Heartwood acquires pub with rooms from Whitbread

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Property: This week's round-up includes Heartwood, Punch, Star and more
Property: This week's round-up includes Heartwood, Punch, Star and more

Related tags Property Finance Multi-site pub operators

This week's property round-up includes investments from Heartwood Collection, Punch Pubs, Star Pubs & Bars and more.

Heartwood procures pub with rooms from Whitbread 

Godalming Scene 1 v2

Award-winning hospitality group Heartwood Collection, formerly Brasserie Blanc, has acquired The Manor Inn in Surrey from Whitbread Plc. 

The acquisition will see the 16-bedroom site renamed as ‘The Ragged Robin’ and will undergo a multi-million-pound refurbishment to create a further three bedrooms as well as 150 internal covers and 100 external covers, creating 90 jobs.

Renovations to the site will include an extension to the dining to the rear of the property, which overlooks the garden backing onto the River Wey, as well as refreshing the pub in line with Heartwood’s signature style while also reflecting the venue’s roots.

Located in Godalming, the pub dates back to the 18th century and was originally a tannery before becoming a private residence and then a hotel in the 1930’s.

The acquisition follows that of the Old Crown in Great Bookham and will become the firm’s second pub with rooms, after the opening of the White Horse in Dorking earlier this year, continuing Heartwood’s plan to grow to more than 60 sites with a turnover of £133m by 2027.

Backed by Alchemy Partners, the Group recently secured an additional £100m of funding from Alchemy and its banking partner, OakNorth Bank, to support the growth which will create a further 750 jobs. 

In addition, Heartwood, which currently operators 23 pubs, was recently named a Sunday Times ‘Best Place to Work 2024’, following its win in the Best Operations Team category at this year’s Publican Awards. 

Heartwood CEO Richard Ferrier said: “We’re delighted to have been able to acquire this fantastic pub in Godalming from Whitbread.

“Having looked for an opportunity to open in Godalming for a long time, we are delighted to have found such a beautiful location on the River Wey.

“We plan to transform both the pub and the rooms with the aim of creating something very special.”

The Ragged Robin is expected to open in early 2025. 

Admiral pumps £330k into Proper Pubs site

sovereign outside (2)

Admiral Taverns has injected £330k into refurbishing a West Midlands pub.

The Sovereign on Charter Avenue in Coventry, which is part of Admiral’s Proper Pubs division, welcomed customers back through the doors on Thursday 25 April.

Benefiting from a full internal and external renovation, the pub boasts new flooring throughout as well as updated seating in the bar area as well as a new pool table and two bespoke dartboards.

Outside, the Sovereign features updated lighting and signage plus a newly renovated garden area.

For opening night, customers were treated to a live performance from local artist, Ian Davies, and the rest of the weekend saw an array of family friendly activities including a bouncy castle, face painting and a children’s entertainer.

As a Proper Pubs site, the Sovereign offers a wide range of drinks promotions as well as TNT, Sky Sports and horse racing channels.

Going forward, operators Michelle and Aimee have planned to introduce a regular schedule of entertainment including quiz and karaoke nights on top of hosting local darts teams.

In addition, the operators will run a series of fundraising events for charities close to their hearts.

Brakspear acquires Grade II listed freehold pub


Oxfordshire-based multiple operator Brakspear has announced it has completed the purchase of a Grade II listed freehold pub with rooms in Gloucestershire.

The Lamb Public House, in Great Rissington near Bourton-on-the-Water, the venue has 14 en-suite bedrooms as well as a bar and restaurant with 80 covers.

Externally the pub has a car park and gardens with seating areas to the front, side and rear of the pub.

Brakspear CEO Tom Davies said: “We are delighted to announce the acquisition of the Lamb at Great Rissington, it will be a fantastic addition to our estate.

“We have other businesses with rooms within the Cotswolds, which are thriving, so it’s an area we understand.”

Brakspear said it has planned to invest in a refurbishment of the Lamb’s bar area and dining spaces.

The pub had previously been under family ownership for many years and ill health prompted the sale.

Brakspear business development director Gerald Winder added: “Our vision for The Lamb is to create a community hub whilst also offering a wonderful place to relax, stay and dine if visiting from further afield.

“We will be looking for a tenant with experience of the area and a strong background in food and beverage to take the business on a tenancy agreement”. 

Star operator takes on second lease with pubco

MG_Star_Bread and Cheese-483

An Essex-based multiple operator has taken on a second lease with Star Pubs & Bars on a permanent basis following a £500,000 joint investment, creating15 new jobs.

Publican Steve Haslam has taken the reigns at the Bread & Cheese pub in Benfleet, taking the number of pubs in the family’s portfolio to seven, two of which are with Star.

Haslam and his family originally took on the Bread & Cheese in 2020 on a temporary agreement to prevent the pub from closing but have since battled Covid and escalating costs to turn its fortunes around.

The operator said: “I hadn’t intended to take it on, but when a friend told me it was about to be boarded up I felt I had to step in.

“I don’t make emotional business decisions, but this was the exception as I first visited The Bread & Cheese aged 14 when my father was the cleaner.

