As you’ll read in our lead interview with Stonegate CEO David McDowall (page 22), organising a face-to-face with the man charged with leading the UK’s biggest pub company, one year to the day after he began, took a while to organise. I’m sure you can imagine, but what someone at the top of such an organisation can and can’t say is considered in detail, not least because the topic of Stonegate’s enormous debt was in the national press in the weeks leading up to our talk.
The article covers such matters, of course, but we also discussed many other subjects relating to the Stonegate Group and its 4,500-strong estate. Loyal readers may notice the piece is, shall we say, a little heavy on the copy side of things – and this is the succinct version! But there was a lot of ground to cover and only four pages to present it within. I hope you find it an enjoyable read.
A notable theme throughout was the notion of ‘asset optimisation’ and how the sheer scale of Stonegate’s portfolio (and the many brands/concepts within it) is something McDowall can use to his advantage when increasing the overall performance of the business. That pub style isn’t working? OK, let’s try a Craft Union. Late night isn’t doing so well? We’ll see what Be At One can do about that. As you’ll read, data and tech are playing a big part in how Stonegate assesses the current state of thousands of its sites and, if changes are needed, which offer it can turn to in order to please the research-based demographic it chooses to target.
Slug & Lettuce is being modernised. Admiral Taverns has just announced a new mid-market proposition for its Proper Pubs estate. Marston’s has revealed a new partnership agreement. Converting a pub or bar from one concept into another is nothing new, but as closure figures continue to daunt and haunt in equal measure, the fact that many operators are looking to enhance, adapt and drive forward the offers at their disposal has to be seen as a positive for the industry as whole.
Tristan O’Hana - Editor