HEINEKEN-owned Star Pubs & Bars will invest £42m in upgrading more than a quarter of its estate in 2022, creating over 700 new jobs in the process. The investment follows Star’s £62m expenditure on pandemic rent reductions and plays a key part in its ongoing drive to help its pubs build back business after the lockdowns and restrictions. 660 pubs will benefit from the expenditure, 137 of which will have a makeover costing £125k plus. The move brings Star Pubs & Bars’ total investment in pub improvements to £115m since Covid hit and to £300m since 2014.
With more people working from home for at least some of the week, Star Pubs & Bars’ spend will focus on suburban pubs and those on high streets near residential neighbourhoods. The revamps will reflect two long-term trends that have been accelerated and amplified by the pandemic – pubgoers’ increasing demand for “premiumisation”and outdoor socialising. Schemes will be individually designed to suit each pub and its location.
Pubs earmarked for major makeovers will be given a quality look and feel to deliver the premium experience customers want. Kitchen refits and new bars will enable them to keep up with pubgoers’ higher expectations for food and drink.
Customers have developed a taste for eating and drinking alfresco as a result of the pandemic and are seeking out pubs with great gardens year-round. Many of the projects will therefore include external improvements. The investment will extend outdoor seating areas and add features such as festoon lighting, heaters and covers to increase their use, making pubs more sustainable.
Lawson Mountstevens, Managing Director, Star Pubs & Bars, said: “People have stayed closer to home over the last two years due to the pandemic and have turned to their local for the kind of experience they’d previously have travelled to a city centre, restaurant or bar to find. They don’t want to turn back time: they expect better quality including food and specialty drinks – such as cocktails – that are harder to recreate at home. It’s the same with gardens. Sitting outside at the pub has become a new occasion and, if the outside space is good enough, customers will wrap up to enjoy it even in the winter months. Outdoor facilities also remain important for those who are still cautious about going out as the UK learns to live with Covid.
“The cost-of-living squeeze is magnifying these trends. People are looking for a really great experience when they go out. These are challenging times. However, we are confident that well-invested pubs that adapt to market changes will have a bright, long-term future.”
The Cambria, Camberwell, London
The Cambria in Camberwell opened at the end of March following a £600k+ upgrade by Star Pubs & Bars and new multiple operators Prospect Pubs & Bars, with £400k investment from Star. Closed since December 2019, the revamp created 20 new jobs and has reinvigorated a much-loved neighbourhood local.
The investment has given the pub an eclectic look and feel in keeping with its vibrant community and created new areas in which to drink, dine and entertain. There’s a new 45-cover garden room with retractable roof and sides, an extended bar and an upstairs private dining room. Outside, there’s a 40-cover enclosed garden with a large and colourful art installation designed by local brewers, Brixton Brewery.
Says Mark Draper co-founder of Prospect Pubs & Bars: “When we first saw The Cambria we knew it had massive potential, and the subsequent investment has upgraded the offering and broadened its appeal. Since re-opening, sales have gone from strength to strength, already beating our original projections. Our forward bookings are strong, including a steady stream of enquiries for the first-floor private dining room. The reviews coming in from guests have been incredibly positive with a genuine sense of delight in seeing the pub back in action and adding value to the local community.”
More than half of customers are treating themselves to better quality food and drink than they did pre-Covid.
Since the pandemic, an attractive outdoor seating area has become more important to eight out of ten pubgoers, whilst three quarters now enjoy socialising outdoors at the pub more than they did before.