Hutson looking at two new Pigs in 2018

By Finn Scott-Delany

- Last updated on GMT

Hutson looking at two new Pigs in 2018

Related tags: Restaurant, Hotel

Hotel du Vin founder Robin Hutson is looking to open two more The Pig sites in Sussex and Kent in 2018, which would bring the restaurant-with-rooms concept to seven, reports our sister publication MCA. 

The hospitality entrepreneur said 60% of turnover at the five predominantly West Country sites came from food and drink, which he said was unusual for country sites.

The Pig, owned by Home Grown Hotels, takes on rural country houses typically for £3-4m, and spends up to £5-6m on refurbishments, making them more accessible.

The restaurants have a bistro/gastropub style offer, using kitchen gardens and nurseries in the grounds, and the group was one of the early adopters of sourcing produce from a local radius.

Chief executive Hutson, who said he considered himself closer to a restaurateur than a hotelier, told MCA: “The Pig is run like a restaurant with rooms, albeit with 25-30 rooms in each one.

"In terms of importance, we place F&B at the top of the importance tree and try and drive everything through that. If one Pig does £5m, then £3m will be on F&B, which is unusual in countryside, particular when running very high occupancy in the mid 90s."

Hutson, who also operates Lime Wood Hotel in the New Forest under the same parent company, said all Pigs do 150 covers a day, all year round, with an aim to capture 95% of staying guests in the restaurants.

In the evening, 60% of diners are guests, compared to 40% outside visitors, though this split swings the other way during lunchtimes.

He said the success of The Pig was clear from the way it had rejuvenated heritage sites such as Combe House in Devon.

Previously Combe House had 17 bedrooms, and a fine dining food offer which attracted single figures at lunch, and "not much more in the evening".

Under The Pig at Combe, the same space has 30 bedrooms, and does 150 covers a day, with "never fewer than 50 or 56 people in the restaurant".

Huston said: "You have to look back on where the country house hotel market was 10-15 years ago. Most of it was offering quite a formal stiff approach.

"One of our aims was to break down that offering into a much more accessible thing, so the naming the Pig was a very deliberate thing. Most country hotels sound rather pompous, so if we sound like a pub that’s fine, because people aren’t intimidated."

"It’s a shift in the mindset about how these country places are perceived, and I think we’ve done our bit."

The main challenge is finding the right properties, he said, with many compromised over the years due to nearby roads, housing developments, and bad extensions.

He said he was offered up to 150 sites a year, but would ultimately only take a serious interest in one or two.

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