MARSTON’S, the pubs and brewing heavyweight, is to step up its assault on the Scottish market by openingmore outlets and creating hundreds of jobs.
The Wolverhampton-based firm only pushed into Scotland a year ago and has four pubs up and running. Six more are scheduled to open over the next year or so.
Yesterday’s plans to extend the rollout will see Marston’s invest £15 million annually, acquiring a further five sites per year “across the length and breadth” of the country as it takes on established players such as Whitbread-owned Brewers Fayre, Belhaven and Mitchells & Butlers.
The expansion drive is expected to create more than 200 jobs per year as well as support construction work at the new-build sites.
Marston’s can trace its roots back to Victorian times and, until 2007, was known as Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries. It currently operates about 2,200 pubs and bars on a tenanted, leased, franchised or managed basis.
The group also owns five regional breweries in Burton upon Trent, Hampshire, the Lake District, Oxfordshire and Wolverhampton.
Steve Roberts, head of acquisitions for Marston’s, said the reaction to the first four Scottish sites – in Braehead, Danderhall, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Dunbar and Forfar – had been “very positive”, convincing the company to push ahead with its growth plans.
The Dunbar Pine Marten pub, which is celebrating its first anniversary, will see an adjoining hotel constructed – the first Marston’s Inn to open north of the Border. Building is due to start later this year on a second hotel alongside a new pub at the Loch Lomond Shorescomplex in Balloch.
Roberts said further hotels wouldbe looked at “where appropriate”.While no fixed goal has been placed on the eventual size of the Scottish business, he suggested there was scope for “at least 50 pubs”.
Roberts said: “Our first year of trading in Scotland has been strong and we are now ready to step up our search for sites right across the country.
“We are looking for locations in target towns and cities that front main roads, are on retail parks or are close to residential developments of more than 500 homes. We believe our pub-restaurants are quite a distinct offering in Scotland and the popularity of the ones we have opened so far has encouraged us to expand.”
He said the majority of sites would be new-build although the firm may look at conversions. It is targeting towns and suburbs that have a population of 10,000 or more.
“Our search for new locations is going to take us across the length and breadth of Scotland,” Roberts added.
The six pubs scheduled to open over the coming months are in Armadale, Balloch, Dumfries, Dunfermline, Port Glasgow and Ravenscraig.
Marston’s first Scottish pub was opened in the home town of venerable Scots brewer and pubs operator Belhaven.
The Dunbar-based business is now part of Suffolk-based Greene King, which has its own Eating Inn division that includes 11 Scottish sites.