Charles Wells chief executive, Justin Phillimore, has told MCA that the company will target group acquisitions alongside organic growth of its managed estate, following the sale of its brewing business to Marston’s.

Phillimore also said the group was considering opening pubs in other European countries after the success of its French estate.

He said the group’s Pizza, Pots & Pints model – the third iteration of which will open in Peterborough this summer – will be the driver for expansion of the UK managed estate.

Phillimore said the decision to part with its brewing arm had not been taken lightly by the Wells family but said they had always been trailblazers in adapting to a changing market.

The company has said that in the next couple of years it will seek to invest in a smaller Bedford-based brewery to supply its estate.

Phillimore said: “Our focus for a while now has been very much on how we grow our pub business. We are unusual among regional brewers in that we have a very big brewery and by comparison a very small pub estate. Considerably less than 5% of what we brew in Bedford actually goes into our pubs.

“The landscape is changing and the number of new regional breweries popping up doesn’t seem to be slowing. That makes it increasingly challenging to operate on a national level.

“We have been brewing on this site in Bedford for 40 years and how you exit that gracefully was top of mind. When we started talking to Richard and Ralph and the team at Marston’s it became clear there were a number of complementary strengths between the two businesses.

He added: “In the history of Charles Wells, the family have made some big decisions – including the joint venture with Young’s – that were all about adapting to a changing market. It was a trailblazer among the family brewers in terms of adapting to selling to the national market.

“The family are guardians of the legacy for future generations and as a non-family member one has to mindful of this.”

On expansion, he said: “From an organic perspective we can be rolling out multiple sites every year but we will also be looking at opportunities for bigger deals which would see us take over small managed groups.

“Our approach is very much to be looking to expand our estate in the UK, as well as in France and potentially in other parts of Europe. We will be focussing on France initially because we think there’s a lot of opportunity there.”

On Pizza, Pots & Pints, he said: “It will be our key UK driver. It fits very well in community pubs so that gives us a lot of scope. We have some bigger food-led pubs but this is more flexible and can be slotted into a lot of sites. We are looking to scale it up considerably.”