The Coaching Inn Group is looking to take its estate up to at least 19 sites over the next 12 months, MCA has learnt.

The company has agreed terms on a couple of sites as it looks to expand its nationwide coverage, with its 15th inn, the Swan Hotel in Stafford, to open before Christmas following a £500k refurbishment of the ground floor.

On the back of the group’s positive trading update for the year to 31 March 2018 yesterday, founder and chief executive Kevin Charity told MCA the business has a strong pipeline “far beyond those two new sites”. “We have a got a lot more than that,” he said.

Although the process of acquiring sites, which tend to be off-market, can take two or three years to mature, Charity said: “I would like to think over the next 12 months we’ll be obtaining at least another four sites.”

He said the group were “prepared to go anywhere” in terms of location, and that the group would like to have more sites in the south of England, but as yet the right opportunities have not come along.

Charity said the group, which reported turnover growth of 17% in the year to 31 March, to £20m, and a 39% increase in EBITDA to £2.1m, had experienced “an exceptional summer” of trading.

He said a perfect storm of good weather boosting sites that have outdoor areas, the benefits of investment being realised, and its strongest year yet for weddings, had contributed to “a fab start to the year”. “The first five months of the year have beaten budget and we are hitting record like-for-like sales,” he said.

The £3.2m capital spent on refurbishments in the previous financial year was having the desired effect, he said, with around £500k earmarked for investment in the current financial year, because the estate is now in good order he said. “Perhaps our biggest achievement is that we have no tail – all our sites are performing well”.

One of its biggest successes of the summer has been the introduction of an afternoon package across its estate, which launched in May. Charity said it the business was focused on “filling the day-parts”, and the afternoon tea offering was proving very popular. “We are now about to re-address Sunday Lunch,” he added – “we feel we do it well, but we could be doing it even better.”