The Restaurant Group (TRG) plans to near double the number of Brunning & Price pubs following its £175m recapitalisation, chief executive Andy Hornby has told MCA.

The pub division currently numbers 78, with an ambition to reach around 150 sites in the next six or seven years.

Hornby said the ability to expand the business, which is led by MD Mary Willcock, to that kind of scale, would not have come about if not for the pandemic.

The bulk of the growth will come from pushing the business out geographically. It currently has a strong presence in the North West and South East, outside the M25, so will target areas like the East Midlands, East Anglia, Yorkshire, the North East and South West of England.

Recently named Investor of the Year at MCA’s Retailers’ Retail Awards, Hornby said TRG had concentrated its investments in several areas during the pandemic: mostly notably in delivery, including delivery-only kitchens for Wagamama, as well as growing its pubs business.

“On the back of the recapitalisation, we are now doing a really serious site expansion for Brunning & Price, which we did not have pre-pandemic,” he said.

TRG undertook a £175m capital raise in March this year, as well as renegotiating its debt facilities.

“The confidence to think that it’s the right thing to do for Brunning & Price…I would say that has all come on the back of the pandemic,” he said, adding that the demand from customers to get out to pubs since restrictions were eased was certainly there, despite the fact its venues appeal to an older demographic.

Hornby added that the share placing it did in March – which was four and a half times oversubscribed – demonstrated the strong backing it had from its existing shareholders, and that the right thing to do is to “stick to our knitting and get on and do it”.