Palace Pier makeover boosts takings

Posted On 01 Oct 2019 at 3:25 pm

Takings have risen 17 per cent at the Palace Pier in Brighton after a makeover for the bars and restaurant.

The company that owns the pier said: “The first full year of trading since the upgrade … saw revenue up 17 per cent year on year. Conference and events business was up 37 per cent year on year.”

Variable weather and trouble on the trains have also played their part in the pier’s fortunes over the past few years – and both were mentioned in a formal announcement to the London Stock Exchange last week.

The Brighton Pier Group, which also owns seven indoor mini-golf sites and 12 bars around the country, generated £32 million in revenues in the year to the end of June. This was up from £31.4 million the year before.

The pier accounted for £14.7 million – or almost half of all the money made by the wider business.

The company – like many others – publishes different measures of its profit. It said that group profit before tax – after a number of exceptional or one-off items of income and expenditure – had gone up from £2.3 million to £2.7 million.

Another measure of profit – known as EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) – had risen from £4.4 million to £4.8 million after one-off items of income and expenditure.

Brighton Pier Group chairman Luke Johnson said: “This financial year marks another milestone in the life of Brighton Palace Pier with the celebration in May 2019 of its 120th anniversary.

“This iconic structure is part of Brighton’s heart and we at the Brighton Pier Group are proud to be its current custodian.

“Since our acquisition of the pier in 2016, we have spent nearly £2 million maintaining its substructure and this year’s annual structural report has confirmed that the steelwork under the deck is in its best condition for many years.

“Our investment will ensure the future of this landmark for many years to come.

“Since the acquisition, we have invested a further £2.9 million on capital projects such as the full refit of the bars and catering facilities, soft play in the Dome, the new Dolphin Derby, new machines for the arcades, new children’s rides and new catering offers such as pizza, rice and noodles, frozen yogurts and new fish and chip takeaway shops for the busier periods.

“This year’s results show in particular the impact of last year’s investment in the upgrades to the Palm Court restaurant and Horatio’s Bar, with sales up 17 per cent versus the prior period.

“In addition, we have seen significant growth in the conference and events business with 27 additional events and £162,000 additional revenue versus the prior year.

Brighton Pier Group chairman Luke Johnson at the reopening of the Palm Court restaurant

“This result is impressive given the challenging weather last summer and train cancellations throughout most of the 2019 financial year.

“It was good to see the London to Brighton mainline upgrades complete on time at the start of May 2019.

“But the 30 days of closures, mostly over the weekends and key half-term periods, during the group’s 2019 financial year impacted the whole of Brighton.

“This disruption, coupled with poor weather (including over the key bank holiday weekend early in the last financial year) was disappointing.

“The Pier Division increased sales in its interior businesses (arcades and catering) by £600,000.

“However, its exterior businesses (rides and retail) were disrupted or closed by high winds and rain, reducing revenue from higher-margin offerings and resulting in a disproportionate effect on the division’s overall EBITDA (down £300,000 versus last year).”

Anne Ackord

Chief executive Anne Ackord said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the national tourist boards to the pier to celebrate the 120th anniversary of its opening.

“The pier has benefited hugely from the new investment in the transformed Horatio’s Bar and Palm Court restaurant but of equal importance has been the continued investment in the structure over the last six years.

“This continued investment will ensure that this landmark venue will be there for future generations to enjoy for another 120 years.

“Revenue for the Pier Division was £14.7 million (£14.5 million), up on the prior period by £200,000.

“The newly fitted bars and catering facilities combined have outperformed the prior year, with sales for Palm Court and Horatio’s Bar up 17 per cent versus the prior period, partly due to growth in the functions business and partly due to the closures for the refits during the prior period.

“The arcades were also up 3 per cent but across the rest of the pier (primarily from rides and retail) sales were down 5.3 per cent) versus the like period, hindered by poor weather and reduced numbers of visitors to Brighton resulting from a sustained period of weekend closures of the mainline railway from London.”

The company said that the Palace Pier offered “a wide range of attractions including two arcades (with over 300 machines) and 18 funfair rides” and “a variety of on-site hospitality and catering facilities”.

The pier is free to enter and, according to Visit Britain, is the fifth most popular free attraction in the country, with over 4.9 million visitors in 2018. This made it Britain’s most visited landmark outside London.

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    Any sighting of the Theatre which was taken away for “restoration” and has not been seen since?

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