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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 6th Jan 2014 - Whiting & Hammond reports 'biblical' Xmas challenges
Whiting & Hammond strong like-for-likes in December despite “biblical” challenge: South east gastro-operator Whiting & Hammond, led by Brian Whiting, has reported very strong December trading despite “biblical challenges”. The company pushed some bookings into the back-end of November, which meant the week starting 28 November saw like-for-likes grow 7%. Whiting told Propel: “Our events team where right on top of Christmas getting menus out early – we had a cracking Christmas last year so to be honest we weren’t expecting any big like-for-likes so the first three weeks came as a nice surprise. The first week of December was up 8% like-for-like, the week starting 9 December was up 10% and week commencing 16 December was up 12%. Then the weather, power cuts and floods hit the Kent and Sussex areas in a ‘biblical’ style. We had flooding at The Old Dunnings Mill in East Grinstead but the crew managed to keep the pub afloat. The Little Brown Jug was very hard to get to with all but one road to the pub flooded for days. Customers coming from our main catchment areas would have to have taken a very long detour so found it easier to cancel. We had a complete disaster at the Cricketers Inn, Meopham losing power the day before Christmas Eve at 9pm during a very busy service. Power was returned late evening on Boxing Day. So not only did we lose Christmas Eve and Boxing Day but we had the task of telling 158 people booked for Christmas Day that we couldn’t open. Paul Giles, the manager of the Cricketers Inn, Laura Parnell, the head chef, and the crew would not be defeated. They got permission to use the local church hall (which still had power) and cooked for all customers who couldn’t make alternative arrangements plus all the locals who didn’t have power – over 120 people – a free Christmas lunch which I think has gone down in folk-law in Meopham village. Lots of letters of appreciation are on sitting on my desk. The week starting 23 December ended down 5%, which we have to be pleased with considering the circumstances. We worked hard on New Year and were very happy with the final week commencing 28 December up 7% despite no let-up in the weather. We are looking at Christmas trading as a great success for 2013 overall. We had some good targets to beat, which we achieved but the icing on the cake is that we have had the best ever feedback from our customers. Plus Stanmer House which came into its own deserves a special mention - it was the star of the show with like-for-likes up 27% on last year.”
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