The newly renamed Wells & Co has made the decision to expunge its Apostrophe brand, MCA has learnt.

Its five Apostrophe pubs will instead become Little Gems Country Dinging pubs with rooms, chief executive Justin Phillimore told MCA.

Wells & Co – the new name for Charles Well as revealed last week – announced a joint venture with Little Gems Country Dining at the end of October 2017, which saw Charles Wells take a stake in the company.

The conversion of the Apostrophe pubs will take the Little Gems portfolio to nine, including The Bull Hotel, in Olney, Merlin’s Cave, in Chalfont St Giles and The Swan Inn, in Denham, in Buckinghamshire

The Old Cock Inn, in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, opened in May in the Little Gems Stable, and Phillimore said another one would open “towards St Neots”, Cambridgeshire, probably in October.

It was looking to a roll out of one or two a year for the Little Gems portfolio.

However, he said the key growth vehicle for Wells & Co was its Pizza, Pots & Pints format, with a target of 30 by 2022 – another 20 on its current numbers, which Phillimore said it was also looking to expand in France.

The target geographic area is “within 70-80” miles of Bedford “for practical reasons”, but not in central London.

It has one in the pipeline in Osney Island, Oxford, with about 80 covers, and another in Earlsdon, Coventry, with about 100 covers, both of which should be open by October.

“I can’t say anything beyond that with any degree of certainty but we are looking intensively and we have an ambition to do at least six a year,” said Phillimore.

Wells & Co has opened another four pubs in France over the past year to take its total estate to 17. Total turnover there is about €17m.

Two opened this June, The Market Brewhouse in Reims and The Market Tavern in Bordeaux.

The latest developments have come at the same time as Wells & Co is spending £14m on its new head office and destination hub in Bedford, featuring a pub-restaurant and roaster, with 110 covers.