Overall ranking: 40 (new entry)
Pub and bar operator ranking: 11 (new entry)
After almost 15 years as right-hand man to Stephen Goodyear, Patrick Dardis moved up from retail director into the hot seat as chief executive at Young's Brewery in July 2016, when Goodyear stepped down. Young's is now a pure-play pub operator after disposing of its brewery site in Wandsworth. Dardis heads up a team of retail professionals operating a slick pub, hotel and restaurant business, in which the Young family still has a significant stake. For the 53 weeks to 3 April 2017, Young's reported revenue up 9.4% year-on-year to £268.9m. The company operates 173 managed pubs within its Young's and Geronimo Inns divisions, with another 79 pubs in the tenanted Ram Pub Company.
What we think
More than 10 years after the death of John Young, the larger-than-life executive chairman who was the face of the business for four decades, there are still many old industry hands happy to relate how he would lament the current condition of the family business. Certainly, Young's now inhabits a fairly anonymous office rather than the iconic Ram Brewery; its beer brands are owned by Marston's following the sale of Charles Wells' brewing assets in 2017; and it derives almost 95% of its sales from its managed operation rather than the traditional tenancies.
It's worth remembering, though, that Dardis and his predecessor Goodyear were very much appointed on Young's watch, part of a wider recognition by the family that the business would benefit from outside experience. Dardis definitely brought that to the party, having been director of retail operations at Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries in a career that has also taken in Guinness, Whitbread and Courage.
In 2010, while Dardis was retail director, Young's bought Geronimo Inns for £60m, acquiring a group of modern gastropub-style venues appealing to well-heeled urban professionals. The core pub estate is now far better invested, and has been refined by a series of well-planned acquisitions and new pubs in prestigious riverside developments along the Thames, as well as selective disposals. In November 2017, Dardis oversaw the acquisition of the two-strong Smiths of Smithfield restaurant business. With Young's already owning the Fox & Anchor boutique hotel in Smithfield, it is set to be a major player in the ‘village' to be created in the area by the Crossrail terminal under construction at Farringdon station.
Announcing the Smiths deal alongside half-year financials showing further growth, Dardis said the Smiths sites "are a fantastic fit with our portfolio of premium managed sites, with their focus on world-class steaks, breakfasts, craft beer and quality drinks". He added: "The pub is still the go-to place in Britain for drinking and eating out, and while much has been written about the challenges facing the pub industry, we believe that providing customers with well-invested pubs, a quality offer and outstanding customer service is key to our success."
The City regularly gets excited about the prospect of a trade sale of Young's. Whether that happens or not, there's no denying that the quality and performance of the estate is a tribute to Dardis's stewardship of this venerable London operator.
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