Star invests more than £50m into pub estate

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Long-term sustainability: Star invests more than £50m into its pub estate
Long-term sustainability: Star invests more than £50m into its pub estate

Related tags Star pubs & bars Finance Multi-site pub operators

Star Pubs & Bars has injected more than £51m into its pub estate since September last year.

The pubco, which is Heineken UK's pub arm, invested in a variety of ventures across its portfolio during the 14-month period, including in technology to increase online support for licensees, property refurbs and event packages.

Star managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “We are on track to deliver our significant and ambitious £40m 2023 investment plan which demonstrates our ongoing support for the Great British pub.

“Investment is critical for the long-term sustainability of our estate, ensuring our pubs continue to meet consumer expectations and play an essential role at the heart of their communities.”

The pubco added it would be announcing its 2024 investment plans next year.

Going back to September 2022, Star pumped £650,000 into the upgrade of a Leicestershire pub, jointly with multiple operator Roseacre Inns.

The Axe & Square in Countesthorpe​, had been closed for around two and a half years before renovations began, including new signage and lighting outside as well as internal works to double to number of covers at the pub and upgrade the kitchen.

In addition, the reopening created 30 new jobs and marked Roseacre Inns fifth Star lease and eighth venue in total.

Speaking in September 2022, Roseacre Inns founder Michael Thomas said: “We’ll continue to expand in the Midlands if the right sites are available. We specialise in large middle-market suburban dining pubs, and, in my experience, they are resilient even when times are tough.”

Moving to February this year the Heineken owned operator and Whelans Pub Company together invested £1.35m into the Fox in Palmers Green, north London, revamping the site in an Edwardian style and creating 20 new jobs.

Massive investment 

The project transformed the pub into a premium local offering quality food, drinks and live sports, boasting a new kitchen, traditional bar, a spacious dining area and a large lounge that converts into a private function room – complete with its own bar – accommodating up to 120 people.

In addition, the Fox, which had been closed since 2018, dates back to 1904 and had previously featured in the film Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Star operations director Tim Galligan said the refurb had proved a massive investment with “clearly visible” results.

He added: “The Fox looks breath-taking and offers lots of reasons for people to visit.

“Whelan’s has a strong track record of running superb locals. It is the ideal partner for such a major development. Palmers Green is densely populated and has a shortage of premium pubs. The Fox will be an exceptional local that fills a gap in the market.”

In May this year, Heineken announced it would be injecting some £40m into almost a quarter of Star’s pub estate​.

Some 570 pubs were set to receive investment, with 100 of these planned for major makeovers averaging £200,000 and creating an estimated 600 new jobs.

The investment programme was aimed at neighbourhood locals, which make up almost three quarters (70%) of Heineken’s 2,400-strong estate, and included bespoke refurbishments tailored to the individual pub and its community.

In addition, Star explained the new looks were tasked with enhancing the character of the buildings while retaining features such as flagstone floors and fireplaces as well as updating the pubs.

Garden makeovers were also featured in the plans, with new seating areas providing more room for customers.

Moreover, these upgrades also aimed to help pubs reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040, as all significant projects included measures to boost sustainability while reducing energy bills in a bid to combat inflation at the same time.

“It is more important than ever to invest during uncertain times like these to keep pubs thriving and meeting the needs of their communities.”

Regarding the investment, Mountstevens said: “We know from previous economic downturns when customers’ disposable income is squeezed, they look for an exceptional experience when they go out.

“Great ambiance and attractive surroundings are key and contribute to the value for money pubgoers seek.

“It is more important than ever to invest during uncertain times like these to keep pubs thriving and meeting the needs of their communities.”

Later on in May, West Midlands operators Russell Moreton and Melissa Nicholls went multiple after taking on a pub with Star Pubs & Bars, undertaking a joint £300k investment into the site.

The partners, who also run the Mount Tavern in Penn, Wolverhampton, took on the Wall Heath Tavern, in Wall Heath​, as their first site with Star Pubs & Bars.

Moreover, the duo stated they planned to build an estate of six community pubs in the West Midlands over the next two years.

The following month, a historic Buckinghamshire village pub reopened following a £240,000 overhaul.

After the renovations, the Horse & Jockey, at Tylers Green​, reopened with Star licensee Alex van Someren at the helm.

Work was undertaken to revamp the buildings exterior, including painting it pale grey, new lighting and signage as well as new seating for up to 50 guests at the front of the pub and an enclosed 50-seater garden with new decking and lighting at the rear.

As well as a kitchen refit, the new internal décor featured new upholstery, carpets and lighting that complement the building’s age while the pub’s distinctive horseshoe-shaped bar, cosy nooks, old beams and open fire were all retained along with its collection of horse brasses.

Pictured: the Horse & Jockey

In October Star revealed a new look for its flagship site in Cardiff, Wales, following a £1.4m renovation project, its biggest single investment this year, and plans to plough a further £730k into Welsh venues.

The Unicorn investment​ bought Star’s total expenditure in Wales during that month to £1.75m and more than £4m in the last three years.

Other projects included £200,000 makeovers of the Talbot in Llantrisant and the Newborough Arms in Bontnewydd.

The pubco also announced plans to invest a further £730,000 at the Blacksmith Arms in Llantwit Major and the Holybush in Lower Machen, subject to recruiting the right operators.

Most recently, Star welcomed customers back to one of its sites in Poole, reopening with a new name and under new management.

Southern-based multiple operator Nick Warner took on the lease at the Penn Central, his first with Star, reopening the pub under its new name, Bank by Nicholas James.

Upscale support 

The pub was given a £355,000 makeover to “take the venue to the next level”,​ a joint investment from the Star and Warner, bringing the operators total number of pubs, bars and restaurants to five.

Moreover, Star announced plans to invest £6.8m in developing premium outdoor areas​ and revamping pub exteriors in 2023, benefitting 220 pubs.

Other investments from the pubco included more than £60k into creating a one-stop online support platform​ for its licensees that it said is tailored to their pub’s offer.

Under the moniker of MyStar​, the package offers an online hub to bring together all the support available to licensees in a simple-to-navigate format with regular emails that give licensees insight and advice on driving more footfall into their pubs.

The package also included an interactive digital resource offering seasonal business-boosting guidance, which Star claimed is relevant to different pub types.

Furthermore, the pubco supported its licensees with various promotional packages for sporting and charity​ events and bank holidays throughout the year, including for the Six Nations​ and King’s coronation​.

Regarding the new online platform, Star head of digital and retail marketing Cathy Olver said: “Mindful of the mounting time pressures faced by licensees in today’s challenging trading environment, we’ve looked to upscale our support and simplify access to it.

“MyStar​ tailors’ information to licensees’ style of pub, giving them the tools they need to create exceptional experiences and attract customers out during a cost-of-living crisis.”


Related topics Star Pubs & Bars

Related news

Show more