Hydes looks to ramp up activity after ‘punishing’ restrictions

By Gary Lloyd contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Multi-site pub operators, Pubco + head office, Tenanted + leased, Finance, Social responsibility

Historic brewer and pub operator Hydes Brewery hopes to open a pub in the near future after putting acquisitions on the back burner during the height of the pandemic that saw some “incredibly punishing” restrictions on the industry.

Talking about the latest events and telling The Morning Advertiser​ a little of the history of Hydes Brewery and how the business fared during the pandemic, managing director Adam Mayers explained the business, which operates 47 pubs across the north-west of England and Wales, is in negotiations on an acquisition currently – adding the building is not operating as a pub right now.

He added Hydes’ plans also include investment in current sites and further acquisitions potentially. Mayers said: “We’re going to go back to our strategy of refurbishing in our existing estate. There's a lot of competition out there for sites and acquisitions right now in all categories so if the property is right, if the building is right and it's in the right location, it might come from places where you don't expect, but yeah, we are looking to acquire – that's a core part of our strategy to grow the business in the long term.”

Punitive restrictions

On restrictions during Covid, he said: “The restrictions were very punitive. But the big question for me, and I don’t think this is necessarily being widely reported, is was the cure or the prevention going to be worse than the disease itself? Should we have locked down? However, I think there's better people than me to answer that question.”

Prior to the first lockdown, Mayers was finance director of the vertically integrated family brewing business, which was lunched in 1863. He took on the role of managing director during the first lockdown.

“We just operated it in a number of key principles, really, the first one was to comply with the rules. The next one was to continue to invest in the pubs and in the people. We treated our staff really well throughout the pandemic and had a very high staff retention rate when we first reopened and the second time after the next lockdown. We haven’t felt the staff crisis as acutely as other businesses.”

The business went on to invest in a keg plant in order to start brewing its lager and IPA. But the biggest thing for Mayers was “that we made the right decisions throughout, not the easy decisions”. He added: “What you could do is not invest in a pub just to save the cash but you had to be brave during the pandemic. You have to invest in your people and continue to invest in your pubs otherwise you're not going to have a business at the end of it.”

Success with full food menu

While shut to the public, Hydes spent money on redecorations at sites, including a £350,000 investment at a pub in Gatley, Greater Manchester, and installed teepees and gazebos at some of its pubs along with outdoor heating to enhance its outside areas.

It also used a full food menu as soon as pubs were allowed to open indoors rather than a slimmed-down versions as a lot of on-trade venues did, and that “put us in good stead throughout the whole year”, with exceptional performances from the company’s pub dining sites.

Media City-based Hydes runs 31 managed pub sites and 16 on a tenanted model. There are four different offers in the managed sites model: pub dining, wet-led community, premium wet/bars of distinction and town local.

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