Yorkshire Pubs Increase Capacity to Capitalise on 'Casual Dining' Revolution

8th July 2014

Star Pubs & Bars1, HEINEKEN's pub business, is jointly investing £290K with local pub operators in two major transformational pub refurbishments in Yorkshire, the Thornhill in Calverley and the Knox Arms in Harrogate to cater for the growing demand for casual pub dining and to increase capacity for drinkers.

The refurbishments are part of a £1m investment by Star Pubs & Bars upgrading Yorkshire pubs in 2013 and 2014 to enable them to exploit the opportunities offered by serving good quality food in a relaxed environment.

Business at the two successful venues has plateaued and further investment is required to grow the businesses further. The pubs are upping their game, improving their offer and creating more space so diners and drinkers can enjoy the best of both worlds without the experience of either being compromised.

Work began this week on The Thornhill in Calverley, which will be closed for five weeks. As a result of the £160K investment, redundant buildings will be incorporated into the pub increasing its size by 70%. The style will retain the clean bright look of the rest of the pub, which dates back to 1673, whilst highlighting features and its traditional character.

Lessee, Jamie Hanson2 said: "We took over The Thornhill four years ago, undertook a major refurbishment three years ago and have doubled the pub's turnover during this time. The business has now evolved as far as it can. The only way to grow is to invest.

"When we started the pub offered hardly any food. Now it accounts for around 40% of our trade. Food has been so successful it has started to impact on drink sales. If there are too many diners there sometimes isn’t room for drinkers to sit down. My wife, Sally, and I are Calverley born and bred so we want a pub that caters for everyone – drinkers and diners alike as well as well behaved children and dogs!"

Work on The Knox Arms in Harrogate commences on 14th July. The pub will close at 9pm straight after the World Cup final and will re-open around the second week in August.

A former farm house and 300 year old farm building, the pub hasn't been refitted since 2000. It became a pub 30 years ago when the farmland was turned into a housing estate and is reminiscent of the 80s. As a result of the investment The Knox Arms will become two pubs in one, one side for diners and one for drinkers, with easy access between the two. Outstanding features of the building will be accentuated, such as its arched stable window which is being opened up to allow light to flood in. Whilst remaining sympathetic to the building's character, the design and furnishings will help to create a more female friendly environment.

Lessee, Jacqui Prest3 said: "Lots of pubs in the area have been closing down, yet there are people in the area wanting somewhere local to go. We're still here because we have always had the highest standards in the area, are friendly and trouble free. What has held us back is the building, which has become tired. There is lots of choice to eat and drink in Harrogate itself. We want to give the people of HG1 somewhere to enjoy themselves without having to go into town. I think the best way to describe what we’ve got in store is trendy meets traditional. The fitted seating in the former drinker's bar is being removed to be replaced with whacky furniture and high tables with suspended lights above."

As part of the refurbishments, both pubs are having HEINEKEN Extra Cold installed and the latest Heineken Smart Dispense technology which guarantees exceptional quality beer and cider every time.

Chris Jowsey, trading director at Star Pubs & Bars says "Both pubs are run by experienced operators with high standards and an understanding of what their customers want, which has made them successful. Jamie and Jacqui both recognise the need to review, refine and continue to invest in their pubs to keep them current and attract customers in an increasingly competitive market. It is no longer enough to open the doors and expect customers to come to you – it is all about raising the bar, giving customers that bit extra and offering them the very best.

"Providing good quality food in an attractive environment is critical for the long term success of pubs like the Thornhill and the Knox Arms. It is no longer a nice to have, consumers expect it and will vote with their feet.

"HEINEKEN is passionate about beer and cider quality about service and the quality of pubs so we're delighted to be investing to help entrepreneurs like Jamie and Jacqui realise their visions and create great pubs with long term sustainable futures."

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Editor's notes:

1) HEINEKEN UK is the UK's leading cider and beer producer and a passionate supporter of the great British pub. Its leased pub business, Star Pubs & Bars, consists of 1285 of the top pubs and bars in the best locations in the UK. In July 2013 it won the much coveted Business in the Community Enterprise Growth Award for its lessee support programme, which includes offering a low entry cost for people taking on a pub, help reducing overheads, business development support and funding.

2) James Hanson – Prior to taking on the Thornhill in 2010, lessee Jamie Hanson had run a pub in Apperley Bridge and a restaurant in Shipley, so is well placed to capitalise on the casual dining revolution.

3) Jacqui Preston – Jacqui switched from an administrative role to barmaid rising to manager and then general manager of a privately owned group of prominent bars, restaurants and night clubs across the north east. She took on the lease of The Knox Arms in 2008.

Issued on behalf of Star Pubs & Bars
24th June 2014

For further information:
Siobhan Fitzpatrick
07956542558