Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny spoke to MCA about the potential to return to the acquisition trail with The Stable, investment opportunities in the sites acquired from We Are Bar and the lessons learnt from the £6.3m acquisition of Dark Star earlier this year. He also discussed the evolution of the tenanted estate and initiatives to further develop its teams.
Emeny told MCA the company is looking “cautiously and selectively” at expansion opportunities for The Stable after two years away from the acquisition trail.
He said the 17-strong cider and pizza format had grown sales by 4% during the year and that with the company now 100% under Fuller’s control and head up by operations director David Gough it was primed for its next chapter.
He said: “We are pleased that we paused the expansion programme in 2016, when we could see the likelihood of overheating in the casual dining market. We haven’t opened a site for two years but if we identified the right opportunity we certainly not averse to growing the brand.”
Emeny said that after a busy year for acquisitions the company still had the desire and the firepower to make further purchases.
He said the four We Are Bar sites acquired last month would undergo refurbishment over the next year, with the total price – for acquisition and redevelopment – at around £5.3m. The three Jamies Wine Bar sites – Fleet Place, Creechurch Street and London Bridge – and The Saint in Paternoster Square, will all be rebranded.
He said: “The sites we cherrypicked from the We Are Bar estate were chosen for their potential. They are great locations and we are excited by the opportunities there.”
This morning’s full-year results confirmed that the acquisition of Dark Star Brewery earlier this year cost £6.3m. Emeny said he saw significant opportunities for the Dark Star brands, specifically Hophead, which he said enhanced the core Fuller’s portfolio, with a craft alternative to traditional session beers.
On learnings from the Dark Star acquisition, he said: “They have a great culture within the business and have the ability to develop new products quickly. That’s something we can learn from.”
Emeny highlighted the success of the new turnover agreement in the Tenanted Inns estate, which he said had broadened the range of potential tenants.”
At the year end, there were 13 tenants on the agreement and Emeny said he expected to convert a further 15 this year.
He said: “This agreement was really important because we didn’t feel we were finding enough investment opportunities on the old model. It wasn’t giving us a good enough incentive to invest in growth areas of the market such as craft beer, wine and food.”
Fuller’s has continued to invest in developing its teams, including the rollout of its Fuse communications platform and the launch of a new in-kitchen training programme.