David McDowall: ‘Craft Union is a jewel in the Stonegate crown’

By Shwetali Sapte, MCA

- Last updated on GMT

Business plan: Stonegate Group boss David McDowall outlined the company's strategy at MCA's recent Pub Conference
Business plan: Stonegate Group boss David McDowall outlined the company's strategy at MCA's recent Pub Conference

Related tags Stonegate pub company Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators

Stonegate has seen early signs that its data-led strategy is working, as the pub group undertakes proactive management of its estate.

Speaking at MCA​’s Pub Conference earlier this week (Wednesday 26 June), CEO David McDowall told delegates the insight-led approach to conversions – between the group’s managed, leased & tenanted, and Craft Union estate – is yielding results.

He further discussed Stonegate’s recently released H1 results​ and the contribution of community pub business Craft Union.

“We have a few, but Craft Union is one of the real jewels in the crown of the Stonegate estate,” McDowall said. “Under our ownership, it’s gone to c600 pubs.

“The real magic is first and foremost the simplicity of the model: putting pubs at the heart of the community.

“There’s tons of opportunity…we’ll continue to see Craft Union grow and grow, but we’re not going to overcomplicate it. We’ll make sure we get the pubs right.”

Business confidence

While Stonegate’s debt pile remains a concern, McDowall said the company is confident of its balance sheet goals.

“We’re confident we’ll do what we need to get done on time,” he said.

McDowall further acknowledged that the late-night day part continues to be challenging for the group, but added it continues to invest in its venues.

“There’s not much we can do to change how people are socialising differently, but we can make sure they have a great time when they come to us."

Long-term strategy

He added: “In the short term, it’s painful, but we’re using it as an opportunity to get better and evolve. We’re hoping that’s the right long-term strategy.”

With the Euros ongoing, McDowall further revealed that the England v Denmark game last week resulted in the single biggest sales uplift the group has ever seen for any sporting event.

“We’re striving to make you feel like you’re part of the experience [in our sites],” he explained. “It’s a great vibe, great energy, and there’s a drive to keep people behind after the game has finished.”

This story was first published in MCA.

Related topics Stonegate Group

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