Pub chain to open two new pubs in East Anglia
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
An upbeat hospitality boss is planning to open two new pubs in East Anglia next year - despite a host of supply chain hold-ups.
Philip Turner, founder of the Chestnut Group, is meticulously planning building works at two new pubs in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire as he increases the size of the chain from 12 to 14 hostelries across the region.
He is undeterred by growing industry-wide delays in the supply chain and has upgrades in the pipeline at the Carpenter's Arms in Great Wilbraham, near Cambridge, and at The Maltings at Weybourne, near Sheringham, after snapping up the two sites to add to the chain's portfolio.
"You need to be organised a long way in advance," he admitted. But he added: "Despite the supply chain disruption and despite the shortages we are continuing to grow and develop."
He is facing some staffing issues across the pubs - which span Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire - but has adapted the businesses to cope, he said, and had installed a strong set of managers across the pubs while offering a string of benefits from a wage boost to a festive break. Opening hours and cover numbers had also been cut to cope with the shortfall.
But with the pre-pandemic hospitality workforce of 3m shrinking by 360k and 180k vacancies across the sector, recruitment was hard, he admitted, and he had employed someone full-time on recruitment.
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The chain's peak vacancies were in June when there were 87, he said. "We are now down to about 50." The hope is that with furlough ending that will unlock a wider choice of candidates, he said. "We are recruiting some really exciting people for the business," he said. This included ex-cabin crew staff from the beleaguered airline industry.
"As with all businesses of course we are feeling the pinch," he said. "But a lot of people do want to work in hospitality."
There were longer lead-in times for ordering supplies, added Mr Turner - who is also chairman of industry lobby group UK Hospitality - but businesses like his were adapting to the situation.
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"Clearly a lot of businesses are gearing themselves up to make sure they are fully loaded for Christmas," he said.
"If anything has been demonstrated over the last 18 months it's the hospitality sector seems to be fairly fleet of foot," he added.
"The industry will adapt and there's lots of forward planning going on right now.
"As far as Christmas is concerned I'm absolutely sure we have enough time to sort out the supply chain issue between now and then."
A spokesman for Greene King indicated the Bury St Edmunds-based pubs and beer giant was also coping with the supply chain challenges.
“Overall we have good levels of stock in our pubs and have not seen widespread shortages. However, along with the rest of the hospitality industry, we are experiencing some supply chain problems which may mean all ingredients or drinks may not be available," he said.
"Our teams are doing an amazing job at dealing with this and we are working closely with our suppliers. We’d like to thank our customers for their understanding.”
The Chestnut Group includes the Westleton Crown near Woodbridge, the Cricketers at Clavering and the Packhorse near Newmarket.