Brakspear reopens Henley-on-Thames pub as first managed site

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gordon ramsay

Tom Davies, Brakspear chief executive, with Tuesday Dixon, general manager of the Bull on Bell Street and Wayne Pegler, head chef of the pub
Tom Davies, Brakspear chief executive, with Tuesday Dixon, general manager of the Bull on Bell Street and Wayne Pegler, head chef of the pub
Oxfordshire-based pub operator Brakspear has opened its first managed pub in Henley-on-Thames and has said it is not ruling out operating further managed sites.

The Bull on Bell Street pub, which is located next to the firm's head office, has been part of the Brakspear brewery at various stages in its 700-year history however it has been closed for redevelopment since January.

After previously operating as tenanted pub Ko-Ko's, the venue was reopened over the Easter weekend becoming the first of the company's properties which is neither tenanted nor leased. 

"Opening the Bull as a managed rather than tenanted pub marks a new direction for Brakspear," said chief executive Tom Davies. "We are continuously reviewing our business model and looking for new ways to do things – not changing for change’s sake, but taking opportunities that will deliver success.

"In the competitive pub market, operators have to be innovating all the time to stay ahead," he added.

Managed options

Davies first revealed Brakspear was exploring options for making a move into managed houses in an exclusive video interview with BigHospitality last year​ where the businessman admitted the 'fashion' in the industry was returning to managed.

A key part of the family-run firm's business model is focused on multiple operators who take a number of sites. In the interview Davies said being able to operate managed pubs would allow the company to take over three or four venues easily should one of those multiples come into difficulty.

Today Davies was keen to stress that Brakspear's USP remains its large number of tenanted sites but refused to rule out further managed houses.

"We don’t have a plan to open a fixed number of managed pubs within a certain time, but we also don’t rule out further managed sites. We’re going to trade the Bull before making any further decisions," he explained.

Food-led

Last year Davies said any managed Brakspear sites would need to be food-orientated and so it has proved with the opening of the Bull.

The designers charged with redeveloping the 190-cover site have created what they call a 'traditional pub meets modern brasserie'.

Alongside a full Brakspear beer offering and a wine and champagne list created by company chairman Michael Davies, food will be a key part of the pub with a formal evening menu accompanied by weekend brunch, afternoon tea, lunchtime sandwiches and light bites.

The pub launch has generated 18 local jobs including for Wayne Pegler who joins the team as head chef having previously worked at Canteen with Marco Pierre White. General manager Tuesday Dixon formerly worked for Heston Blumenthal as the GM of his Hind's Head pub in Bray.

"The Bull has been one of Henley’s best-known pubs for centuries and it has been a joy to restore it. We’re confident that it will quickly become a favourite among residents and visitors to the town, offering top quality food and drink, a relaxed atmosphere and professional, attentive service," Davies concluded.

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