James Nye, managing director of Anglian Country Inns (ACI), has told MCA that bringing in outside investors for the first time has been ‘an eye opener’.

The group announced yesterday that the acquisition of its eighth site – the Farmhouse at Redcoats, near Hitchin – had been funded through a special purpose vehicle managed by ACI with capital raised from a combination of loan notes and equity from private individuals and senior debt provided by Downing LLP.

Nye told MCA: “This is the largest project we’ve ever done so we’ve taken the decision to look at outside investment. The only equity we’ve given away is on the standalone vehicle for the Farmhouse and we’ve put out some loan notes to friends and family to try to raise a small amount of money ourselves, which was successful. However, the large quantum of the debt from Downing and that was pure debt rather than any equity or mezzanine, which made it quite an attractive offer for us because they were prepared to fund the development as well as the freehold – which banks are usually reluctant to do.

“It’s been a bit of an eye opener for us because it’s the first time we have dealt with big outside funders other than banks but working with Downing has been great because they have acted as true partner.”

Nye said the Farmhouse project would involve significant development, which would be the focus for the group in the short-term, but said further expansion was on the cards.

He said: “We have a good track record of seizing opportunities when they arise and we have an eclectic estate which means we can look quite widely at various options. We’ve always got one or two pokers in the fire but for the moment, this is the focus.”

He said trading over the past few months had been strong, with June particularly busy.

Asked whether there were signs of consumer confidence dipping, he said: “We’re not seeing that yet but the reality is that as yet nothing has changed so people are carrying on as normal. What we have done is put a big refocus back on service to ensure that people are seeing the value in what we do. If anything people are reverting back to more traditional trading patterns – busy weekends, quieter weeks – so we have to adapt to that.”