Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is prepared to pump millions of pounds into its tenanted and leased estate this year, managing director Lawson Mountstevens has indicated.
Some £140m had already been invested, following the acquisition of 1,900 sites from Punch in 2016 and there was a focus to renovate more sites, Mountstevens said at MCA’s Tenanted Pub Company Summit this week.
A focus for Star this year would be to continue investing in its portfolio, which would take priority over acquisitions for the next five years.
The group will also invest £14.2m in its Just Add Talent estate, which is run on an operator agreement model, in 2019 as it increases the number to 150 by the year end.
“In the next five years there’s a massive job integrating the business, we’ll do that well and then reflect,” Mountstevens said.
The pubco’s intention was to make its venues viable for the future by updating them to help increase trade, a strategy that has been carried out at pubs like the Coachman in Whickham, Tyne & Wear.
The pub, said Mountstevens, was typical of its era – 1960s/1970s – and was not modern.
“It all came back to whether it had opportunities,” he said. “It had a garden at the back and the demographics of the pub were good – customers who are good and in employment and like the pub and want to use it beyond Christmas.”
Following the refurbishment, the Coachman went from turning over £3,000 a week to up to £10,000 a week, he said.
There are ambitions within Star to recreate the success of the Coachman, which is run by two brothers, up to 150 times this year.
“We want to invest with this growth mindset, we don’t want to invest to make the pub slightly better or to make it slightly better for existing customers, but to make it better for the future,” said Mountstevens.
There would be a continued focus on the tenanted and leased model, he continued. “The opportunity for people in the leased and tenanted is about being part of the local community.”
Such integration into the community was a “sweet spot” for Star, he added, saying the pubco could be a leader within that sector with its focus on growing what is simply “the great British pub”.
“Our vision is to own and invest in the right pubs,” said Mountstevens. “They have to be a certain size and scale. We have to invest in new talent and people who want to run businesses.
“Investment drives growth and we want to do that in the right way and invest in growth. We want to invest in the pubs.”
As for the future, Mountstevens believed there was a bright one for the trade, even with difficulties caused by Brexit, but there was no real reasons why pubs could not thrive and survive in the coming years.
He said the pub offered an affordable treat and night out, which is relevant in most circumstances.