said today that its management team is 'travelling around the UK looking for new properties' as the group continues to take advantage of the crisis to expand its stable of bars.

Revenues rose 92% in the last three weeks since the reopening of indoor hospitality compared to the same period in 2019, before the lockdowns were mandated, with like-for-like sales up 53%.

According to analysts today, the performance across its 19 bars in London, Bristol and Birmigham was well ahead of its expectations, especially given that the bars have 'restricted capacity' due to social distancing requirements.

Nightcap has been engaged in an active mergers and acquisitions drive recently, having purchased Adventure Bar Group which owns top venues in Birmingham and London, and sales at the newly acquired bars have set an all-time high of over £520,000 which is 96% higher than the 2019 figures.

Today, Nightcap stock is up 11.96% at 24.85p per share compared to 21.6p yesterday.

Bucking the expectations of many, especially considering that thre are towns across the UK in which many restaurants and bars will not be reopening, Nightcap has confirmed that it is in legal negotiations with many potential acquisition targets.

For serial investor Sarah Willingham, it seems everything is a buyer's market.

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