Red Lion Holdings (RLH) has got a “really healthy pipeline” of sites for both its Red Mist Leisure and Grosvenor Pubs & Inns businesses, new group chief operating officer Mark Robson told MCA.

Red Mist has just completed on its 12th site – The Rose & Crown in Upper Farringdon, Hampshire – “and there are several other opportunities that we are looking at, some of which are under offer,” he added.

Speaking on the back of his appointment, the former managing director of Red Mist – which RHL acquired a majority stake in, in January this year – said it was “definitely looking to acquire other groups and we are in discussions with some people about that”.

RLH, led by former Busaba CEO Jason Myers and sector investor David Ramsay, has not been shy about the fact it is looking to expand, and is keen to benefit from the economies of scale gained by combining a collection of independent businesses together, “both in terms of operating efficiency but also in terms of its paper value”, explained Robson.

“It’s a difficult market and those sorts of deals are complex […] but we’d be really disappointed if we are not able to acquire, or invest heavily in, another group or two through the Red Lion vehicle,” he added.

Robson said the sweet spot in terms of the acquisitions would be businesses with between five and 20 sites, but that it certainly wouldn’t rule out a business with only two, or more than 20 – however he said it is not looking at business with 50+ sites.

The opportunities available at the moment are a bit of a mixed bag, according to Robson – and he believes there are some operators who are were considering selling up but are now sitting on their hands and waiting for a boom in summer trading in order to get a better price.

“The key strategy for us is to grow both brands over the next few years and we are well underway with that, both on a single site basis and on a group acquisition level,” he said.

One of the first things on his to do list is to hire some additional senior level staff in order to help RLH achieve its growth plans. In particular, he is looking to appoint a sales and revenue director and managing director for Grosvenor Pubs.

The business currently has four sites – its two most recent acquisitions (Hare & Hounds in Newbury, Berkshire and Crown of Crucis in Cirencester, Gloucestershire) are both currently closed for redevelopment and due to open in the autumn.

The Grosvenor business is more focused on inns, so RLH is looking more at coaching inns and slightly bigger sites with accommodation. “Those sites are probably harder to come by, but we are making some progress,” he said.

Robson added that both Red Mist and Grosvenor were now “holding hands a bit more”, and had started to share resources and best practice, with a lot of the infrastructure within the more mature Red Mist busines now being mapped across Grosvenor.

Speaking at the time of the acquisition of a majority stake in Red Mist, Ramsay said: “We believe there is an excellent opportunity for high quality boutique pub companies to come together under our RLH umbrella to receive necessary support and funds to accelerate growth, and also benefit from economies of scale and back office synergies, pooling expertise.

“RLH has very strong ambitions of bringing more groups to the Red Lion family, as well as continuing to acquire high quality individual pub assets.”