Swindon-based pub operator and family brewer Arkell’s will continue its steady expansion, after investing in the company’s biggest new-build project to date last year.

Managing director George Arkell tells MCA that trading across the 95-strong pub estate has remained strong in recent years despite an unsteady consumer environment.

“People still want to get out to the pub, and we are definitely as busy in terms of trading as we were before Covid”, he says.

However, frustration lies in these profits being “wiped out” by inflation, Arkell adds.

High interest rates have equally created some cautiousness when it comes to expansion, although there are plans to add another pub to its estate next year.

“There are opportunities, and we wouldn’t want to not give them a go, but you have to be a little bit more careful. We’re not rushing. It is steady growth.”

Last year saw the business undertake its first new-build in a generation, with a £5m investment in The Strawberry Thief in Swindon’s Tadpole Garden Village.


Expansion will target growth in the business’s existing geography, to “fill in the gaps” across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Hampshire, where it operates a mix of managed and tenanted sites through a predominantly tied model.

Arkell says that the company is “always looking for new pubs” and has its eye on another one or two opportunities going forward.

“As a family business we don’t really need to set big expansion targets, which does give us longevity.

“We think going for the right place, and the right people works much better for us.”

Speaking on current challenges, the MD says high utility costs alongside food inflation have been a challenge for its pubs. However, the strategy has been to keep prices as tight as possible.

“We want customers to feel they can go to our pubs to have a beer and not have to fork out £10.

“We probably haven’t increased [prices] as much as we could, or should have done, but it has kept the pubs busy.

Maintaining a strong trading environment is also testament to the investment the business has put into its current estate.

Head Brewer Alex Arkell does not underestimate the impact of maintaining high-quality pub units on business.

“People want to go out for good experiences, good food and drink, and the atmosphere needs to be perfect. And the good pubs are still doing well”, he says.

A consolidation of the portfolio has seen the business create different ways to drive revenue, including the addition of new letting rooms, now sitting at 500 across all Arkells’ pubs.

“We’ve spent a lot of time since Covid, to make sure the pubs we’ve got are really sound, profitable businesses for our tenant operators”, says George Arkell.

This level of investment will remain a key priority in the coming year, with circa £3m pushed into the estate in 2023 alone.

Other key pillars of the business’s strategy are formed around reducing its environmental impact, with plans to invest further in electric vehicles and increase its solar panel usage at Arkell’s brewery.