Oakman is inn the money!

editorial image

A growing Tring-based pub company has pounced again by buying another highly rated outlet, this time in Abingdon-on-Thames.

Oakman Inns and Restaurants, based in Akeman Street, has bought the freehold of the Crown and Thistle from a private vendor for £1.6million and will close it in January for a £1.4 million refurbishment.

Oakman’s chief executive, entrepreneur Peter Borg-Neal, said: “The Crown and Thistle is a tremendous addition to our collection. It has taken us nearly a year to bring this deal to fruition and I am delighted to finally get it over the line. We are also in advanced discussion regarding a couple more sites and hope to be able to make further announcements shortly.”

The Crown and Thistle, a former Berni Inn, sits in a commanding position in Abingdon-on-Thames and has been a landmark in the town since the 17th Century. The Oakman scheme will see the overhaul of the bar and restaurant areas to create a modern pub comprising a restaurant and two bars. There will also be 19 boutique bedrooms.

Oakman’s expansion comes on the back of an excellent start to the new financial year. For the 18 weeks ending August 5, 2012 the business achieved like for like year on year sales growth of 21.52 per cent. Average sales per outlet of the five core Oakman sites averaged just under £31,000 net for the period in question.

Mr Borg-Neal said: “We’re delighted with our performance in the first part of the year which is clearly well ahead of the market. It is a reward for the tremendous passion and hard work of our people. Trading conditions will remain difficult and we will look to constantly evolve our ability to please our customers. To us it is about three core pillars: great people, great buildings and a great concept. All three need constant attention, care and lots of love.”

Mr Borg-Neal has spent his career developing pubs and restaurants, and was previously Founder and MD of Forno Vivo Limited. He also had a successful corporate career reaching operating company board level with Allied Domecq and Whitbread. He is chairman of Tring Rugby Club and an active charity campaigner.

Pubs owned by Oakman Inns, which opened its first pub The Akeman in Tring in December 2007, also include the Red Lion in Water End and the Kings Arms in Berkhamsted.

Oakman also have a share of The British Larder – the gourmet pub in Suffolk and its eponymous foodie website. Mr Borg-Neal said: “We are very proud to have helped Ross Pike and Madalene Bonvini-Hamel realise their dreams by creating this wonderful business over the past two and a half years.”

However, Oakman is looking to sell some of its stake to concentrate on its core business.