Fast-growing East pub group announces multi-million pound growth drive

The Black Lion in Long Melford which is owned by the Chestnut Group

The Chestnut Group is eyeing major growth as it prepares to snap up six more pub properties - Credit: Chestnut Group

A regional pub chain is looking to add six new properties to its portfolio as it powers its way out of the pandemic.

Chestnut Group has raised £7m from a range of private investors to support the acquisition of new hospitality sites around East Anglia and support a comprehensive upgrade programme.

The company — which already owns 12 pubs, inns and restaurants including The Westleton Crown at Westleton, The Packhorse Inn in Moulton near Newmarket, The Ship at Dunwich, The Globe Inn at Wells Next-the-Sea and The Cricketers in Clavering — has begun its purchasing drive by snapping up Norfolk hotel The Maltings in Weybourne.

The business is also focusing heavily on attracting and retaining staff with a range of measures — including closing its properties on Christmas and Boxing Day 2021 so that employees can spend time with their families as a reward for their commitment during the pandemic. The hospitality industry — and others — have been facing a recruitment crisis since lockdown ended.

The group said the successful fundraising round followed strong growth this quarter as lockdown eased.

Ashley Norton, head of strategy at Chestnut, said: “There is so much potential in East Anglia and we’re excited to be leading this next phase of growth at Chestnut. The opportunity across the region is clear. Norfolk’s tourist visits increased by 38% in 2020 and with an uplift in the population by 500,000 predicted over the next five years the expanding area is set to see more visitors from London and surrounds — all with a desire for quality and convivial pubs, inns and restaurants.”

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Group founder Philip Turner said the company’s trading performance post lockdown showed that investment in “garden tipis” had been the right call. “That momentum seems to have carried through as we have continued to invest in people and properties across the portfolio. Our shareholders have been enthusiastic in supporting the next phase in our development, as we look to capitalise on the increasing confidence and opportunities for the Chestnut brand in the region,” he said.

“The past 18 months have been incredibly tough for the industry and for the people behind the scenes that make it so special. While we have been incredibly busy at a corporate level our primary focus has been our people. Group-wide initiatives have brought our teams together — re-enforcing our appreciation of Chestnut’s values and building culture in our growing community.”

An upgrade and refurbishment programme across the group has included a facelift for 22 en suite bedrooms and shared spaces at The Cricketers, a new look for The Rupert Brooke in Grantchester, a redesign for The Crown at Stoke by Nayland -  and a significant investment is being made in the beer garden at The Ship in Dunwich adding 200 covers supported by a new field kitchen and bar pop up.

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