Star Pubs & Bars is experiencing a post-lockdown surge in experienced leased and tenanted applicants and a willingness to invest in pubs by licensees, which it says indicates a high level of confidence in the leased & tenanted sector despite the pandemic.
The chain said application numbers are back to what they were in 2019, when they reached a record level.
Even during the height of lockdown the company was getting around 30 applications a week. The calibre of applicants is also higher than has been the case historically.
A greater proportion of applicants have licensed trade experience, a clear vision for the pubs they are taking on and are well-funded, Star said.
Another sign of confidence in the market is licensees’ commitment to invest. Of the 29 leased & tenanted pubs where Star Pubs & Bars had joint refurbishments underway pre-lockdown or planned for later in the year, all but one operator has chosen to proceed.
Hance McPherson, recruitment manager at Star Pubs & Bars, said: “Our estate is primarily suburban community locals and drive-to destination pubs, which is where operators see the opportunities.
“People are working from home more and travelling less on public transport, and so are opting to stay local. This is great news for pubs in these locations, which are premiumising their offers, and for the refurbishment projects we are undertaking as they meet this demand and so are encouraging licensees to invest.”
McPherson acknowledged that applicants are mindful of the immediate challenges that pubs face but said they have confidence in the long term.
“During lockdown they were able to research the market thoroughly and put-together well thought through business plans. The result is pent-up demand from quality applicants.”
Michael Thomas, managing director of The Rosecare Pub Company, which recently opened The Beacon Hotel in Burton on Trent, said: “Knowing that The Beacon would be the type of pub that would flourish post-pandemic gave me the confidence to proceed with my investment in the refurbishment with Star Pubs & Bars. The Beacon has proved very popular with the community since reopening as it provides great quality on the doorstep, which is what people want.”
Since lockdown, Star Pubs & Bars has invested £25m supporting its 2300 leased and tenanted pubs.
Star Pubs & Bars owns 2,500 pubs, the vast majority of which are leased out to small businesses and entrepreneurs with a supply agreement. Around 130 of its pubs operate on its Just Add Talent model, which is a managed operator agreement.