Heineken invests £20m in its UK pub estate

Heineken is investing around £20 million in its UK Star Pub & Bars estate, in order to make them appeal to the whole community and keep pace with evolving customer demands.

Richard Foy of the White Horse in Headcorn

The money will be used to transform under-performing pubs as well as meet the changing needs of the consumer, the brewer said, by boosting the food offer, introducing coffee and other customer-attracting measures such as free wifi, comfortable beer gardens and cosier bars.

It will concentrate on rural and suburban pubs, which will see around £10 million investment to turn them into “great local pubs”, the company said, with money also spent on “transformational” projects over £100k.

It argued that pubs are a integral part of British culture and that “high-quality, well invested pubs with skilled and motivated licensees will continue to prosper”.

The investment is set to create around 780 jobs this year, and takes the company’s total investment over the last five years to around £100 million.

It comes after the company highlighted the changing role of pubs in the community, and the growing competition pubs face from coffee shops. The research carried out for Heineken by Populus found that pubs that had failed to keep pace with changing demands from customers had struggled.

Just under a quarter of British adults visit their local once a week, and the research found two thirds wanted their local to offer good food, with a third also wanted a nice pub garden. A quarter (24%) said free WiFi would be good, with around 20% also wanting live sport on TV.

“By investing in new kitchens, changing the layout to include comfortable outside space, areas for events and cosier spots, as well as offering free WiFi, Heineken’s investment in its Star estate will continue to transform under-performing pubs into local hubs the whole community can enjoy,” the company said.

One pub that has recently undergone investment said it had seen the benefit of broadening its appeal. Following the installation of a new kitchen at the White Horse in Headcorn in Kent, publican Richard Foy said there had been an “overnight” change to the demographic of its customers, with far more women, couples and families and sales trebling.

“Prior to the refurbishment, the pub was only used at lunchtimes and early evenings and was quiet in between. Now people are starting to use the pub all day and we’ve had customers choosing to work from here all afternoon in front of our real fire,” he said.

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