Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) is set to further test its growth steakhouse brand Miller & Carter in new locations, with an opening planned within a hotel, MCA has learnt.

The company, which has been looking to trial the c100-strong brand in a retail park environment, is set to be the latest sector operator to link up with Marriott Hotels, with an opening lined up on the ground floor of the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel.

Carluccio’s and Brasserie Blanc have both opened sites within the hotel operators’ UK estate over the last 18 months, with the latter set to soon open its second site with Marriott in its hotel at Manchester Airport.

Miller & Carter will open two sites today in Basingstoke and Maidstone, with further opening lined up over the next month in Kettering, Killay, Aberdeen, Gosforth Park and Otterspool.

The growth brand under M&B chief executive Phil Urban’s stewardship grew from 52 to 84 sites during the last year and was due to hit the 100-site milestone by the start of this calendar year.

Speaking last November, Urban said: “Susan Chappell (divisional director) has done a brilliant job with Miller & Carter and has made it work even when it has gone into a site which didn’t seem like an obvious fit. It’s a brand that has routinely exceeded expectations and so far we haven’t hit the buffers in terms of what makes a Miller & Carter site and what doesn’t.

“We are now looking at trialling Miller & Carter in retail park environment. I have my doubts about it but it is something we want to test. I don’t like the idea of operating a restaurant where you’re not the reason to be there. If you’re reliant on someone else to get your footfall that’s never a good thing. However, we have a number of these types of sites and we need a solution to them so we intend to trial it and test the boundaries of how far we can take Miller & Carter.

“We recently opened a new-build Miller & Carter in the middle of Bedford, which could be described as a retail box. It was a site that was acquired before my time and we looked at it for Harvester and Toby before we decided to try Miller& Carter. It has done stunningly well.”

On the ultimate potential to grow the brand, Urban said: “We could comfortably get up to 170 or 180 in terms of the sites it could work in but I’m not sure we want to do that. We are conscious of the danger of opening two in close proximity but also I think brands are best when they have a figurehead and a strong brand culture and the bigger you get the harder it is to achieve that. Somewhere between 130 and 140 is probably about right and we certainly have the sites to get there over the next 18 months.”