Star Pubs & Bars is to invest £42m in the upgrade of its estate this year, with more than a quarter of its estate to benefit from its annual capex programme.

Around 660 pubs in the Heineken-owned pub company’s estate will see some form of investment in them, with 137 pubs to see +£125k invested in a makeover.

Star said the move played a key part in its ongoing drive to help its pubs build back business after the lockdown and restrictions of the pandemic, and brings its total investment in improvements to its pub estate to £115m since Covid hit.

Given the new normal of hybrid working, the pub company said it will focus spend on suburban locations and those on high streets near residential neighbourhoods.

The revamps will reflect two long-term trends that have been accelerated and amplified by the pandemic – pubgoers’ increasing demand for premiumisation and outdoor socialising. Schemes will be individually designed to suit each pub and its location.

Many of the upgrades will therefore include external improvements, such as the addition of festoon lighting, heaters and covers.

Lawson Mountstevens, managing director, Star Pubs & Bars, said: “People have stayed closer to home over the last two years due to the pandemic and have turned to their local for the kind of experience they’d previously have travelled to a city centre, restaurant or bar to find.

“They don’t want to turn back time: they expect better quality including food and specialty drinks – such as cocktails – that are harder to recreate at home. It’s the same with gardens. Sitting outside at the pub has become a new occasion and, if the outside space is good enough, customers will wrap up to enjoy it even in the winter months.

“Outdoor facilities also remain important for those who are still cautious about going out as the UK learns to live with Covid.”