Wizard starts spell of rapid expansion

Related tags Town centre pubs Public house

Wizard Inns is to start building its own pubs from scratch after making its biggest acquisition for over two years.It has bought six outlets from...

Wizard Inns is to start building its own pubs from scratch after making its biggest acquisition for over two years.

It has bought six outlets from Suffolk brewer Greene King, including a development site in Norwich, Norfolk.

Wizard has set aside £1.3m for developing the new-build as well as improving the other five pubs.

It is also in talks to buy three former shops in town centre sites which would be converted into pubs this year.

Wizard managing director Chris Hutt indicated that one or two of its new sites could be operated as modern bars rather than its core business of community locals.

He said: "There's no big move away from traditional pubs but if, in some cases, we didn't think that was the right approach, we might do something different."

He said the Greene King deal marked "the start of a rapid year of expansion of the business".

He added: "As finding sites has become more difficult, we have been quick to adapt our strategy to additionally identify potential premises, not necessarily existing pubs, where we can achieve a good return on investment."

Wizard, which is backed by Japanese bank Nomura's Principal Finance Group, was founded in 1997 to turn around underperforming community pubs. Since then, it has made few acquisitions while consolidating the business and carefully investing in the estate of former Phoenix Inns tenancies.

After making a handful of disposals, it completed a £1m investment of two newly acquired pubs in Bristol and Chingford, Essex, in January.

The latest acquisition gives it an estate of 34 managed houses but, because of their size, it will increase the business by more than 30 per cent in trading terms.

The town centre pubs are in Watford in Hertfordshire, Sutton and Croydon in Surrey, Aldershot in Hampshire and Ipswich in Suffolk, expanding within its core trading area of the South and East Anglia.

Wizard continues to look for new sites, planning to expand to nearly 50 by the end of this year.

Rejecting pub brands, Hutt said Wizard continues to operate under the banner of "giving the local back to the locals", attracting more women and offering more food.

"There is more to the trade than a Hungry this, a Crafty that or a Scruffy something or other. What we believe in is the good old traditional pub," he said.

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