Marston’s Inns & Taverns, the company’s managed division, is planning to spend more than £50m on a m ajor expansion of its accommodation, writes Paul Charity. It is in negotiations over around a dozen greenfield sites where it wants to build modern versions of the traditional coaching inn. The company is aiming to build venues that offer a Tavern Table pub, but also have integral accommodation offering around 40 rooms. Each site is likely to cost £4m to £5m to build — bringing the cost of this part of its investment plan to upwards of £40m. Planning consent has been given for the first two sites — in Weybridge, Cornwall, and Wellington, Telford, Shropshire. The company is also in the process of upgrading its existing 800 rooms in a £6m investment that is due to be complete in August this year — it’s currently around 60% through the programme. Its 50 pubs that provide the improved accommodation are being tagged Marston’s Inns — and now have their own website, The Red Lion in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, for example, has seen a £1.5m investment that has seen all rooms improved with a modern makeover that includes plasma screens, high-quality bathrooms and top-quality bed linen. Marston’s Inns and Taverns has identified a further potential 300 rooms within its existing estate. It wants to have 2,000 rooms within the next five years. Marston’s Inns and Taverns commercial director Colin Sadler said the aim was to provide accommodation that was “the next best thing to home”. He added: “Our offer is about characterful pubs with rooms — a less clinical offer than you find in major budget hotel chains. “In the past, customers may have been wary of the variability of what they might find in pub accommodation. We want to offer customers the consistency they seek.” Early results show occupancy levels have increased by 30% at sites where Marston’s has completed room upgrades.