East Anglian hospitality business Chestnut sees significant growth opportunity in the region and is finding new ways to monetise its distribution as it continues to expand.

“We really are zeroing in around East Anglia at the moment”, MD and founder Philip Turner tells MCA.

The group’s latest acquisition, The Old Bridge in Huntingdon, brings the portfolio to 17 and is part of Chestnut’s plans to extend its footprint slightly further west.

“We know that we’ve got brand familiarity west of the A1, but we don’t really have any properties in that direction.”

Turner adds that the build of the business is not just about acquiring new properties, but that it also has a sharp eye on new ways to monetise its brand.

After acquiring Old Bridge Wines through its latest deal, and recently wholesaler Peter Graham Wines, it will accelerate plans to develop a retail offering across the region.

“We have a lot of people who come to our properties to drink wine and they like what we do.

“We see an opportunity in growing that wine part of our business as an overall part of our Chestnut offering.

Turner says there is also an opportunity to incorporate The Old Bridge’s event expertise into a new arm for the business.

“I think if we import that skill set, then we can almost create an events business within ours.

“This is not just about Chestnut coming into your business and telling you what we want to do. This is also about us coming into your business and learning more about what you’ve done”, he adds.

The Old Bridge 2

Chestnut’s Q1 trading update reported an 15% increase in like-for-like sales vs Q1 last year as well as food sales up 14% across the portfolio.

It is yet to see the impact of high interest rates, says Turner, adding that he fully expects to see this “trickle down” going into the winter months and is adequately preparing for this with a focus on value product.

Overall, Turner says “we’ve got a lot more discipline around how we operate the business.”

It has migrated its entire tech platform to Zonal which Turner says gives greater transparency into specific data points and is “allowing operators to operate smarter.”

Looking forward, Turner sees plenty of opportunity for further acquisitions and says it is key that the group maintains its reputation as a good buyer.

“Higher debt costs are clearly creating stress within businesses. Consequently, we’re already starting to see several opportunities.

“We’re trying to engage with owners as much as we can. That’s important to us that we maintain our reputation and manage the legacy that a previous owner has.”