Cat & Wickets eyes expansion, £750k revamp of Griffin planned

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

No chance of a declaration: Cat & Wickets Pub Company owners Harry Gurney and Stuart Broad
No chance of a declaration: Cat & Wickets Pub Company owners Harry Gurney and Stuart Broad

Related tags Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators Property Finance

The Cat & Wickets Pub Company, owned by cricket stars Harry Gurney and Stuart Broad, and former Peach Pubs chief Lee Cash, is targeting expansion with one site more per year opening until 2026.

The pubco currently operates two sites – the Tap & Run in Upper Broughton, Melton Mowbray, and the Griffin in Swithland, both in Leicestershire – and is close to finalising a £750,000 scheme to revamp the Swithland site.

The Tap & Run, which is a freehold site, was closed last year but reopened a fortnight ago while the Griffin is an Everard’s-owned pub.

Harry Gurney, former England, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire cricket player, told The Morning Advertiser​: “The official business plan that we currently have is for five by the end of 2026.

“And that’d be one next year, one in 2025 and one in 2026 so to add to the Tap & Run and the Griffin would take us to five.

“We wouldn’t take on a pub that we weren’t confident would not be doing more than £30,000 a week. When you’ve got a growing central team, you’ve got a bit of debt to service and you want to also finance some growth, anything less than £30,000 a week in gross sales doesn’t quite stack up – so we are looking for big-ish gastropubs.

“Lee and I, and Broady if he’s available, are going to spend some time in the second half of this year working on what we really think the right way to go is with this now the two pubs are open and trading well.

“You could do tenancies and leaseholds and grow faster, you could partner up with a brewery and go faster, but you could also grow a bit slower by going down the freehold route and we may do that – we need to work out what we think the sweet spot is really.

“One thing is for sure and that is we plan to grow – we’re not content at having two, we want a group of pubs.”

tap & run pub cat & wickets expansion story

Nest egg

On financing the group’s plans, Gurney said the current board has some financial security but it may also look externally at banks, investors and partnering up with the brewery to aid that growth.

He added: “The pubs we’ve got are also generating some nice cash so we can build a bit of a nest egg, which will help an organic element to the growth as well because we’re not planning on paying out any big dividends anytime soon. We take what we deem to be a market salary and the rest gets put towards growing the business.”

Although, not actively seeking sites right now, the Cat & Wickets has an idea of the type of pub and areas it wants to target with these being large villages, suburbs or possibly market towns that may have an affinity with cricket but that is “not a deal breaker”.

Gurney added it is seeking areas with a high density of ABC1 people, good schools, where the average house price is above £250,000 with a population of at least 30,000 people within a 1km radius.

Being a food-led business, potential sites must have at least 60 covers but ideally closer to 100 internally and have a 2,000sq ft trading area with 800sq ft for the back of house because larger kitchens are vital for the business model.

The Tap & Run has 118 covers and the Griffin about 80.

There is also a need for outside dining covers too. Gurney continued: “We talk about having a minimum of 20 covers outside because, otherwise at this time of year, your trade dies a death where everyone’s looking for gardens rather than cosy pubs.”

Geography ideas

Car parking is crucial too with a requirement for at least 30 spaces on-site or within walking distance.

Geographically, East Midlands is ideal but Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire or Northamptonshire would all be considered.

“If something great came along that was outside of that geography and it ticked all the other boxes, we would consider it because Broady is in London, I love spending time down there and Lee is in Devon so we’re spread quite far and wide,” Gurney said.

On the Griffin, Gurney explained the pub has a function room that currently hosts weddings but it is set to be converted into a restaurant meaning covers could rise from 80 to about 200.

“We’re in the final stages of agreeing of £750,000 scheme, which will transform, mainly, the wedding venue, which is the old stables, into a beautiful restaurant space that has beautiful aspect views but no one sees this at the moment – only people in the wedding venue down at the back.

“Incorporating that into the pub and ensuring the customer journey from the car park into the pub is clearer and more pleasant than it currently is, and doubling size of the kitchen is where that money will go.”

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