The Lucky Onion group adds third food-led pub to portfolio ahead of further expansion

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Restaurant, Tavern, Public house

The Chequers pub in the Cotswolds has been acquired by three-strong group The Lucky Onion which is also planning to open a restaurant and bar with rooms in Cheltenham next year
The Chequers pub in the Cotswolds has been acquired by three-strong group The Lucky Onion which is also planning to open a restaurant and bar with rooms in Cheltenham next year
Cotswolds-based hospitality group The Lucky Onion has this week opened The Chequers, a recently acquired food-led pub in Oxfordshire, ahead of further planned expansion for the company next year.

The Churchill village pub features a 120-cover dining space and is the third venue for the business founded by former chef and front-of-house restaurant consultant Sam Pearman.

"The Chequers has got an in-built business there - the other two sites we have done have been 'take them on, renovate them, and build the business'," Pearman told BigHospitality. "Whereas with this one I suspect there is a lot of in-built trade for us to carry on."

Together with his wife, former corporate lawyer Georgie Pearman, Sam acquired The Royal Well Tavern in Cheltenham in 2006. The pub, now operating as simply The Tavern, was joined in March last year by Gloucestershire's The Wheatsheaf Inn.

Following the launch of The Chequers, Pearman will this week learn if he has received planning permission to convert a Grade II-listed Cheltenham property into 131 The Promenade and Crazy Eights - a rooms, bar and restaurant business.

Bestsellers

In a deal, overseen by pub property firm Colliers International, the couple acquired The Chequers from its former owners who had established a successful business in the pub after it had been left empty for around five years.

The traditional 'picture postcard' village inn is a step up for the three-strong group in terms of number of covers. However it boasts a similar food offer and price point to the other two sites where main meals average £15.

"We have broken down The Wheatsheaf Inn's bestsellers and we are incorporating a Josper Grill to follow the current trend of meat. It cooks a steak in 2-3 minutes so it is a bit of a game-changer in that regard. At both sites the biggest sellers are the steaks," Pearman revealed.

Group executive chef Antony Ely, who previously worked at The Square and Mirabelle, has created a menu including dishes such as devilled kidneys on toast. This sits alongside a craft beer-led drinks menu and a pantry offering showcasing lobsters, crabs, pickles and potted meats.

Private dining

The Chequers will also feature a private dining area - something already present in The Wheatsheaf Inn and an element Pearman argued should be considered by more publicans.

"When we did the private dining room properly at The Wheatsheaf Inn it was brilliant news - you capture a lot of things. At this time of year we have a lot of shoot parties where people stay, have breakfast with us, are gone by eight to shoot locally and return at four for a late lunch and dinner."

"It is exactly what I would be using a pub for, whereas October or November for a country house hotel would be a very hard time of year to fill. Being a good pub with the ability to serve private dining meals ticks a box for people," he said.

Expansion

Pearman revealed, subject to planning permission, he hoped to begin the six-week renovation work on the Cheltenham project in January and was always on the lookout for further sites.

However the entrepreneur said he would only look to expand once he was comfortable he had the personnel to cope with growth.

"I am more concerned with keeping my team happy and improving. It is very hard to find staff and our pinch-point at the moment is the sheer number of people we need. It has got to be driven by that, not my desire to get more pubs."

Pearman, who credits improving service standards with raising the bar for the pub industry in the UK, revealed he sends some of his staff to New York for training at hospitality expert Danny Meyer's group.

"We have got to grow as a team to grow as a company," he concluded. "I don't want to rush in and employ people I have never met - that is where potentially you run the risk of having people you don't know work for you. It puts you back, not forward." 

Related topics: Business, People, Pubs & Bars, Venues

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