The Whitbread Inns launch comes over a decade after the business sold off the majority of its pub estate. It is being tested at selected sites across the country – in Shrewesbury, Marlow, Lympsham, Christchurch and Littlehampton.
Each location aims to reflect its local surroundings, the business claims, with seasonal cask ales and food positioned as quality alternatives for good value prices. A website has been set up for the brand, allowing visitors to access pictures, menus and contact details for each inn as well as book a table.
A spokeswoman for the business said: “Whitbread Inns are aiming to bring the classic pub and restaurant feel back to the local community. With five sites across the country, the new Whitbread Inns give locals the chance to experience fantastic great value food and drink full of seasonal flavour and a friendly atmosphere.”
While Whitbread is pushing the inns at selected sites, it could lead to more being launched should it prove popular with consumers. If further openings happen then the brand would operate alongside Whitbread’s Table Table pub restaurants. The brand was formed from some of the 400-plus Beefeater Grills and Brewers Fayre pubs the business held on to when it sold off its 3,000 strong pub estate in 2001.
The Whitbread Inns offering sees the business look to capitalise on the popularity of gastro pubs, boosted by a boom in the casual dining market.
Whitbread has been exploring new ways to branch out its portfolio over the past two years in pursuit of aggressive growth targets to drive value for shareholders. The business plans to erect 40 small, urban hotels under its Premier Inn brand across London by 2018 and also expects to double system sales at Costa Coffee in the period to £2bn.
The targets are buoyed by strong sales in 2013. Total revenue spiked 13 per cent year-on-year for the 12 months to 26 February, with like-for-like sales climbing 4.2 per cent.