Casual Dining Group (CDG) is to move into pub operations after winning a competitive tender process to run two pubs formerly operated by Geronimo Inns within Heathrow Airport, MCA has learnt.

The operator of Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas has assumed management control of two existing pubs, located at Terminals 3 and 5, and will convert them to a new concept – Ale & Coffee House. Under the new format, the pubs, which currently trade as the Three Bells and the Five Tuns, will be re-named The Darwin (T3) and The George (T5).

The new concept has been developed with the design support of pub entrepreneur Joanna Clevely, co-founder of Geronimo Inns. In addition, Rupert Clevely – Joanna’s husband – has advised CDG on the initial concept development.

MCA understands that CDG will look to introduce the new concept at further transport hubs when the opportunity permits, but as yet has no plans to operate the format outside that sector.

Mark Nelson, CDG’s managing director of concessions and franchising, said: “We’re delighted to have secured these sites and our new partnership gives us huge credibility as we enter the pub sector. It demonstrates our continued passion to be at the forefront of the hospitality sector, not just as an operator of casual dining restaurants but food-led pubs too.

“We look forward to growing this business and seeking further opportunities to build on this collaboration, such as in other airport locations and transport hubs, including major train stations.”

The partnership will see CDG assume responsibility for the day-to-day management of the sites. Both pubs will focus on delivering an all-day offer, featuring high-quality food, premium drinks and coffee, to travellers passing through the airport terminals.

The pub refurbishments are scheduled to take place later in the year – when the pubs will convert fully to the new branding and updated operation.

CDG currently operates five restaurants at London’s Heathrow Airport and a Rapide grab-and-go site at Inverness Airport, Scotland. It is set to open a Bella Italia and Oriel Grande Brasserie at London Luton Airport this spring, and recently commenced a contract to run all food and beverage concessions at Jersey Airport.

Of its most recent win, Nelson said: “We were up against all the other leading food and beverage operators you would expect to see in competition to win such a prestigious tender, therefore we’re delighted that our submission proved to be best in class.”