Describing the past five years as “pretty turbulent”, Revolution Bar Group’s board felt that diversifying into new areas was their ticket through some of the challenges that still lay ahead, chief executive Rob Pitcher told MCA’s Pub Conference audience.

“We saw the beauty of when one brand is having a tough time, another brand is bailing it out,” he explained.

While Revolution’s business was impacted significantly during Covid given its city centre focus, and more recently the train strikes, Pitcher said Covid was “almost a long-forgotten memory” in the face of the current challenges to trade: “people’s propensity to spend”.

Pointing out that for Revolution’s core customer group of 18–25-year-olds, there is not much left at the end of the month after rent and bills have come out of their salary, “as a board, we decided we should diversify the business”.

The £16.5m acquisition of Peach’s 21 premium food-led pubs may have seemed like a strange fit from a format perspective but culturally the two businesses were very much aligned, Pitcher explained.

“We thought diversification was going to be very important with what was coming down the track,” he said, speaking on a panel about the future financing of pubs.

Sales at Revolution were struggling and its sister brand Revolucion de Cuba was “doing ok”, but “Peach was absolutely flying”, with its appeal to a more mature, and often wealthier, demographic. “We see it as a smart move – and it seems to be paying off at the moment.”

Pitcher said one of the advantages of being a listed businesses was that it had access to capital when it needed it. While it took on some bank debt during Covid it raised £21m in equity from shareholders, in order to “come out on the front foot” and avoid being saddled with debt.

The group was just kicking off its openings pipeline – which had been on pause for five years – but when the Peach opportunity cross Pitcher’s desk he knew it was a “really interesting” opportunity not to be missed.

The acquisition was partly funded through bank funding but also with some of the capital it had raised during Covid – “and we couldn’t be happier with the acquisition”.

Pitcher said his phone had “never been hotter”, in terms of the number of property opportunity being offered his way for further Peach openings, but that the group was focused on continuing to integrate the business into its estate and really understanding it and was then looking to incrementally grow each of its three brands.

Also on the panel was Clive Watson, chairman, City Pub Group, who spoke about the group’s gradual acquisition of Mosaic Pub and Dining over the past three years.

City Pub, which now owns a 52% stake in the business, is now in the process of integrating Mosaic’s nine pubs (seven freehold and two leaseholds) into its estate.

For Watson, one of the biggest opportunities with the Mosaic portfolio is the three pubs it operates in Birmingham.

“Birmingham is a city that I think is quite unloved and I’d quite like to get a bigger foothold in Birmingham,” he said.