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With £2,000, I’d buy this growing mid-cap and sell this small-cap challenger

To my eye, the full-year results report from small-cap bars operator Revolution Bars Group (LSE: RBG) makes grim reading. The firm runs 76 premium bars in the UK, branded Revolution and Revolucion de Cuba, which is fine when the concept clicks with customers and when they are flush with disposable cash to spend. However, fashionable bars can go out of fashion and customers of such concept set-ups often decide to pile into the next trendy bar that opens up down the street instead, without a second thought.

Can the concept endure?

So, I wonder whether Revolution Bars Group has the legs to make a decent long-term investment. Today’s report doesn’t soothe my doubts. Although sales rose 8.7% compared to the equivalent period last year, the increase is down to the opening of six new sites. Like-for-like sales actually declined by 0.6%, which suggests a less vibrant outcome than the headline figure would lead us to believe. In fact, adjusted earnings per share tumbled 11% and the directors put a brave face on things by holding the final dividend flat.

What really worries me is the long list of justifications for the poor performance such as the uncertainty following corporate activity, management change, extremes of weather and the FIFA World Cup.” Ok, the company was subject to a takeover offer that fell through and key management including the CEO quit, but if the customers were packing the bars through the period, I reckon sales and profits would have been more robust, whatever was going on in the back rooms.

I’m wary that fickle customers may already be growing tired of the firm’s concept, so, despite my bullish article earlier in the year, I’ve changed my mind. I can no longer see the point of taking the risk of buying shares in Revolution Bars Group and would much rather go for a proven winner like mid-cap pub operator JD Wetherspoon (LSE: JD).

Piling them in

The Wetherspoon concept has far wider appeal and more or less operates at the other end of the scale from the ‘premium’ approach taken by Revolution Bars. In fact, Wetherspoon bases its business model on selling ‘cheap’, and I think a value proposition like that is far more suitable for a long-term investment horizon because the concept is unlikely to out of fashion.

One of the things I like about the firm’s annual reports is the way the firm lists its annual performance right from the beginning of operations in a similar way that Warren Buffett does with his firm Berkshire Hathaway. It makes interesting reading. In 1984 the firm turned over £818,000 for a pre-tax loss of £7,000, and in 2018 it saw revenue of almost £1.7bn and made a pre-tax profit of more than £107m.

Since the firm came to the stock market, shareholders have been rewarded with multi-bagging gains, and I think there’s more to come in the years ahead. Wetherspoon strikes me as a decent bet for long-term growth and I think the stock is well worth your research time right now.

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Kevin Godbold has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.