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Business leaders networking at the Peach 20/20 Conference  

15 May 2024

On the openings trail with Heartwood

By Peter Martin
Heartwood Collection is in growth mode - looking to buy freehold pubs and then invest, often heavily, in them. So, it was good to meet up with old friend, Peach 20/20 Icon and company chairman Mark Derry to see how the plan is progressing.

So, what did I learn after a day on the road - apart from Mark reckoning he’s clocked up more miles in the last six months than in the last 10 years in his previous car supporting CEO Richard Ferrier and the team in the site assessment and openings process? 

Here are 8 takeaways:

1. Quality and a premium experience is where it's at. 

2. Investing in kitchens and chefs reaps dividends. 

3. Skilled and smart chefs are able to engineer and flex recipes, maintaining margin without sacrificing quality (see point 2). 

4. The company continues to operate 14 Brasserie Blancs but Heartwood Inns are the future - and they are very much proper pubs with a target 50/50 sales split.

5. Pubs with rooms present huge growth potential - and it has just opened its first, The White Horse on Dorking high street. Three weeks in, all 50 rooms were booked when we dropped by. More are planned.

6. But the company has also just opened its first community pub, The Plough and Harrow in residential Long Ditton, near Hampton Court - no rooms but a focus on locals and a garden ready to be developed.

7. Investment capital is there for the right sites, but there are tough criteria to meet. Extensions are often needed to house new kitchens and dining areas. Ideally sites will have a 100+ cover restaurant, 30 covers in the bar and another 30 outside.

8. Execution is everything - delivering on the promise, day in and day out. 

And what’s next? More of the same - with the newest pub, The Quill & Scholar in Lichfield having opened at the end of March. The 23rd Heartwood Inn.

Great to see you Mark. And thanks for the tour.

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