Their company bought The Golf Inn at Gullane in East Lothian in November and has recently spent £120,000 refurbishing it in time for this summer’s Open Championship at nearby Muirfield.
Now the couple – who also own the Goblin Ha’ Hotel at Gifford in East Lothian, Nachos Fiesta in Edinburgh and the Tutti Grille in Essex – are turning their attention to further expansion.
Rob said: “Our plan for this year is to grow and develop the current portfolio, in particular The Golf Inn.
“We aim to open two sites next year – at least one of which will be in Scotland. We’d like to open another branch of Nachos in a city centre location and we’d like another country pub.”
In Scotland, Rob said that the company would look at sites within about 40 miles of Edinburgh, while he would also like to expand his firm’s presence in Essex. Rob had worked for designer outlet operator Freeport and then bought its catering services business in Essex in 2003 after the parent company decided to exit the UK and concentrate on its operations on mainland Europe.
Unchained Restaurants took over the Goblin Ha’ in 2006 and added Nachos Fiesta in 2010. The group sold on a branch in Hamilton last year and closed down its site in Galashiels.
The company turned over about £2.5 million last year and Rob expects revenues to increase to £2.7m this year as the contribution from The Golf Inn more than makes up for the closure in Galashiels.
Rob said that the expansion of the company – which employs more than 70 staff – had been funded out of cashflow, but he wouldn’t rule out borrowing cash if the right deal came along.
Taking over the lease at The Golf Inn came about through a happy coincidence for the group.
“One of our customers at the Goblin Ha’ mentioned that the lease at The Golf Inn was coming to an end,” Rob explained. “I contacted the owner – who was over from his home in Australia to play golf – and we signed the deal.
“I remember The Golf Inn from 20 years ago when it was one of the best restaurants in East Lothian. It had faded in the past couple of years due to under-investment, but we’re now repositioning it as a mid-market family restaurant offering good pub-style food rather than fine dining.”
Other businesses in East Lothian are also gearing up for the Open, which runs from 18 to 21 July.
The Archerfield Estate sealed a deal with Aim-quoted temporary hotel operator Snoozebox to erect a 160-bed unit on the site in time for the historic golfing fixture.
Earlier this year, the estate also opened its Walled Garden development, which includes a cafe, farm shop and a micro-brewery operated by industry veteran Bob Knops.
Knops is making products for the estate alongside his own Knops Beer Company range of drinks.