Drew, who joined the firm at the beginning of April, was most recently a regional operations manager at YO! Sushi, and previously worked at Scotland’s largest manager house operator G1, which Innis & Gunn entered into a joint venture agreement with around three years ago.
Innis & Gunn managing director James Coyle said: “Steve’s remit will be both to maximise trading operations at our existing sites, including bringing the beer brand experience alive for customers, and to find new sites in Scotland and the north of England.”
He said the sale of around 27% of its business to private equity business L Catterton, in October last year, has provided a boost to its capital and expansion plans.
“In Scotland, we already have one in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh, and we could probably have another one in each city; as well as in Aberdeen – the third largest city in Scotland,” he said. “In the north of England, it would be Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool – so very much focusing on the M62 corridor.”
Coyle said the brewer and operator already had quite a strong and growing beer business in the north of England, with three of its sales team living in and around Manchester “so it’s a good area for us”.
“We have also just undertaken a piece of consumer research in different areas of England on awareness of Innis & Gunn and of our offer, from a product and positioning perspective, and the north-west over-indexed, which was very encouraging,” he added.
The business has so far opened four Beer Kitchen sites in Scotland, through its partnership with G1, and has “ambitious plans to open both more in Scotland and down into England”. It is also looking at opportunities to expand internationally and is due to open its first overseas taproom in Gothenburg, Sweden, before the summer, in collaboration with a local partner.
Coyle said that the design for the site was just being finalised, but that it was unlikely to be called Beer Kitchen, with the branding to focus more on the heritage of Innis & Gunn. “The reality is that Beer Kitchen is perhaps diluting a bit of the Innis & Gunn offer. We created the Beer Kitchen brand two to three years, and when we’ve done consumer research, it’s shown we have the potential to dial up the Innis & Gunn brand in terms of recognition, visibility and identity,” he said.
Looking at new sites
“We are looking at sites all the time, and there are a lot coming onto the market, so we are considering them carefully,” he said, adding that expansion of its Beer Kitchen concept in the UK would be focused on consolidating its presence in the north, rather than spread its resources too thin by looking nationwide. “For us it is not really about the numbers, but the right location and the right site,” he said.
On the trading performance of its current four sites in Scotland, Coyle said trading at all but St Andrews had been very strong. “We had been looking for a site in St Andrews for 18 months but the site that we have got is probably a bit too small for us so we are currently reviewing that as a location,” he said.
Coyle explained that over the past 12 months there had been a big focus on internal operations, with the sale of a share of its business and the rebrand of our beer business. “[This year] is very much about the expansion of the Beer Kitchen and the beer business now,” he said.