The Liberation Group looks to leverage work-from-home and staycation trends, as well as continue to focus on its brewing and accommodation businesses, CEO Jonathan Lawson, told delegates at MCA’s Pub Conference this week.

The estate is concentrated in residential areas and provides a local food and drink offering, and is thus well placed to capitalise on people increasingly looking to work from home and go on staycation, Lawson said.

“We believe the staycation trend is sticking; it’s pretty much here to stay,” Lawson said. “Customers have reconnected with British and countryside destinations.”

“Every time we see some negative news around airports, searches have gone up for our rooms.”

Occupancy levels have correspondingly increased and are now consistently above 80%, Lawson revealed.

“Our accommodation business has quadrupled over the last two years,” he added. “We were very focused on local food and drink, which has a real resonance in the Southwest.”

The group has increased the capacity of the Butcombe Brewing business to cope with demand for both cask and keg, whereas managed pubs – which were most affected by the pandemic – benefitted from a redeveloped offer and increased investment after Covid.

Lawson further emphasised that the pandemic accentuated the strengths of the Liberation Group, such as its vertical integration, drinks division – which delivered positive EBITDA contribution during the past two years – and its diversity, with nine contributing channels and three geographies.

“We run a relatively diverse business. We run pubs, we brew…we have a lot of people under our umbrella,” Lawson said. “There are set values that pull us together.”

He also emphasised that the different divisions of the business – pubs and brewing in particular – drive equity for each other, wherein a quality customer experience with one can help drive sales for the other.

“We talk a lot about value for money despite the fact that we’re a premium operator,” he said. “That isn’t because we’re into discounting.

“For us, value for money is satisfaction minus price…we want to drive that satisfaction for our customer.

“Customers actually spend less of their money on actual things, and more on experiences, such as going out, holidays, etc,” he added. “That absolutely gave us some confidence as we look forward.”