Six months after completing the largest pub purchase in the UK this year, Admiral Taverns is putting its faith in food as it seeks to push up the profitability of its portfolio.
The privately backed pub operator and owner, which bought 869 underperforming pubs from Punch Taverns for £326m in April, believes in maximising the available space in all of its properties. Since the end of May, it has spent £6m on 100 pub refurbishment projects, either completed or ongoing.
Sam Pedder, head of food at Admiral Taverns, told Caterer: "It is vital for any business to make the most of all their space and all the opportunity that is available to it. For us, that can mean anything from machines to food to introducing the right beers. It is about maximising rented space."
The operator has introduced a scheme for publicans who want to develop their food offering under the mypubfood.co.uk banner. The initiative will do everything from establishing a supply chain for those pubs not serving food to providing marketing for those who are confident of their offer.
It is also now aiming to take on the likes of Punch and Enterprise Inns, using their own former outlets. Pedder said: "We are a brand, inasmuch as people will prefer to come to us, as we will offer a fairer deal."
The Punch deal was Admiral's 12th acquisition in four years, giving the group more pubs in its portfolio - 2,700 - than traditional heavyweights such as Mitchells & Butlers, Greene King and Marston's.
Since it was incorporated in December 2003, the group's dozen acquisitions have cost it more than £1b.
It evaluates pubs under three categories: first, those that are viable and continue their licensed trade second, those that have potential and third, those with limited use that can be put up for disposal.
However, industry sources believe that, once the business gets close to having a critical mass of pubs, it will look to dispose of large numbers of pubs or look for a buyer for the entire business - either complete or broken up.
By Christopher Walton