Robert Williams and Chris Parratt met while working at Grand Metropolitan, the drinks company. In 1995, with 30 years’ experience in the pub trade between them, they decided to set up on their own, securing £4m of venture capital from Causeway. They began by buying 12 derelict pubs their former employer considered almost worthless. After refurbishing them, they targeted the family casual-dining market, which is growing fast. Mill House Inns now runs 53 establishments and its sales have increased 111% a year, from £3.2m in 1996 to £29.7m in 1999. Half these sales come from food. The Buckinghamshire company has largely grown through acquisitions, financed by further injections of venture capital and by bank loans. It was acquired in August by Jodsal, a newly formed company, for £57.6m.
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