Pub chain

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The Alex in Southend-on-Sea is an example of a chain pub - in this case a "Screams" managed pub targeted at university students.

A pub chain is a group of pubs or bars operating under a unified brand image. Pubs within a chain are tied houses and can, generally, only sell products which the chain owner sanctions. Pubs in a chain normally display their chain branding prominently and may also feature shared aspects, such as menus and staff uniforms.

The owner is often called a pubco and the chain may exist as a single operation or it may be a division of a larger company, such as a brewery.


Pub chains are an evolution of the tied house system. During the latter half of the nineteenth century increased competition between the large breweries led many of them to buy up local pubs and directly employ publicans to run them, in an attempt to secure markets for their products. Although tied houses had existed in some cities since the seventeenth century, this period has come to be known as the birth of the tied house system. As well as guaranteeing markets for a brewery, the tied house system allowed an uninterrupted supply chain, directly from the brewery to the pub, keeping costs down. A key difference to the system largely operating today is that most tied houses are now owned by pub chains, known as pubco's, who align themselves with specific suppliers in order to obtain big discounts, therefore reducing profits for the brewery.


In the United Kingdom, there are two types of pub chain, reflecting the ownership of the pub and the style of operations. Pubs are either tenanted or managed.

Pub chains such as Punch Taverns and Ei Group own thousands of tenanted pubs which are not branded to retain uniqueness. They are controlled in the brands of beer, ales and lagers and sometimes other beverages that they may sell.

Pub chains operating managed houses are frequently run as brands, located near a high street but rarely in predominantly residential areas.

Multiple-held pubs do exist in countries other than the United Kingdom, but due to most countries having different accepted systems of ownership and supply, they do not hold anywhere near the level of control over the market as they do in the UK.[citation needed]

Managed pub companies[edit]

Atmosphere Bars and Clubs Ltd
The "Chicago Rock Cafe" and "Jumpin Jaks" night-club/pub brands were created by Luminar Leisure in 1989,[1] and the Chicago Rock Cafe concept meant the Luminar group became the most successful leisure company of the early 1990s.[2] However, the group found the night-club/pub concept increasingly difficult to keep in profit,[3] and in December 2006 created 3D Entertainment, in a £79m sale and leaseback deal in which it retained a 49% share, to take over the night-club/pub brands,[4][5] which were restructured into around 55 Chicago Rock Cafes with 15 other sites, including Jumpin Jaks and Mortimers pubs.[6] 3D Entertainment could not make the brands successful, and the company went into administration in February 2010,[7] with some of the Chicago Rock Cafe brands being taken over by Atmosphere Bars & Clubs, and other sites being bought by JD Wetherspoon.[8] There are 21 Chicago Rock Cafes in locations all over England and Wales.[9]
Barracuda Group
Varsity,[10] Barracuda Bars, Juniper Inns, Cape and Smith & Jones are owned by the Barracuda Group, which is based in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.
The Hobgoblin pubs were owned by Wychwood Brewery until 2002 and are located in London and the south of England.
Laurel Pub Company
Laurel (based in Luton) acquired several pub chains using funding arranged by Robert Tchenguiz, including buying Bar Med and Slug & Lettuce from the administrators of SFI Group plc in June 2005 for £80m and also Yates's who were based in Bolton, Greater Manchester, in May 2005 for £202m. Laurel owns the HogsHead chain of high street bars. In April 2007 Laurel also acquired the La Tasca chain of tapas bars for £123m. Tchenguiz bought the company through his company R20 for £151m in November 2004. Laurel were placed into administration in March 2008 and the assets were immediately purchased by Bay Restaurant Group and Town & City Pub Company in a "pre-pack" deal.
Mitchells & Butlers
Mitchells & Butlers used to be the retail division of Bass Brewery, which rebranded in July 2001 to become Six Continents Retail, and again in April 2003 to its current name. The company owns All Bar One, Ember Inns, Edwards, O'Neills, Miller & Carter, Browns Brasserie, Sizzling Pubs, Nicholson's, Crown Carveries, Castle, as well as others. It is the largest UK pub and restaurant group. It is based in Birmingham.
Oakman Inns and Restaurants
Oakman Inns (based in Tring) are a chain in the Home Counties. Their first outlet The Akeman won Best UK Pub Design 2009 in The Publican Awards. In 2013, they won the Eat Out Award for Best Pub Company of 2013. In 2014 they won Publican Awards for Best Employer and Best Community Pubs. In 2015 they were named in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For achieving 3 Star accreditation from Best Companies. Oakman Inns are expanding rapidly and have financed this growth via the Enterprise Investment Scheme.[11] Fed up with the British Government's dither and delay, Oakman Inns have announced that they will be re-opening all their premises on 4 July.[12]
Pitcher & Piano
The eighteen pub Pitcher & Piano chain was created by Crispin Tweddell in Fulham in 1986,[13] who developed it to seven pubs,[14] before selling it to Marstons for £20 million in 1996.[15]
Slug and Lettuce
Slug and Lettuce is owned by the Bay Restaurants Group who are based in Luton, Bedfordshire. Originally part of Grosvenor Inns the chain was bought by SFI group who were based in Woking. In June 2005 SFI Group went into administration at which point the majority of the Slug & Lettuce branded pubs were purchased by Laurel Pub Company for around £70 million. Laurel subsequently went into administration in March 2008,[16] and the chain was acquired by Bay Restaurants Group.[17] There are 80 pubs in the chain, predominantly situated in London, South East England and the Midlands, but also elsewhere in England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man.[18]
Stonegate Pub Company
Stonegate Pub company was established in 2010 to acquire 333 pubs from Mitchells & Butlers. Stonegate acquired a portion of the Bramwell pubs in 2013 (78 of 185).[19][20]
In September 2005, Spirit Group sold its "City Nights" portfolio of in excess of 180 pubs and clubs, en-bloc, to Alchemy - the financial backers behind the newly formed Tattershall Castle Group (TCG) who created the brand, "the1440".[21]
JD Wetherspoon
JD Wetherspoon run over 920 pubs across the UK. All JDW pubs serve an extensive food menu as well as drinks, and many are conversions from existing large buildings.

