McMullen is hoping to add four large sites to its 86-strong managed pub division over the next 12 months, and “more if the opportunities arise”, MCA has learnt.

Joint managing director, Heydon Mizon, confirmed that planning permission had been submitted for a new build family pub/restaurant in Cambourne, Cambridgeshire, on a vacant plot of land between Back Lane and De La Warr Way.

“Subject to planning permission being granted, this site will become the 13th or 14th Chicken & Grill pub with McMullens,” said Mizon. “I say 13th or 14th as it depends which new build is completed first since we have just submitted planning for a new build site in Biggleswade as well,” he said.

The brewer and pub operator recently acquired a pub in Great Notley, Essex, which is currently being developed, and is due to open in April or May. “We have developed The Orange Tree in Hitchin, which reopened last weekend, we recently added an extension to the Coach and Horses Bishops Stortford and completed some smaller refurbishments at the Bulls Head Turnford, Bullfinch Sevenoaks, Crocodile Cheshunt and Jolly Farmers, Enfield,” he added.

Mizon said that, since Christmas, trade has been positive and profits were up. “This growth has, in the main, come from drink sales and invested sites,” he told MCA. “Cost challenges remain a concern, particularly the punitive rates increase but we are well positioned should times become a little tougher.”

However he said that finding great sites remained a challenge. “Guests are finding their disposable income squeezed and there has been a lot of supply into highstreets in recent years but as always the best operators continue to do well and I certainly enjoy seeing what the best operators in the market continue to do,” added Mizon.

The opportunity to explore the addition of rooms to its sites was still something that was on its agenda, he confirmed. “Given the quality of the estate it is likely that we will have some unrealised room opportunities,” he said. “It is early days, but alongside development and acquisition, the opportunity is being explored.”