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Downing-backed Pub People accelerates its expansion plan



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The Pub People Group (Pub People or the Group), led by Andrew Crawford and backed by investment manager Downing LLP (Downing), has accelerated its expansion plans by making several freehold acquisitions, accelerating investment into the existing business, and bolstering the Group’s management team and the board.

In September 2022, Downing became the majority shareholder in the Group and committed to funding further growth through acquisitions and investment into the existing business. In the past year, the Group has bolstered its board and management team by:

-         Promoting Andrew Crawford to the role of Managing Director in September 2022

-         Appointing Sarah Strachan (formerly of Punch Pubs) as the new CFO in January 2023

-         Appointing Mark Crowther as the non-executive chairman in October 2022 and Colin Corbally as an independent non-executive director in December 2022

The Group has also increased the size of its pubs’ freehold estate by c.50% to 30 pubs (including an acquisition of a portfolio of five pubs in June 2023, from one of the UK’s largest tied pub landlords, that the Group had operated on a tied-leasehold basis for over ten years) and has several other freehold acquisitions in the pipeline. Downing also provided the funds to refinance the Group’s bank debt from NatWest in May 2023.

Pub People is accelerating the deployment of investment into its existing business, including:

-         Undertaking refurbishments across its existing estate of pubs;

-         Implementing a new financial reporting system at its head office in Derbyshire; and

-         Installing a new EPoS solution across its entire estate.

Downing has set aside a significant amount of capital for further acquisitions and investment, with no near to medium-term requirement to raise funding from third-party lenders. Despite a substantial number of pubs being available in the market, the Group is focused on acquisitions where it believes it can deploy capital investment to rejuvenate underinvested or undermanaged pubs to achieve minimum net weekly sales of £10k.

The Group has continued to trade strongly, with year-to-date revenues and EBITDA ahead of the business plan and the recently acquired pubs trading ahead of their initial expectations.

Pub People MD Andy Crawford said: “The recent acquisitions and investment underlines our commitment to expanding our high-quality estate of pubs. I am very excited to progress our discussions for further acquisitions in the coming months, which will support the Group’s bid to become a market leader in its chosen regions. I value the support from Downing, which will allow me and my team to take the Group into the next phase of its evolution.”

Pub People Chairman Mark Crowther added: “Since joining the Group last year, I have been very impressed with Andy and Sarah’s experience and market knowledge. The Pub People team has performed strongly and helped increase the size of the Group’s freehold estate by c.50% in under a year. I am confident that the Group will continue to expand as opportunities become available, thus creating a high-quality leading regional pub business.”

Gautam Chhabra, Investment Director at Downing, commented: “Pub People has performed strongly despite the current economic uncertainty and conditions, and its success is a testament to the focus of its management team. The Group’s management team and Downing will continue to evaluate new acquisitions and investment opportunities, and we are committed to substantially increasing the size of the Group’s freehold estate and geographical footprint. We believe we can continue to execute deals that are attractive for sellers and us and especially for the local communities these pubs serve.”

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