Oakman Inns and Restaurants has bought the freehold of its sixth site for £1.6m, while it has also announced plans to sell some of its stake in the British Larder in Suffolk.
The Tring-based firm acquired the Crown and Thistle in Abingdon-on-Thames, a former Berni Inn, and it is due to close in January for a £1.4m refurbishment.
Oakman will completely overhaul the bar and restaurant areas to create a modern pub comprising a restaurant and two bars, as well as 19 bedrooms.
Oakman's expansion comes on the back of a strong start to the new financial year. For the eighteen weeks ending 5 August 2012, the business achieved like-for-like sales growth of nearly 22%. The comparable (uninvested) estate achieved growth of 5.26%. Average sales per outlet of the five core Oakman sites averaged just under £31k net per week for the period in question.
Chief executive Peter Borg-Neal, a former operations director at Whitbread, said: "We're delighted with our performance in the first part of the year which is clearly well ahead of the market. It is a reward for the tremendous passion and hard work of our people. Trading conditions will remain difficult and we will look to constantly evolve our ability to please our customers. To us it is about three core pillars: great people, great buildings and a great concept. All three need constant attention, care and lots of love.
"With respect to our buildings, the Crown and Thistle is a tremendous addition to our collection. It has taken us nearly a year to bring this deal to fruition and I am delighted to finally get it over the line. We are also in advanced discussion regarding a couple more sites and hope to be able to make further announcements shortly."
Oakman's five core pubs are: the Akeman in Tring, the Old Post Office in Wallingford, the Red Lion in Water End, the Kings Arms in Berkhamsted, and the Blue Boar in Witney.
The company is also the principal shareholder in the British Larder in Suffolk. Borg-Neal praised the British Larder's achievement of 15% growth over the eighteen-week period but indicated that his firm was planning to sell part of its stake to concentrate on its core estate.
"We are very proud to have helped Ross Pike and Madalene Bonvini-Hamel realise their dreams by creating this wonderful business over the past two and a half years" he said.
"However, they need partners who are properly focused on the British Larder and with the expansion of Oakman Inns this is becoming hard for us. Furthermore, we need to focus our cash on growing the core business and the British Larder needs, and deserves, expansion capital. Consequently, we are looking to sell some of our stake and are in early discussions with a number of interested parties. We will remain as shareholders and supportive friends but it is now time for them to become more independent of us. We will watch proudly as Ross and Maddy take the British Larder forward in the future."
By Neil Gerrard
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