More than 60% of funds set aside by Star is being allocated to improve pub ‘kerb appeal’ through redecoration, new lighting, signage and cladding for venues in need of an upgrade.
Moreover, a key focus for 2018 will be on creating “statement entrances” at its sites through the addition of pergolas, adjacent windows and relocating site entrances.
New outdoor areas will be created at 120 Star pubs, increasing their capacity for alfresco eating and drinking and for hosting events.
Other prominent new features being rolled out across Star’s portfolio of sites include retractable awnings, pods, lighting and astro turf to enable all-weather, year-round use.
Alongside aesthetic improvements, the number of outside bars and cooking facilities - such as pizza ovens - is expected to increase as licensees look to reduce pressure on main bars and kitchens during warmer weather.
Star Pubs & Bars property director, Chris Moore, commented: “This expenditure is an essential part of our 2018 £44m investment programme.
“A pub’s external appearance is vital to its success; our research shows it sends all sorts of signals to passers-by on what they’ll find inside.
“A great outdoor space is no longer ‘a nice to have’. Customers now expect a fantastic environment outside as well as inside, and licensees see outside areas as an essential part of any refurbishment and a vital income stream.
“Our own calculations suggest a properly designed garden can increase drink and food sales by as much as £50,000 a year.”
Case study: the Dolphin in Newbury, Berkshire
As part of a £500k refurbishment, a 90-cover garden – which increased the venue's total covers by 75% - was added alongside a draught, cocktail and gin bar. Three 12-seater huts, lighting, heating and a covered pagoda were installed in the pub’s garden alongside bi-fold doors to improve garden access.
Ed Turner, managing director of Buff & Bear Saloons which partnered with Star in the Berkshire site’s refurbishment, commented: “We set out to create the best garden in Newbury and customers seem to love it. Seats in the garden are in high demand and it’s adding £7k-£8k a week in sales.
“We’ve been helped by the good weather but we know from our other pub – the Old Ale & Coffee House in Salisbury – that the space will be used year-round and we’ll be providing rugs and hot drinks in the colder months.
“Gardens aren’t add-ons any more; they should be an integral part of a pub’s whole offer. We work hard to ensure we’ve got the right range of drinks and food for the outside to make eating and drinking there as good as it is inside.”