The challenges around acquiring large freehold pub sites in great market towns has led Oakman Inns to refocus its growth strategy, and instead look to repurpose retail units in those areas instead, according to chief investment officer Steven Kenee.

There are many landlords that are holding on to empty retail units and don’t know what to do with them, so changing those units into F&B and helping high streets thrive is probably where we are looking to do most of our growth, he explained. “We think there is a huge amount of opportunity there, but it take a bit more work.”

Speaking on a panel about investment and growth opportunities at MCA’s Pub Conference, Kenee said there were a lot of people chasing assets and that if those great quality sites are available you are going to pay a lot of money for them.

“We are lucky in that we had a pipeline of about 10 sites before the pandemic. We bought Seafood Pub Company which was a fantastic transaction for us,” he said.

“We’ve got the best pipeline we’ve ever had. We are on site at two and we either own or have the option to buy another eight, so we could have an extra 10 sites by the end of our next financial year in June.”

Kenee also spoke about the group’s innovative investment strategy which has seen it crowdfund directly from its database of 300,000 customer emails, raising £4.4m in the process. “Every decision we make, we are trying to do it for the long term,” he explained, adding that it believed the people who cared most about Oakman being a long term sustainable business are its staff and customers.