PubLove, the London-based pub and hostel group, is gearing up for growth in 2016 to expand its estate and strengthen its burger brand as a stand alone offering, M&C has learnt.

The company, which re-branded from Best Place Inns a year ago, is in advanced discussions to roll out its Burger Craft kitchen with another pub operator.

The brand is now installed in each of the six PubLove pubs and gaining traction in its own right leading founder Ben Stackhouse to explore options to create a standalone dining option.

Founder Ben Stackhouse told M&C: “We are looking to expand Burger Craft into other avenues. We have had considerable interest in Burger Craft from other pub companies and we are looking at doing Burger Craft Kitchens in another pub company’s managed estate initially in London.”

He added the details are yet to be confirmed but there are a number of venues being considered to rent the kitchen from the pub company. 

As well as expanding the food offering, the company is exploring its options with private equity groups to enable growth in 2016.

“We are constantly looking for more sites and it’s just a case of tying it all in at the same time. Hopefully by the new year we will have made the financing decision and will be able to start adding sites - somewhere between two to three full PubLove sites next year would be my plan and Burger Craft wise it will be as many as they throw at us.” 

The group’s first acquisition as PubLove was the Exmouth Arms at Euston has set a new standard for the hostels and pubs.

“Euston turned out to be the best thing we have ever done. It was the first time we’ve been able to take a building and close it upstairs and down and make everything exactly as we wanted it to be,” Stackhouse said. “It’s our busiest site by some distance and highest rated on the hostel side and has set a new standard that we have spent the rest of the year trying to bring the rest of the estate up to the same standard.”

Stackhouse said 2015 has been a “really strong year” coming at the end of a transition period for the company.

“The hostels had always been strong but we were aware we were not the most competent of pub operators so we were desperately trying to improve our direction and brand,” Stackhouse said. “We knew what we wanted to do and the Exmouth Arms is the first demonstration of that. We have beer walls with 32 numbered beers and the same with 24 gins on a wall. The gin wall has been rolled-out across the estate so there’s a lot more completeness to what we do now and as we re-fit them there’s a style that’s beginning to be added.”

As well as adding open plan theatre kitchens to promote Burger Craft, a diner has been added to the Steam Engine in Waterloo.

Stackhouse said the brand is now in a position to consider pubs that do not include accommodation, something that he would have previously rejected.

“We wanted to get a food and beverage offer that could stand up on its own – not that it needs to, but now that it can it does open up a lot of opportunities because there have been plenty of sites we’ve turned down over the years because there hasn’t been enough room for a hostel as well. Now I think if one of those come up we would definitely look at it a lot more closely,” he said.

“We are confident that London is the best place for us to be at the moment and there’s no shortage of places it would work but I’ve got my eye on London and Cambridge as well.

“We could still be London-based but both these places could benefit from high quality hostels as well; everywhere has the capacity for food and beverage but not everywhere has the capacity for good quality backpackers accommodation so that’s still a good way for us to go.”

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