The Chestnut Group has acquired a further site in Suffolk – The Crown in Stoke-by-Nayland, taking its total estate to 10, with the business eyeing additional opportunities.
Sitting on the Essex-Suffolk border, the traditional inn has 11 bedrooms and was recently nominated by the AA as one of the best pubs in Suffolk.
Philip Turner, founder of the East Anglian business told MCA the acquisition fit perfectly with the rest of its portfolio, and that its number one priority as a business was harnessing what it considers “the go-to assets in the region”.
He said the business saw potential to further extend the bedroom offering, which sits at the lower end of the scale in terms of its pubs with rooms – they range from eight to 34, with the addition of The Crown taking its total room count to c100.
“We never buy anything without having a vision for growth and where we extend it,” he said. “We have plenty of ideas (for The Crown), but the most obvious is that the business could definitely take more bedrooms.”
Chestnut Group is in the process of building a separate barn-style building with nine bedrooms at The Blackbirds Inn, as part of the work it is completing to rebuild the property following a fire in March last year.
Turner said the sites with bedrooms, or the ability to add them were a focus in terms of acquisitions, but that he wouldn’t rule out a site without them if it fits in with where they want to be. “Going forward there has to be something unique about the property to be able to persuade us that we are not going to have bedrooms,” he added.
He said that while the group had never done green field builds, but he said that if the right opportunity came along at the right time with the right supporter “we would definitely look at that”, but its business going forward will be a combination of acquisitions where they can add value, and sites that need a complete refurbishment.
In terms of strategy, Turner said he is actively looking at additional sites at the moment and would consider acquiring as many as five in a year if he has the support from his shareholder base – many of whom are high net-worth individuals, he said. Adding that as long as that support continued it would not look to institutional or private equity investment.
He said the business had increased the benchstrenght of its team quite a lot over the past 12 months. “We will continue to hire for future growth. We think the opportunity is still big, I’m not going to restrict myself and if we find the right people who we think could be part of our growth story we will be recruiting them, as the acquisition trail will continue.
The group is very much focused on remaining an East Anglian business, with its property map drawn at the south of the region down to the M25, the west of the region to the A1 and to coastal boundaries of the north of the east.
“Our objective is to celebrate the region and the assets of the region, whether they be sporting, heritage or history,” he said.
Commenting on the sale of The Crown, former owner Richard Sunderland commented: “The decision to hand the ownership over to The Chestnut Group is a natural one, we look forward to working closely with them in the transition period to ensure the best outcome for our loyal colleagues and fabulous guests.”
The Crown sources local produce where possible and offers a daily fish menu with five or six fresh fish and seafood dishes.