Signature pubs create 150 jobs after £10m investment

Signature Pub Group founder Nic Wood outside the company's Morningside Road venture in Edinburgh. Picture: Contributed
Signature Pub Group founder Nic Wood outside the company's Morningside Road venture in Edinburgh. Picture: Contributed
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An Edinburgh-based bar operator is creating 150 jobs in a boost for Scotland’s pub sector.

Signature Pub Group, owner of The Huxley in the capital, has announced plans to take on the staff following a £10 million investment in the past year, bucking the industry’s downward trend.

About £8m of this capital investment is across projects in Edinburgh, with ambitious plans including the launch of the company’s own craft beer.

Earlier this year, the firm bought the Auld Hundred in Edinburgh, Nox and Paramount in Aberdeen and the Boozy Cow bars in Edinburgh, Dundee, Stirling and Aberdeen from Speratus Group.

The group said its two latest ventures, ongoing projects in the Grassmarket and Morningside areas of Edinburgh, would make up the majority of the new hires, with roles including managers, bar staff, chefs and trainers.

Founder Nic Wood described the Grassmarket establishment, due to open by the end of the year, as “something a bit different” with drinks tastings and beer brewed on site.

The Morningside Road development, currently awaiting planning permission, will create 50 jobs in a former bank building which has been derelict since 2016. The group is planning a “modern all-day eatery” with a children’s play park in the garden.

Wood said: “By investing in local areas, we aim to benefit the neighbourhood as a whole, providing jobs and venues that people love to visit.

“In the last year, we have invested in units throughout Scotland including full refurbishments and redesigns of Church on The Hill in Glasgow, The Saint in St Andrews and The Spiritualist in Aberdeen. These are all iconic locations that deserve investment to make sure they were fit for the nearby customers.

“The proposed Morningside unit is a fine example. We wanted to ensure that the building is owned by a local company who know and respect the location.”

Recent figures from the Campaign for Real Ale showed an average of 18 pubs are closing a week across the UK. Wood believed market research was the key to bucking this trend.

He added: “I think some of the big branded companies in the UK tend to expand by just launching into other cities and assuming those cities will want the same things as where they were successful when they first launched.

“We have moved into other cities now, but not without having taken on advice, and people, from the areas that we are moving into.”

Financial results for the year ended October 2017 show the group’s turnover increased by £4m to £17m, although post-tax profit dropped roughly £125,000. Wood said this figure represented “growing pains” as the company has grown from running five units in 2015 to 22 this year, including the Morningside venture.

Signature currently employs more than 600 staff, with some 300 of these based in the capital.