As reported by The Morning Advertiser (MA), Cheshire-based brewer and operator Robinsons acquired Individual Inns in December, boosting its number of managed estates to 20 sites with the addition of Individual’s six-strong stable of pubs.
However, while managed growth has been well-publicised focus for a number of pub operators – with companies such as NewRiver REIT’s pub arm Hawthorn Leisure boosting its managed estate in the past year, for example – managing director of the pubs division at Robinsons, William Robinson, is keen to stress that while Robinsons has sharpened focus on its managed business, it’s far from lost sight of its 260-strong tenanted estate.
“I’d hope that everyone, certainly our licensees, will see that over the past five years while we've been developing managed there’s been no let-up in what we’ve done in tenanted,” he says. “We very much see it as a twin-track approach, we don't see any one being more or less important than the other. We've continued the investment strategy around tenanted and its delivered well for our licensees and for us.
“With the expansion of managed, you need to be of a certain scale for it all to make sense and for it to cover your central overheads. The acquisition of Individual Inns and the opening of the Legh Arms at Prestbury, Cheshire – where we've put a large investment in – has all been part of that strategy and we have other investments planned for the early part of 2020. Just continuing to get the best from those businesses but keep investing in our tenanted estate are critical.
“They’re both important, the tenanted estate is the bedrock of our business so the last thing we’d want is to not invest appropriately there and back some great licensees of which we are fortunately blessed to have a good number.”
No ‘fixation’ on doing deals
Looking ahead to 2020 – while pub sector merger and acquisition activity ‘leapt into overdrive’ in 2019, with £8.15bn spent for 7,531 properties in 2019 – a trend that property experts believe will continue – Robinson explains that his company won’t wheel and deal for the sake of it.
“We’ll do as we’ve always done – when the right opportunities come along we’ll look at them and, if we believe they’re right for us, we’ll go for them,” he explained. “Sometimes you're successful, sometimes you're not.
“We don't have a fixation on doing deals, it’s right pubs, right time, right place and we’ve always got to tick those boxes. Having bought the businesses we have, we also want to make sure we give those the time and attention to integrate them into our business. Doing it in the right way is really important –we’re not of a mind to flip from one to the next.
“It’s about do one, do it properly and move on to the next one and do that in the right way. Hopefully we've succeeded in doing it over the years and will continue to do that.”