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Tue 26th Nov 2013 - Breaking News - Alistair Darby - we lost 20% of volumes at Crown Carveries
Alistair Darby – ‘we lost 20% of volumes at Crown Carveries’: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) chief executive Alistair Darby has reported that moving the cost of the best-value main meal at the 110-strong Crown Carveries estate above £4 cost the budget carvery chain 20% of its volumes. The company’s weak like-for-like performance has been linked to its performance in the value market, with like-for-like sales at Crown Carveries, which sells 30 million meals a year, down by around 15%, according to industry sources. Darby told City analysts that volumes were in growth at Crown Carveries in November 2011 when the best-priced main meal was £3.89. Volumes turned negative in May 2012 when the best-priced main meal rose to £3.99 as the company increased price as a result of food price inflation. Volumes declined further in the period between November 2012 and May 2013 when the best-priced main meal was £4.19. This month, the best-priced main meal has been reduced in price to £3.69. Darby said: “Going beyond £4 was a big problem for these cash-strapped customers – Crown Carveries’ customers are incredibly aware of how much cash they have. Now the best-priced main meal is £3.69. We’re pretty confident that is going to make a difference. And it’s just the beginning of the journey to drive value and volume.” Darby reported that the company had also extended Sky and BT Sports to 260 “heartland” pubs, in its Sizzling Pub Company and Oak Taverns estate. Carlsberg is being offered for £1.95. “That’s five pints for £10,” said Darby. More broadly, M&B reported food volumes down 4.3% and drink volumes down 4.4% in the full year to 28 September, offset by price increases, although “volume declines have been moderating in recent weeks”. Darby reminded analysts that M&B is ten years’ old this year, with average weekly turnover per pub rising from £14,300 in 2003 to £22,900 this year. Food percentage of total sales has risen from 30% in 2003 to 51% this year. “We are 75% food-led, a dramatic transformation. We are third to The Restaurant Group and JD Wetherspoon (in takings per site terms).” Darby said the object going forward is to achieve like-for-like sales growth whilst maintaining margin. “We’re now back ahead of the market in terms of guest-facing research,” said Darby. Staff turnover has decreased from 85% in 2011 to 78% this year. Guest net promoter scores have risen 4% in the past year to 59% and guest satisfaction scores are up 3% to 62%. “The best operators are achieving 70% net promoter scores,” said Darby. M&B will look to open around 35 new pubs in 2014, rising to 50 new sites the next year. Expansion capital will increase to within the range of £50m to £80m depending on the freehold and leasehold mix. All Bar One, which opens a new site in Euston train station tomorrow, Harvester, Toby Carvery and Miller and Carter will be the main focus for new site openings. The company reported a 13% Return on Investment (ROI) from the four freehold sites it opened in 2013 and 18% (ROI) from 12 leasehold sites it opened. M&B chairman Bob Ivell said: “Alistair Darby has done a great job in his first year and we have had a board of directors working extremely well together for the past year. The (board) shouldn’t be an issue that people are even talking about going forward.”
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