Peter Borg-Neal reveals 2013 plans for Oakman Inns and The British Larder

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Oakman inns, Thought

Peter Borg-Neal, chief executive of expanding firm Oakman Inns & Restaurants, intends to remain as chairman of The British Larder business
Peter Borg-Neal, chief executive of expanding firm Oakman Inns & Restaurants, intends to remain as chairman of The British Larder business
Peter Borg-Neal, the chief executive of Oakman Inns & Restaurants, has outlined his 2013 plans for the company and declared his intention to remain as chairman of The British Larder when Oakman is no longer the majority shareholder of the Suffolk-based company.

In September last year, the firm, founded in Hertfordshire in 2007, announced it was planning to sell its stake in The British Larder​ but this month Borg-Neal clarified his plans.

"We are not looking to exit, we are looking to reduce our stake so that we are no longer the majority shareholders," he revealed. The entrepreneur explained he was looking to split the businesses to allow each to grow and raise capital separately.

Madalene Bonvini-Hamel and Ross Pike, who opened the Suffolk pub in 2010, are keen to open a cookery school and possibly accommodation on site. Following the success of The British Larder cookbook,​ Borg-Neal said he was hoping to bring a couple of new faces onto the board including someone with an experience in retail.

Speaking to BigHospitality, the former cellar boy turned chief executive revealed 2013 would be a critical year for the development of Oakman Inns & Restaurants.

"We are approaching a degree of maturity," said Borg-Neal. "We have got five fully-fledged Oakman Inns making a lot of money, The British Larder has gone from being a problem child to something of a little superstar and we have got two more (Oakman Inns) openings - we are feeling quite bullish and optimistic."

Expansion

Already confirmed for the next twelve months is the reopening of The Crown & Thistle in Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, which is currently trading as it was before it was acquired while the team await planning approval for a £1.4m refurb.​ 

Following a series of consultations, the property is expected to be refurbished and launched in the autumn with a restaurant, two bars and 20 boutique bedrooms.

Ahead of that, the Tring-based company has acquired a set of former shop units in Beaconsfield which will open as a pub and restaurant in April.

Further acquisition activity is also expected later in the year.

"We are (looking at other sites). The reality is if you look for a site and it is open a year later you have done fairly well. You have to be always working with short, medium and long-term goals. If I want to do anything before the end of this year or the beginning of next, I need to be identifying sites now," he explained.

"We tend to be quite fluid in our thinking," Borg-Neal added. "We are saying let’s just build a great company and see how it goes. At the moment, for people to produce business plans and to be very definitive and announce exactly how many sites they are going to open and when they are going to exit - I think they are making it up frankly."

While eschewing so-called 'business guessing' as opposed to business planning, the entrepreneur did suggest he might consider moving on to a new challenge if the company was posting more than £50m turnover - the firm is likely to post turnover in excess of £9m at the end of the current financial year.

Craft food

Borg-Neal revealed the Abingdon venture would be used to trial some form of manufacturing and retail offer which, if successful, might be expanded to other sites in the five-strong group.

"I am very fascinated about the idea of having some form of other offer or food production in there - we are looking at perhaps having an on-site bakery which is also open to the public and we are also having some discussions around having a coffee roaster. I don't just want to replicate our other successes," he revealed.

"I think the idea is to do things elsewhere - but not necessarily the same thing in everyplace. Clearly the zeitgeist is towards more craft food so I think you can use amazing suppliers but equally it is occasionally quite nice to make something yourself," added Borg-Neal, saying he thought bread, coffee and beer could all potentially be made and sold in Oakman Inns' properties. 

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