Future 50: Award-winning pub group targets £25m turnover this year
- Credit: Chestnut
East Anglian pub group Chestnut is targeting £25 million in sales this year, as it looks to add more properties to its 16-strong portfolio.
Founded in 2013 by Philip Turner, Chestnut celebrates East Anglia’s people, provenance and personality through its collection of pubs, inns and restaurants located across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire.
The company generated £19 million in revenue last year despite the challenges of the pandemic and rising supply costs. “The business plan is to surpass £25 million turnover in the next financial year,” said Philip. “That doesn't involve any additional acquisitions, so I think we'll probably do better than that.”
Chestnut made a “slightly mad decision” to refurbish a number of its pubs during the first lockdown in 2020. “That was a bet – and thankfully it worked out okay,” Philip added. “There were some people who thought that no one was ever going in the pub again, but we didn't really believe that.”
The company has also acquired four new properties in the past year – backed by a £7 million investment round completed in June 2021.
One of these acquisitions was The Carpenters Arms in Great Wilbraham – close to Newmarket and Cambridge – which Chestnut re-opened in March 2022 following an extensive refurbishment. “We've done a huge amount of work there,” said Philip. “We've basically doubled the footprint of the building.”
The renovation includes four new bedrooms and a glazed extension with a vaulted-ceiling open kitchen, and large glass doors onto a new garden terrace. “You get a huge amount of light coming into the building,” said Philip. “That’s the whole reason for wanting to open the pub in spring.”
Philip added that feedback has been positive since the pub re-opened – both from new guests and regulars. “We made a very deliberate effort to retain the original bar as a bar, so the village has been incredibly supportive,” he said. “It’s still very much a pub.”
On June 20, Chestnut will re-open The Feathers in Holt, north Norfolk, which it acquired in October 2021. The refurbished inn and restaurant will be integrated with The Lawns – another property in Holt acquired by Chestnut in February 2022 – to create a single food and beverage business with almost 30 bedrooms spread across two buildings.
“The great news is that all of the team from The Lawns will be moving into The Feathers kitchen,” said Philip. “So, from a personnel perspective, there's no disruption to jobs.”
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Chestnut has also acquired The Maltings, an “iconic building” in Weybourne on the north Norfolk coast. The company has a pending planning application for 34 bedrooms, a bar and a restaurant with open-fire kitchens – and hopes to open the pub in spring 2023.
“There's a very well-known photographer called William Bolding, who lived there originally,” he added. “The large – almost Dutch – barn building was his photographic studio, and we want to reinvigorate that as a really interesting space for our food business there.”
Beyond these acquisitions, the company is keeping an eye out for sites on the Norfolk Broads. “We think we may have found something, but we can’t say what it is yet,” said Philip.
In March, it was named Best Pub Brand/Concept at the prestigious Publican Awards, beating a number of larger competitors to the title. Philip said it was a great accolade after some key appointments for the business – including Henry Fairbanks as COO, Tom Salt as head of food and Charlie O’Toole as head of people.
“These people are well-respected in the industry, and they were taking a bit of a bet coming to work at Chestnut,” he said. “Looking at the absolute joy and pride on their faces at the Publican Awards that night was a massive validation of who we are and what we're trying to build as a business.”
For more information, visit www.chestnutgroup.co.uk