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Laurel unveils long-awaited restructure programme

From The Publican


The Laurel Pub Company will next month unveil long-awaited details of the group's restructuring exercise at a conference attended by the chain's 410 managers.

Laurel's chief executive Julian Sargeson told the group's new look would be discussed with senior staff at a gathering in Birmingham on March 7, after months of behind-the-scenes activity which has seen input from retail consultants OC&C.

Managers will be told the company is being realigned into three divisions:

  • Circuit: predominantly containing Yates', Litten Tree and some key unbranded sites from the original Laurel Tavern Venue estate, and will be overseen by managing director and ex-Laurel operations director Jez King
  • Quality Food: Slug & Lettuce, Ha Ha Bar & Canteen and other high food turnover sites, under managing director Mary Sharp
  • Town Local: made up of Laurel's unbranded and other current branded sites including Hog's Head, headed up by managing director Gary Morse.

Mr Sargeson (pictured) said following a series of back-to-back acquisitions and integration in 2005, the next two years would see what he called the "largest refurbishment programme in the sector", with spending of up to £40m on 200 "major developments".

With the new structure in place Laurel now had a platform to grow to around 1,000 sites, he added.

Mr Sargeson said the business "had been pulled apart in 2005" as the company integrated its new purchases, but the arrival of Ian Payne as executive chairman would free up him up to focus on running the day-to-day operations "and see that our pubs and bars hit their sales and profit targets".

Mr Payne would oversee the growth of the group on the acquisition front.

As part of its review of operations Laurel spent "hundreds of thousands" of pounds on research, with consultants OC&C running focus groups where pub goers were canvassed for their views on what goes in to making a good venue.

"This process meant we could better consider the markets we want to attack and how we use our money to improve our sites," Mr Sargeson said.

"We'll be in a good position to scale up when it comes to future acquisitions," he said, although he would not be drawn on timings or targets.

Meanwhile trading continued to be tough, he said, with January "one of the worst in the last few years".

He added that Laurel needed to raise its game to win back consumers who had drifted off to the competition.

"But we've identified the problems and have the structure in place to take things forward," he said.

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