Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame has described the latest additions to the company’s managed house team as being part of “a new breed of pub entrepreneurs” who can be the future of the sector.
Last week, the company agreed a deal to bring five pubs run by UES Ltd into its managed division, with the company’s founders Dan Sidders and Gareth Finney joining the management team
Neame said that as well as running the pubs under their UES vehicle, Sidders and Finney would be helping with service standards and the food offer across the Shepherd Neame managed estate.
He also said the group remains acquisitive following the purchase of eight pubs from Enterprise Inns.
He said the portfolio fitted with the company’s strategy of acquiring pubs that had the potential to be destinations in themselves or were in high footfall areas. He said that while opportunities to acquire such sites remained limited, the company had the firepower to act when they arose.
He also discussed new innovations for the group. Shepherd Neame recently trademarked the name Hog island Smokehouse & Bar. Neame said he was interested in creating a concept to match the company’s east coast pale ale but that there were no concrete plans at this stage.
He said trading figures for the first 49 weeks of the financial year showed the importance of a balanced portfolio.
On the ETI package, which will not be identified until the deal is complete, Neame said: “We are looking at high-profile locations form a leisure-destination view. It’s what we’ve been doing for a while. From a Kent perspective we have been buying a lot of coastal properties but they don’t necessarily need to be on the coast to have the same characteristics. We’re looking for sites that are likely to be destinations for families and visitors or in high footfall areas.
“We see investment potential in all these pubs but clearly we wish to sit down with the licenses and discuss that in a positive manner. In the today’s market, where you invest and transform the experience for customers they are very responsive to it and footfall can increase quite materially.
On the potential for further package deals, he said: “We remain very much alive to opportunities and our trajectory for some time has been to improve the profile and quality of our estate and then invest in it to make it even better. As we know, the market has changed profoundly in the last 10 years and after that the outlets we are acquiring are much more aligned to where we see the market going. There’s not a plethora of opportunities out there so you have to be selective.”
On the relationship with Sidders and Finney, he said: “It was of those conversations that evolved from both sides. Dan and Gareth are both young and very successful entrepreneurs, who have great local knowledge of the Faversham area. We have been hugely impressed by the way they have developed these businesses. They are symptomatic of a new breed of pub entrepreneurs who are going to be the future of this industry.
“They were keen to develop their own skills further. They will continue to run these pubs but we will also look to other opportunities where their service levels and food skills can be adapted to some of other pubs. There’s a lot of exciting opportunities ahead.”
On recent trading, he said: “The last few months haven’t been ideal trading conditions but things certainly seem to have improved recently. You get winners and losers in all cycles and that is the benefit of having a balanced portfolio. Our figures show the resilience of the business in the face of some not great conditions.”