St Austell chief executive James Staughton has told MCA that the company is geared up for further pub acquisitions after focussing on the integration of the Bath Ales estate.

He said the Cornish brewer and pub operator would look to add sites to its managed and tenanted estates. The Bath Ales Graze brand and St Austell’s own Samuel Jones model are being viewed as growth formats, while the future of Bath Ales’ Beerd brand is under review.

He also revealed that the multi-million pound redevelopment of the Cat & Fiddle at Clyst St Mary, east of Exeter would see the company create its first value all-day carvery model. He said this could also be rolled out if successful.

In the New Year retail director Steve Worrall will take on responsibility for the tenanted estate as well as the managed portfolio, leaving Adam Luck to focus on acquisitions in his role as property director.

Staughton said: “We have funds to deploy into growing the pub estate and that will very much be a focus in the coming year.”

The new Hare Brewery is due for completion in May, alongside a combined distribution facility in Avonmouth.

Staughton said growth in the current year to end of December would be marginal as a result of the focus on the Bath Ales integration but stressed that all areas of the business were performing well.

He said: “We suffered with the weather over the summer as everyone did but we’ve been very encouraged by trading in recent weeks.

“Turning that turnover into profit, with all the headwinds we face, remains challenging – as it does for everyone.

“Beer sales have been very robust. Tribute continues to outperform the market and with Proper Job and Korev we’re seeing double-digit growth.

“Across the board, premium and high standards have become the norm and it’s not necessarily something customers are expecting to pay for. Value, which can operate at any level, is the key. Customers are as demanding if they are paying £3 or £7 for a pint and the whole package needs to be right.”

On Bath Ales, he said: “We are very confident this is an acquisition that will deliver. It has not quite delivered as quickly as we would have liked but we’re confident it is a case of when not if it hits its stride.

“We’ve put a lot of focus into the integration, new brewery and relaunch of key brands so it was always going to be difficult to come out all guns blazing when you are trying to align all those elements.”

He said the Bath Ales portfolio would centre around the core brands of Gem, Prophecy and an as-yet-unamed lager.

On the Bath Ales pub estate, he said: “Graze is very much a brand for the future. If we find other locations where that fits then we won’t hesitate to act. We may also introduce Samuel Jones elsewhere. Those are two levers we can pull at the right moment.

“Beerd is still under review. It’s more complicated because we have got the retail side and the beer. We are considering out options and we’ll make an announcement on that next year.”

On the Cat & Fiddle, he said: “It’s something different for us. We’re happy to innovate and if it works we are happy to scale it.”

 

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