Hollywood Bowl revealed that it is to open a new London site as the chain threw open doors for the first time since Christmas expecting "strong demand" from families, and reported a lockdown-era loss.
The UK's largest ten-pin bowling operator, which floated in in 2016 and has 64 centres across the UK, also launched family-focused mini-golf offering Puttstars in March 2020 in a bid to disrupt the market.
On Monday the listed chain said it signed three new sites in the last six weeks, including a Puttstars for Harrow set to open later this year. It is in advanced negotiations for another 11 sites.
The company reported a £14.5 million pre-tax loss in the half year to April, down from £15.2 million profit in the same period the previous year. But finance chief Laurence Keen highlighted that the business, which was shuttered for 75% of the period, has £8.2 million in net cash and has been boosted by a £29.3 million equity raise in March that is set to fuel continued investment in the estate and "quality" new openings.
The chain has also been helped by "positive engagement" with landlords enabling strong cash management in the half, including "significant" rent write-offs for periods closed, Keen said.
Around 1,600 staff are starting back at work, and Keen told the Standard: "We're super excited about opening today and demand is there."
The CFO said the chain went for Harrow due to its large number of family-oriented residents and small existing leisure offering, and explained the group is targeting leisure destinations for new openings rather than cheap slots currently going in retail parks, as the firm wants to be "a destination" close to restaurants.
Chief executive, Stephen Burns, said the company is "emerging from this challenging year of continuous lockdowns in a strong position to capitalise on the opportunities to invest", and that the "strength of our pre- bookings for May gives us confidence that we can recover to pre-pandemic performance levels as families flock back" to indoor leisure.
Analysts at Investec said: "We expect trade to recover strongly, benefiting from continued investment over the last six months."
Shares were down 0.6%, or 1.5p, to 235p, in early trading.