Longshot, the business led by Joel Cadbury and Ollie Vigors, has appointed advisors to oversee a review of its strategic options for Bel & The Dragon, its seven-strong, premium country inn business, MCA has learnt.
The company, which acquired the then four-strong estate from Orchid Group in August 2010 for c£4m, has appointed Grant Thornton UK LLP to advise on its next stage of growth, with options including a sale of the whole or part of the business or a refinancing.
It is thought that the group would attract both private equity and trade interest if a sale of the entire business was explored, with the likes of Greene King, Fuller’s, Young’s and Cirrus Inns looking to add high-quality managed pubs with rooms to their respective estates.
The group’s estate, which is believed to be trading very well, comprises sites in Windsor, Churt, Cookham, Odiham, Kingclere, Godalming and Reading.
In addition to offering a high-quality food and drink offer, the company has spent the last few years expanding its accommodation offering, with a current room count of c55.
Cadbury said: “Grant Thornton has a great team, with a thorough understanding of the sector and the ambitious growth plans we have for the business.”
Will Baxter, head of hospitality, Corporate Finance at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: “Bel & The Dragon has achieved great success through the coming together of an excellent product, clever site acquisition and most importantly the vision and commitment of its leadership team. We are looking forward to supporting the company during the next phase of its growth.”
Speaking to MCA last month, the group’s operations director Hector Ross said that during July and August covers had increased by 1,100 per month to 22,000 being served each month across the seven-strong estate.
Ross said there had been little Brexit effect and that the August bank holiday had been the group’s most successful for five years.
He said: “Everything is in place to grow but I won’t open a new site until the majority of the staff have been with us for at least six months. We are now totally focussed on getting the right people in so that we can grow the business.”
Ross said occupancy was currently at 79% across the estate, which he attributed to the commitment to keep prices below £125 a night including breakfast.
On the strategy for growth, Ross said: “We are looking in our heartland of the M40 to the A3 and from the M25 to a distance of 90 minutes from west London. We want to maintain the ability to have a presence in all the sites but there is plenty of scope in that geography.”