Tom Davies on Brakspear, beer tax and why chefs should run pubs

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Public house, Business development

Tom Davies, the chief executive of leased and tenanted pubco Brakspear, is currently at the helm of the company at an exciting time as acquisitions continue and innovative projects, such as a partnership with Michelin-star chef Claude Bosi, start to develop.

In an exclusive video interview with BigHospitality, Davies revealed his ambitions for the Henley-on-Thames-based business, explained why he thought the Government were unlikely to ever reverse the controversial beer duty escalator and urged chefs looking to start up a food business to consider running a pub.

Quality pubs

Despite a big change in 2006 which saw JT Davies acquire the Brakspear company and its collection of pubs, the pubco remains firmly family-run. Davies reports to his father as chairman but he was certainly not given the top job untested.

After leaving university to join Geronimo Inns on the shop floor as a general manager, Davies worked as a business development manager for the Fullers tenanted division.

Since joining the family firm just over two years ago, Davies has carried out a significant restructure and earlier this year led the company back onto the acquisition trail​ for the first time in six years.

Davies won't rule out even moving into managed houses,​ possibly if one of the many multiples the business works with face hard times, however anyone expecting Brakspear to grow and grow should probably think again.

""I have got no aspiration to grow it to 500 sites," Davies explained. “It is just not what we are about. What I want is a number of quality pubs.

"In five years’ time we might be the same number but what I expect is we will have a larger number of better pubs and fewer of our tail-end. In time I would like to grow it - but organically."

Chef businesses

Some pubs, like many hospitality businesses, are facing a crisis of confidence - what should they be and what should they offer. Davies readily admits to wanting to develop a rooms business in all new venues and as many current sites as possible.

The recent partnership with Claude Bosi also showed Brakspear's commitment to food-led pubs despite the wet tradition of community tenanted or leased boozers. Davies argued running a pub was now a very good starting point for a chef looking to run his or her own food business but without the funds to open a restaurant.

"It is a great way of doing it and a relatively inexpensive way of setting up your own business," he said. "It is slightly fashionable to have fantastic food in a rustic pub and a destination pub at that.

"It is a model that does work. We have had a number (of chefs) that have come to us and we work well with them to help them set up their business - quite often they are fantastic chefs and they need the backup business support that we provide."

Bold Government

While fizzing with excitement about Brakspear, Davies is less optimistic about the prospects for the country's decision makers.

"They will never reduce beer duty," he suggested. "The best thing we can hope for is that they cap it - that is what we are now fighting for.

"It is going to take a bold Government to sit there and cut VAT to the proposed level of five per cent but we are getting to the stage in the economy where someone is going to have to stand up and say 'actually we have got to make some bold moves to get this economy moving'," he concluded.

For an extra, exclusive clip of Davies describing the challenges and opportunities of working for a family firm - like BigHospitality on Facebook.

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