Tenanted pub companies[edit]

Ei Group
Ei Group has around 5,500 leased and tenanted pubs in the UK. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Greene King
Greene King have over 3,000 managed and tenanted pubs, restaurants and hotels in the UK. In 2015 they acquired Spirit Pub Company plc
Heineken International acquired 1,900 UK pubs from Punch Taverns in December 2016.[22]
Punch Taverns
Punch Taverns has around 1,300 leased and tenanted pubs in the UK.[23] It is headquartered in the traditional brewing centre of Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. The company's managed pub division was demerged in 2011 as a separate company, Spirit Pub Company plc. In December 2016 it was agreed that around 1,900 pubs would be sold to Heineken International.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "21 Years of Entertainment - Luminar Group Holdings plc Annual Report 2009". Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  2. ^ The Makings of Luminar, The Luminar Staff and Shareholder Handbook, 2005, page 1
  3. ^ "Luminar Group Holdings plc - Chief Executive's Statement". Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  4. ^ "Chicago Rock Café owner interested in Regent Inns - 7/22/2008 - Caterer Search". Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  5. ^ "3D Entertainment begins trading". 24 January 2007. Retrieved 21 October 2007.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Thompson, James (5 December 2009). "Chicago Rock Cafe chain in line for pre-Christmas sale - Business News, Business - The Independent". Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  7. ^ "The Publican - Home - Colliers CRE seeking buyers for closed 3D Entertainment sites". Retrieved 11 October 2010.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Chicago Rock Cafe in Stortford is sold to pub chain". Archived from the original on 1 April 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  9. ^ "Venues". Archived from the original on 5 September 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  10. ^ " - Welcome to Varsity". Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  11. ^ <>
  12. ^
  13. ^ {{cite web|url= Tweddell: From Pitcher & Piano to Propercorn, lessons from private equity's nice guy|author=Andrew Saunders}]
  14. ^ Dominic Walsh (8 July 2019). "Pitcher & Piano sale plan hits right note for Marston's". The Times.
  15. ^ Ben Harrington (6 July 2019). "Marston's mulls sale of Pitcher & Piano pubs chain with £30m price tag".
  16. ^ "Yahoo! UK & Ireland Finance - FTSE, Stock Exchange, Mortgages, Loans & More". Retrieved 12 June 2012.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ " - is for Sale". Laurel Pub Co. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  18. ^ "The Slug and Lettuce, Find A Bar". Archived from the original on 10 June 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Pub News & Pub Property Search for the UK pub trade". Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  22. ^ a b "Heineken knocks out rival in bid for Punch Taverns". Dutch News nl. 16 December 2016.
  23. ^ Punch Taverns website

External links[edit]