“Having run it on a temporary basis for the last three years I realised it was actually a sleeping giant and had real potential.

“We have worked hard to give it a fresh look and feel to match the level of the service we provide.”

The family’s second Star Pubs lease is the award-winning Victory in Mersea, which also has bedrooms.

Following the investment, the Bread & Cheese boasts a smarter exterior and an outdoor cinema on a raised decking with seating for 120 as well as updated furniture.

The garden area also now has two covered pergolas, one of which has its own shuffleboard table, with banquette seating and their own TVs.

Inside the pub has been completely stripped out to open up the interior with more windows to make it brighter while accessibility has also been improved in the bar and restaurant and a new accessible toilet has also been fitted.

The kitchen has been invested in, with a £100k newly equipped setting allowing for a wider and revised menu to be introduced, including world dishes and pub classics.

A purpose-built bespoke carvery has been fitted inside, with seating for 100 covers, as well as a dedicated bar area.

Popular with dog walkers and walkers generally, and ideally situated for passing traffic, the Bread & Cheese has also added cooked breakfasts and cakes to its menu.

Furry guests can also tuck into their own Sir Woofchester menu of pre-made dishes.

Meanwhile, new booths with computer charging points are hoped to bring in people wanting to work while having a coffee made by inhouse baristas.

Says Steve Charlton, Business Development Manager: “Steve has done a fantastic job with The Bread & Cheese.

“First turning the business around including introducing a popular carvery in September and then building on that success with this stunning refurbishment.

“It takes The Bread & Cheese to the next level. It can only go from strength to strength.”

Though Haslam doesn’t plan on stopping there, he added with the pandemic over and energy prices and inflation easing, he believed trade would continue to improve into 2025 and become “more normal”.

He continued: “Our intention is to add a further three to four pubs with potential over the next four years in the Essex and East Anglia corridor as that is manageable for a family run business.”

Punch opens cocktail bar in Cheshire 


Punch Pubs & Bars has opened a cocktail bar in Cheshire, the Bench Bistro, formerly known as the Young Pretender, following a £200k joint investment.

The venue, which is in Congleton, was acquired by the pub company in January 2024 and has now welcomed customers under new management, publicans Richard and Verity Shaw, marking their second Punch site.

Having mastered the art of their trade at the Bench Bistro in Nantwich, the operators have been working hard to bring their ‘Bench’ brand alongside their new team to Congleotn.

Richard said: “The Young Pretender stood out to us instantly. Verity and I saw so much potential and immediately saw our vision come to life.

“The building lends itself to what we do and how we work, and the location is perfect, we would struggle to find a better second venue.”

The £200k investment has seen the venue “transformed” into a “unique” cocktail bar that is “totally unrecognisable”, Punch said, with a new bright and colourful interior.

In keeping with the Bench brand, the site boasts unique quirks from garden gnomes and hummingbirds to a pick ‘n’ mix station.

Following on with the theme of being unique, every food item on the menu at the Bench Bistro is delivered on a signature picnic bench, an eccentricity that Richard and Verity say has helped to greatly improve efficiency. 

Richard added: “Almost everything we do is a little bit different. It’s taken Verity and I five and a half years to develop our brand but we’re proud of the journey we’ve been on and firmly believe that our offer is very good.

“We designed our menu to be delivered on a bench which means it can be taken out by one person very quickly, the benches not only look great, but they also give our guests a fun dining experience too.”

The Bench Bistro’s menu includes dishes such as Lamb Lollipops, Dr Pepper Chicken Wings and Popcorn Mussels alongside Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Pork Belly and Baked Camembert.

Guests can also indulge in an equally unique afternoon tea, served on signature benches with savoury treats including Curried Falafel Lollipop, Bench Mini Beef Burger and Scampi and Chips, complimented by a Strawberry and Banana Smoothie, Lemon Fondant Cake and Mini Doughnuts.

In addition, the bar offer more than 30 drinks including cocktails such as Pornstar Martini and Daquiri, as well as their very own ‘Gummy Bear’, ‘Watermelon Sugar High’ and ‘What’s Poppin’, served with a sachet of popping candy.

Punch head of operations said: “Richard and Verity are fantastic publicans, and the Bench Bistro has gone from strength to strength over the years.

“It’s a privilege to have been a part of their journey and I’m excited to see their incredible hard work come to life here in Congleton too.

“The Bench Bistro is a pub like no other and I’ve no doubt that it will become a popular hotspot here too.”

Robinsons reveals new look for pub with rooms


Robinsons Brewery has completed upgrades on its bedrooms at the Square and Compass pub in Darley Dale, Derbyshire.

All guest bedrooms have benefits from renovations, including a fresh new look as well as essential upgrades such as replacement of all bedroom windows.

In addition, in response to guest needs, the pub now offers a family room equipped with a double bed and pull-out option, alongside four additional double rooms, some of which are dog friendly.

Work was also carried out in the pub’s internal trading area, including new furniture, maintaining the property's Grade II listed allure while enhancing functionality and aesthetics.

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