Craft Beer Co founder Martin Hayes has told MCA he would be disappointed if he did not open another one or two pubs this year, most likely in London.
He said he was still interested in regional expansion – and was interested in Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford or Cambridge if the right site came along.
But he spoke of his frustration with the London property market – and the fact “insincere” pub operators working under a “craft-lite” were willing to pay higher premiums for London sites.
Hayes also said he was hoping to expand his latest site at Limehouse, with an upstairs kitchen, dining lounge and rooftop terrace.
He told MCA: “The market in London is pretty hot, and not helped by the fact so many people are copying us. It’s quite annoying being told by a landlord a rival wants to ape what we do but pay more.
“But we’re very hungry to grow because people respond well to it, and we love what we do.”
Hayes said despite feeling some operators were doing a watered down version of Craft’s offer, he was confident the rise in popularity of the category was good for his business.
He said: “When we started you had to be a bit of a beer geek to talk about craft beer, and now it’s in everyday use. A lot of pubs are putting up signs about craft beer and that can only increase interest in craft beer and lead them to my door.
“You can use whatever term you like; the consumer isn’t stupid. People want quality.
“Once we get someone in the door once, we usually get them back.”
On copycats in the industry, he continued: “There’s a lot of people doing craft lite, dipping their toe in the water, but doing it without any sincerity.
“It’s a shame so many people are jumping on a bandwagon. Like anything, if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.”
Hayes admitted his business model, which involves making up to 50 beers available on tap, was not right for every operator – but said it was Craft’s USP.
He added: “You can feel like a deer in the headlights if there’s up to 50 beers on tap, that’s why it’s so important to have good people to hold your hand and hopefully open your mind.
“In terms of throughput, you have to choose carefully what will work, and turn over beer very well. It’s an extremely unusual way of doing things and causes our stock taker no end of headache.
“It’s what we do as a business but I can recognise for 99.5% of pubs would find it bewildering.”