Overall ranking: 76
Pub ranking: 9
Mark McQuater – Snapshot
Mark McQuater is chief executive of the Barracuda Group, which he co-founded as a start-up business backed by private equity in July 2000.
The business started with 35 managed pubs bought from Enterprise Inns for £50m, which in turn had acquired them as part of a bigger package from Whitbread a month earlier. Through a series of acquisitions and takeovers, Barracuda Group has built up a turnover of more than £160m, operating 220 units nationwide, with more than five retail brands - Smith & Jones, Varsity, Cape, Barracuda and Juniper. The business employs more than 4,200 people.
In 2009 Barracuda underwent a refinancing and restructuring, which reduced debt and brought in new equity to enable the refurbishment of a significant part of the estate.
Mark McQuater – Career guide
McQuater is a graduate of Edinburgh University and a qualified chartered accountant. He held a number of senior executive roles, including NatWest Ventures, JD Wetherspoon, Rank Group and Greenalls Group.
In 2000, with a number of former colleagues, McQuater decided to leave the corporate world and set up a managed pub company operating at the quality end of the market, which became the Barracuda Group.
Mark McQuater – What we think
If it’s true that you should judge a business by how it performs in times of adversity more than how it copes in the good times, then Mark McQuater and his team at Barracuda Group undoubtedly deserve plenty of credit for the way they have steered the business through the recession.
True, the ambitious opening programme that marked McQuater’s intentions for the business from its inception has been put on hold, with the focus now on refurbishing and refreshing the existing business.
With many of its 220 pubs trading in town centre locations - the market that has struggled hardest to attract trade and maintain margins - Barracuda has held its own when many of its rivals have drastically reduced the size of their estates or gone out of business altogether.
That is a tribute to the strong operational emphasis on staff training and development, and the hands-on approach of McQuater and his senior management.
Equally, at a time when, for all intents and purposes, the banks had pulled down the shutters and posted the "back in five minutes" signs when it came to lending to hospitality businesses, McQuater successfully led negotiations to refinance the business in July 2009. The deal cut Barracuda’s debt from £247m to £163m, freeing up funds to reinvest back into the estate, while the senior management retained its 23% stake in the business.
Last year saw Barracuda saw acquire and open a single new pub, the Goddard Arms in Swindon, while it embarked upon a £7m investment programme that will see the refurbishment of more than 50 pubs and bars.
The food side of the business has also been revitalised, with a new catering team, a strong focus on innovation and a drive to raise the bar on food quality. The team has trained its pub chefs to introduce a few "chef finished" dishes each time it relaunches its menus. Dishes such as British steak and Old Peculier pie, hand-pressed "own recipe" burgers and Lancashire hotpot are now finished by the pubs’ chefs.
Over the next 12 months Barracuda plans to continue to refurbish its estate, shifting the look and feel to reflect the changing market, with softer decor, modern furnishings and a new food offer.
Mark McQuater – Further information