The Inn Collection’s ambitious expansion targets were reined in by its backers Alchemy Partners, the group’s managing director Sean Donkin admitted to MCA’s Pub Conference.

Donkin said when he told new backers Alchemy last year the group could open five sites a year, “they said we were mad,” and suggested three was a more realistic target.

However, since Alchemy acquired the company from Kings Park Capital last June for  around £20m, the now 10-strong group has built up its central team and is now aiming for four to five sites per year for the next two to three years, through a mix of new-builds and acquisitions.

Donkin said that as F&B accounted for around 75% of its turnover, existing sites it acquires must have the ability to service that demand.

“Everything we are targeting requires a lot of development,” he said, with the group typically spend upwards of £3m per site. “We want to breathe new life into underinvested sites.”

Donkin also spoke about the company’s focus on its people. It was named ‘Best Pub Employer – up to 500 employees’ at this year’s Publican Awards.

“The north is very different. Tourism and hospitality is a big industry in our region, with about 18% of the population working in that sector,” he explained. He said the business doesn’t look to attract people with money, but goes for a cultural fit – doers rather than thinkers.

Due to its location he said the business has not found recruitment to be an issue, with one site a few years ago attracting around 800 applications for the 30 jobs.