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Pub operator Urban & Country Leisure is to open 15 boutique hotels over the next three years in a £20m expansion programme.
The properties will be branded The Lazy Cow, with the first such hotel and restaurant already open in Warwick. Another location, the Telegraph pub in Putney Heath, South West London, will take The Lazy Cow brand name this year. More locations are being sought in Bath, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Solihull, Newbury, Pool, Lincoln and Henley-on-Thames.
UCL currently operates 14 mainly rural pubs and restaurants across the UK but has now switched £15m allocated for investment away from the country pubs sector, predicting a downturn in this market.
The first Lazy Cow was developed from Warwick’s former Globe Hotel into a 16-room boutique property and restaurant at a cost of £1.5m. Its head chef is David Philpot, previously head chef at Soho House in New York. UCL claims the property operated 97% over budget following the first nine weeks of its opening in November with further room for growth in occupancy rates.
UCL said it already had all the investment funds it needed via a joint venture with Innventive Property Holdings, the vehicle chaired by a former investment banker, Sir Aubrey Brocklebank.
UCL owner Ross Sanders, who began his career as a nightclub manager, said the decision to switch away from country pub investment was prompted by the economic environment, with increased VAT and higher fuel costs discouraging out of town visits.
“We believe that the stronger performance will come from brands with a quality offering in town and city-based locations,” he said.