Comment: Cheering the potential of pubs

Raising a substantial sum of money is not something that should ever be undertaken lightly.

Kevan Fullerton (right) with business partner Scott Piatkowski. Picture: contributed.

The balance between risk and reward is a calculation that all business-owners examine every day and work out which path is the best way forward. Having run a pub group for 20 years, my business partner Scott Piatkowski and I have recently started to raise £20 million through a bond issue for further expansion in a sector we believe is undergoing a major transformation.

Over the last three years we have seen our turnover treble and our business has been experiencing substantial growth year on year. We believe that the pub sector, which has been under-rated in recent years, is now on the verge of a resurgence.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

To be honest, the appeal of the pub has never really gone away – it is just that parts of it have been undergoing a transformation. The appeal of the pub is, if anything, even stronger now in 2019 than it was five years ago. People are coming back to pubs to experience them in a new, yet still familiar, way.

The smoke-filled boozer of old has long gone but people still hanker after that traditional feel and vibe in a pub. They want it to look like a pub, be like a pub, but also to have a broader offering. Soft drinks, coffee, tea, and food are all, quite rightly, staples of the modern pub. Interesting beers, wines and spirits are part of the mix but delivered in a traditional and understandable way. People want familiar surroundings with a contemporary offering.

That is what we are providing, and it is working. Our aim is to build up a group of independent pubs, rather than a chain, with each place retaining its character, its feel and its connection to the local community. These will be places that should be recognisable but appropriately refurbished and maintained to have a broad appeal.

They won’t be trendy, but will have their place in their history and environment. They will also benefit from the economies of scale and experienced management that a larger group offers.

We want to create a group that works together as an entity but retains the uniqueness of every place. A pub people want to go to and have as their own, but which is owned and managed centrally to maintain excellent standards and high quality.

The pub market has not been as strong as this for many years and we see our expansion across the Central Belt as a fantastic challenge to build a substantial portfolio of pubs, clubs, and venues that retain their history but with up-to-date service. We think that the sector is being transformed – and we will be an integral part of growing the pub market in Scotland over the next decade.

Kevan Fullerton is director of the Bruce Group and newly launched Bruce Pubs Plc