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Balfour buys Kent pubs

Balfour Winery has bolstered its on-trade offering with the freehold purchase of two Kent pubs, despite a “tough” trading environment, operations director Lee Hart told db.

Balfour buys Kent pubs

Balfour Hospitality, the pubs and venues arm of Balfour Winery, announced this morning the purchase of The Goudhurst Inn at Goudhurst, and The Tickled Trout in West Farleigh.

Its latest investment brings Balfour’s total number of pubs to 10, with seven country sites across Kent and the Cotswolds and three in London.

Lee Hart, operations director at the English winery, said that the company’s pubs “act as brand ambassadors for the Balfour Wine Brand, and English wine generally”.

The company said it was keen to secure these sites amid ongoing UK pub closures due to rising costs.

In 2023, more than 500 pubs closed, and according to Balfour, 90 pubs across Kent have shut their doors over the last two years. The British Beer and Pub Association warns that as many as 750 pubs could close by the end of the first half of 2024, if no action is taken by HM Treasury to relieve ever-rising costs.

But Balfour is not shying away from growth, though Hart was keen to stress that any ongoing investment should be targeted. “In terms of growth, we aim to take a slow and steady approach to any growth in a targeted and strategic way to ensure the success of both the business and the community assets,” he said. “We believe this way we are creating the most accessible way to discover English wine.”

He said that “whilst budgets for all remain tight”, investments in its hospitality arm allow Balfour to remain “attractive to our guests in terms of offer and price point, whilst protecting the business and our team”.

Balfour plans to invest in the exterior renovation of both pubs, and will put in new menus and install new management teams.

The Kent-based winery is also banking on higher tourism rates in Kent due to the growing wine industry in southeast England bringing more footfall to its on-trade sites.

“We are also seeing fantastic growth in our winery visitor numbers, and these two sites — being a short drive from our vineyards — can act as overnight hubs for English wine-themed escapes which we hope to launch later in the year,” Hart said.

Balfour Hospitality is a collection of hotels, country inns and restaurants in London, The Cotswolds and Kent launched by the winery in 2013.

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