The lowdown on Cambscuisine

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Going multiple: Cambscuisine now has nine sites in its portfolio
Going multiple: Cambscuisine now has nine sites in its portfolio
Crowdfunding to expand one of its brands, multiple operator Cambscuisine highlights the changing market and how to stay afloat in Cambridge.

Cambridgeshire-based multiple operator Cambscuisine has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise more than £500,000 to fund its expansion.

The company, which owns and operates nine pubs and restaurants in Cambridge, including the Cambridge Chop House, the Three Horseshoes, the SmokeWorks and the Crown & Punchbowl, is now looking to raise funds on equity investing platform SyndicateRoom to fund two new venues.

Cambscuisine managing director Oliver Thain outlined his background and how his childhood meant he was destined for a career in pubs.

He said: “My love of pubs stemmed from growing up next to one. I grew up next to the Anchor Inn at Sutton Gault, near Ely in Cambridgeshire, which was at the heart of the fens and a wonderful community pub.

“I spent my first pound note there on 10 Bounty bars at the age of eight, and I drank cherryade and ate salt and vinegar crisps on the bank opposite, watching vicars and farmers and other locals using this wonderful pub in their community. In 2001, I returned there to discover it was now a pub-restaurant and that I knew the operators well. After much deliberation, we decided to set up our own pub-restaurant business.”

Developing a destination

From there, Thain opened the Cock in Hemingford Grey, Huntingdon, which was on the market for £275,000.

He said: “We developed it into what it is now, a destination pub-restaurant worth £1.3m. It was a great business from which to build our present day business, culturally and financially.”

The MD also laid out how far Cambscuisine has come since opening its original site 17 years ago.

“We now have nine sites, including four country dining restaurants akin to the Cock in villages surrounding Cambridgeshire.

“We resurrected those from either failure or closure, and they are now really successful operations. We have five venues within Cambridge itself, including two Chop Houses and two SmokeWorks, and we have a central production kitchen for those. We also have our modern eclectic brasserie, Millworks on the Mill Pond.”

Business is booming at Cambscuisine, Thain said, with revenue at £8.5m and 220 staff members across its estate.

Thain went on to highlight how the business will be growing over the next 12 months, including the equity raising campaign. “We are looking to raise £550,000 in order to grow two or three more sites in the coming year,” he said.

“We have traditionally grown the business upon raising capital against our two major assets – the Cock [in Hemingford Grey, Huntingdon] and the Crown & Punchbowl [in Horningsea, Cambridge].

“This equity raise should enable us to develop the opportunities that are coming our way and allow us to accelerate our growth.”

In preparation for this growth, the business has appointed two new members to its board – Causal Dining Group chief operating officer James Spragg has joined as a non-executive director and lead investor, and Dominic Anthony,
a partner at chartered accountant and tax advisor BKL, is now board financial director.

Three-pronged attack

Thain also mentioned that it would be great to add another one or two freeholds to its estate in the next four to five years as “they add really good long-term value to the business”, while the development of a “smoked pub concept”, could give the company the chance to develop a freehold site in a rural location.

When it comes to how Cambscuisine sets itself apart from competitors opening sites in Cambridge, Thain was strong in his response about the company’s knowledge of the area.

“We have three prongs of attack. Firstly in Cambridge city centre, we have a very strong network, a nimble workforce ready to populate a new restaurant in a market we know very well.

“Secondly, we want to develop SmokeWorks. We built a central kitchen specifically to grow this unique brand and we have already found sites in towns and regional towns [for this brand].

“We also want to become the sole operator of pub-restaurants within, at present, three towns and villages that are developing around Cambridge.”    

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