Julian Everard, the sixth generation family member from Leicestershire brewery and pub operator Everards, is working with managing director Stephen Gould with a view to eventually succeeding his father Richard as chairman of the business.

Julian Everard, who was in the Army for five years, and is currently undertaking an MBA at London Business School, joined the Everards board as a non-executive director late last year.

Gould told MCA he had been mentoring Julian for a number of years, alongside Julian’s sister Charlotte who has also joined the board, in preparation for them to eventually take over the running of the family business.

Gould said: “In due course, Julian will succeed Richard as chairman. I’ve been working very closely with Julian and Charlotte for last eight years, coaching and mentoring and preparing them to take over the family business in due course.

“Given everything that’s going on at Everards, it made sense to have them join us on the board, so they’re part of the decision making process, shaping the future, and they’re doing a great job.”

Meanwhile Gould said he hoped to acquire new commercial property, for the licensed and unlicensed estate, in the coming months.

He said there was greater competition to acquire pubs, with national pub companies shifting their approach, which had encouraged Everards to think creatively about its own approach, with initiatives such as Project William.

He said: “Acquiring pubs has become more challenging, which is a compliment to the national operators, who compared to a few years ago have stronger balance sheets, and a broader minded approach to asset management, and therefore there are less pubs that we would normally buy on the market.”

The regional operator acquired its first Project William site in two years recently, a former NatWest Bank site in Stoke on Trent, which it bought the freehold of, and plans to relaunch as all day café bar with Titanic Brewery as a tenant.

Gould said: “It’s been more challenging to find the pubs we want, so we’re excited about exploring this area more. Project William has worked really well for us.”

He said the business would draw on Project William, which sees it go into partnership with smaller breweries, for its plans to open a 6,000sq ft beer hall in its new brewery headquarters Everards Meadows.

Gould said the original plan had been to open a new-build pub in the site, which is currently under development, but the US-style beer hall created more of a connection with the neighbouring brewery and distillery, and would share its industrial style look and feel.

He said: “It will have the full Everards range of beers and spirits, and collaborations with other brewers and distilleries. It won’t be singularly an Everards beer shrine, but a celebration of all things beer and spirits – an eclectic, relaxed informal place to be.

“We are taking the lead architecturally from the brewery and distillery which by their nature are industrial, so the beer hall will nod to that, very open and informal. It will be an Octoberfest type of feel.”

Gould said like for like trading across the pub estate was currently up 2% year on year, which was positive given the challenging March.

On the wider market, Gould said operators should keep value for money in mind, and be “match fit” in order to deliver for special occasions.

He added: “The customer definition of value for money doesn’t necessarily mean cheap. The well-reported problems of casual dining arena, if you route those back, they tend to come from too much aggressive expansion into leasehold sites, backed by heavy discounting and promotion agenda.

“What I’m seeing is customers demand a fantastic experience - which are increasingly aligned with key events and special occasions, be it father’s day, Easter, the world cup, and it’s important to be match fit for those occasions.

“I don’t think other’s such thing as an average trading week any more. We have to work much harder to deliver fantastic experience for occasions customers want to engage in.”