Tavistock Leisure, the Sunderland-based bar, restaurant and hotel operator, has announced plans to rollout a chain of gastropubs and restaurants via a “franchise-style” scheme. The company plans to have 10 outlets in operation by mid-2012 under its Pub Partnerships scheme and is currently looking to recruit tenants. It currently operates 10 sites in the north east outside of the partnerships scheme. Under the scheme, Tavistock finds the freehold properties and changes them to one of two templates: an English-style gastropub or the Tavistock Italia Retro Restaurant, specialising in contemporary Italian food. Tavistock refurbishes the sites to fit the appropriate brand; refurbishment costs are expected to vary from around £150,000 to £250,000. The company deals with the first stage of staff recruitment, although the tenant gets the final say. Tenants pay a £5,000 deposit upfront and must commit to buying all draught products from Tavistock; the company said it can offer discounts on wholesale drinks prices, as well as other products such as food. Tavistock takes 10% of turnover, net of VAT, for the duration of their tenancy. Five-year rolling tenancies are typically offered. Mark Hird, managing director of Tavistock Leisure, said: “Times are hard for the UK leisure industry at the moment, with many publicans being forced out of their businesses due to tax increases, falling sales and what the Campaign for Real Ale calls a general lack of support for licensees. “The Pub Partnerships scheme has been specifically designed to provide new opportunities for people in that position and will give tenants the chance to operate independently, but within the safety net of a company with a proven track record.” Two trial sites have been in operation since the start of the year: the Tavistock Italia Retro Restaurant at Stanhope Road, South Shields, and the Plough at Burnopfield, County Durham. The latter site is to turnover £750,000 in its first year, said Hird. The next site, the Board Inn at Birtley, County Durham, is to open later this month, with a fourth, the Plough at nearby Haswell, due to begin trading in January. The plan is to operate 10 sites by mid-2012. Hird expects to spend between £150,000 and £350,000 on outlets, which will be located outside town and city centres. Hird expects to focus on pubco disposals. “There are some good properties for very good prices,” he said.

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