JD Wetherspoon’s boss has hailed a sustained ‘gradual improvement’ in revenues, following strong food and drinks demand since late July, and easing cost pressures.
The pub chain, which operates 816 outlets across the UK, reported like-for-like sales growth of 9.5 per cent in the 14 weeks ending 5 November.
Turnover growth was driven by a 10.7 per cent rise in bar orders, which comprise most of the company’s trade, but food sales also expanded by 8.7 per cent, while slot and fruit machine revenues grew by 10 per cent.
Recovery: JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin (pictured) said that sales ‘have continued the pattern of gradual improvement which has followed the ending of lockdowns and restrictions’
For September, the Watford-based group’s comparable revenues rose by 9.4 per cent, against 5.9 per cent across the wider hospitality sector, according to the Coffer CGA Business Tracker.
Wetherspoon’s trading update comes a month after it revealed swinging back to an annual pre-tax profit of £42.6million thanks to an absence of Covid-related curbs on hospitality venues.
On Wednesday, chairman Tim Martin said that sales ‘have continued the pattern of gradual improvement which has followed the ending of lockdowns and restrictions’.
He added: ‘Inflationary pressures have eased, but energy costs, in particular, remain at far higher levels than pre-pandemic, putting pressure on suppliers and the wider economy.’
Britain’s pubs, restaurants and bars have struggled with soaring gas and electricity bills over the past couple of years due to the loosening of coronavirus rules and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The surge in energy prices has also led to much higher food and drink costs, while interest rate hikes and industrial action by railway workers have caused further drag on sales and profitability.
Recent figures from real estate adviser Altus Group found that 383 pubs in England and Wales closed during the first half of 2023, equivalent to more than two a day and almost the same amount that shut across the whole of last year.
Since late January, Wetherspoon’s total pub estate has declined by 27 to 816, with six outlets having their leases surrendered and another four sold in the latest quarter.
Jocelyn Paulley, a retail partner at law firm Gowling WLG, said: With increased costs of energy and raw materials eating into the pub chain’s profits, Chairman Tim Martin is focusing on selling some of the company’s properties to ease this pressure and raise additional cash flow.
‘This will allow the business to concentrate on fewer pubs and further enhance its offering to entice customers.’
JD Wetherspoon shares were 1 per cent up at £6.83 on late Wednesday morning, taking their total gains for the year to over 50 per cent.