Piper Podcast Series: Alex Reilley of Loungers

Alex Reilley tells us about how a ‘Game of Thrones’ approach to business, which involved defining ‘the Cause’, enabled him and his team to turn Loungers from a small café-bar chain into a hugely successful nationwide brand.

‘The biggest challenge was dealing with the scale,’ reveals Alex in the second of our ‘7, 17, 70’ podcast interviews with leading entrepreneurs. ‘It’s all very Game of Thrones. You’re lined up on the battlefield and what the Cause does is conceptualise what we do and why we’re different. Protecting what made the business special was really important.’

Alex Reilley, co-founder and now chairman of Loungers, is the second subject in our ‘7, 17, 70’ series of podcast interviews. Piper has been helping to build and support brands for more than 30 years. ‘7, 17, 70’ refers to the three critical stages we believe businesses will encounter where a step change is required to fuel sustainable growth.

In a wide-ranging interview with broadcaster Mary Nightingale, Alex tells how he quit university after only five weeks to work full-time in a restaurant. He moved on to launch Loungers with two friends in Bristol in 2002 with ‘aspirations to turn over £4,500 a week’. Today the business has more than 100 sites and a turnover of £125m.

Alex describes the teething problems as Loungers hit 7 sites and ‘it became evident that the central structure of the business was lacking’. He adds: ‘Growth is very exciting but you get very hooked on it and realise you’ve got something on your hands that is quite volatile. 7 is the [stage with the] most sleepless nights, when you begin to realise you’re probably not as good as you think you are.’

Piper invested in Loungers in 2012, helping it more than quadruple its number of sites before selling its stake in 2016 in a transaction valuing the business at £137m.

The podcast series follows on from two successful books that Piper has published in recent years containing lessons from some of the UK’s best known entrepreneurs. Each podcast found on all major podcast providers.