The Chestnut Group, which was established in May 2012 by former banker and corporate financier Philip Turner, is to take on the management of The White Horse Inn at Easton, near Framlingham in the east of the county.
The pretty 18th-century pub on the small village green is owned by Alastair and Sian Kerr, whose main business, the Easton Grange wedding venue, opened 2 1⁄2 years ago. The extended Kerr family also own and operate the popular tourist and family attraction, Easton Farm Park.
On taking on a long-term lease on The White Horse, the Chestnut Group is entering a new phase in the group’s development and the pub will be the first operation in a wider strategy of identifying properties that can deliver further potential following investment. Philip Turner explains further: “It made sense to build the group on the strong, asset-based foundations of a number of freehold properties.
However, businesses diversify as opportunity knocks and this was certainly the case when we were offered the option to manage The White Horse and the chance to work in partnership with Alastair and Sian.
The Chestnut Group is not just about property; it is now an established hospitality brand with a strong central management team and a reputation for great service, food and drink. The White Horse has the perfect location as in terms of geographic spread, we were looking for opportunities to the east of the county.
The village location, the structural layout of the pub itself and the established local food focus, all make it a perfect fit for the Chestnut portfolio. The White Horse will benefit from some investment and attention to detail to bring the interiors up to the Chestnut’s customers’ expectations and we look forward to reopening the doors in May.”
Alastair Kerr is confident that the partnership is the right way forward. “The White Horse was purchased 4 years ago with a view of integrating with the wedding venue. However, the wedding venue is now going from strength to strength and although a difficult decision, we know that our business focus has shifted towards the venue and the pub has not been getting the management attention our customers deserved. We know Philip and we admire what he is doing with Chestnut Group. We are very excited about what Philip and his team can bring to the area and look forward to working together to put The White Horse back up there with the best in Suffolk hospitality.”
The White Horse will be relaunched under Chestnut operational management in May 2016. It is the first “lease” agreement for the group, which has a stated intention to seek out other similar opportunities. Chestnut Group worked with Everard Cole, a property consultancy specialising in the leisure industry, to develop the innovative lease structure. Tom Nichols, founder of Everard Cole explains. “It was refreshing to work with Philip and Alastair in developing a really exciting product that works for asset owners looking for a ‘partnership’ with a great operator and brand, we are confident that now we have the structure in place we will identify other opportunities for the Group.”
For those familiar with Chestnut Group’s style, there will be no surprise that existing physical attributes such as the original flint stone walls and open fires will be key features. There will also be a “Club Room” for business meetings and private parties, and zoned eating areas, both inside and out, to cater for the wide-ranging customer base. In true Chestnut brand style, The White Horse will be revitalised, bringing together of a number of strands to create both a traditional pub at the heart of the local community and a Suffolk tourism destination for a truly stunning dining experience.
Photo: L to R: Alastair Kerr, Philip Turner
The Chestnut Group http://www.chestnutgroup.co.uk/ was established in May 2012 by former banker and corporate financier Philip Turner, with the vision to create a family of hostelries under the Chestnut umbrella, which defy pigeon-holing into the standard classifications of pub, hotel or restaurant, but is simply synonymous with a great experience. Key to its development strategy is identifying sites in the region, which as a result of under capital investment, are not delivering their full potential. Chestnut’s' first site, The Packhorse Inn near Newmarket, opened October 2013. The second, The Rupert Brooke in Grantchester, was ready for business October 2014. A boutique hotel in Bury St Edmunds is to open in the Spring.