Star doubles external refurb budget to £6m

Star Pubs & Bars is investing £6m this year in revamping the exteriors of its pubs to enhance their kerb appeal and increase external covers. The investment is double that of 2017 and will benefit 260 pubs.

Over 60% of the funds are being allocated to transforming pub exteriors through redecoration, new lighting and signage and cladding and other finishes for less attractive buildings. A key focus this year will be on creating strong statement entrances by adding structures such as pergolas, dropping adjacent windows and, where possible, relocating side entrances to the front.

New outdoor areas will be created at 120 pubs, adding more covers for alfresco eating and drinking and better space for licensees to hold events. Features including retractable awnings, pods, lighting and astro turf will enable all-weather, year-round use.

The trend for ‘bringing the inside out’ will be maximised using outside rugs, interior-style furniture, artwork and mood lighting to make stunning outdoor areas. The number of outside bars and cooking facilities - such as pizza ovens - is expected to rise as licensees look to capitalise on the investment and reduce pressure on main bars and kitchens during warm weather.

Star Pubs & Bars Property Director, Chris Moore, said, “This expenditure is an essential part of our 2018 £44m investment programme. A pub’s external appearance is vital to its success; our research shows it sends all sorts of signals to passersby on what they’ll find inside. A great outdoor space is no longer ‘a nice to have’.

Customers now expect a fantastic environment outside as well as inside, and licensees see outside areas as an essential part of any refurbishment and a vital income stream. Our own calculations suggest a properly designed garden can increase drink and food sales by as much as £50,000 a year.”

The recently reopened Dolphin in Newbury is typical of the investment Star Pubs & Bars is making in external areas. As part of a £500k refurbishment with Buff & Bear Saloons, a 90-cover garden has been created, increasing the the venue’s total covers by 75%.

The beautifully designed garden includes a draught, cocktail and gin bar, three 12-seater huts, lighting, heating and a covered pagoda. Bi-fold doors have also been installed at the back of the pub to link the indoor and outdoor dining areas in warm weather. As with the rooms inside The Dolphin, specific areas of the garden and the huts are bookable by customers for different occasions.

Ed Turner, MD of Buff & Bear Saloons, said, “We set out to create the best garden in Newbury and customers seem to love it. Seats in the garden are in high demand and it’s adding £7k - £8k a week in sales. We’ve been helped by the good weather but we know from our other pub – The Old Ale & Coffee House in Salisbury – that the space will be used year-round and we’ll be providing rugs and hot drinks in the colder months. Gardens aren’t ‘add ons’ any more; they should be an integral part of a pub’s whole offer. We work hard to ensure we’ve got the right range of drinks and food for the outside to make eating and drinking there as good as it is inside.”