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Tue 9th Aug 2016 - Whiting & Hammond slips into red after head office expansion
Whiting & Hammond slips into red after head office expansion: Gastro-pub operator Whiting & Hammond, which operates eight pubs, mainly in west Kent, has reported pre-tax losses of £281,000 in the year to the end of September 2015 after making a profit of £140,000 a year earlier. The company will be hoping for an improved performance in the current year – it has exited Stanmer House near Brighton, which is thought to have been loss-making, opened The Rose & Crown in Orpington, and will enjoy a full year contribution from the Blue Ball in Surrey. Turnover in the last financial year fell 7.2% to £9.3m after the loss of income from the Old Dunnings Mill in East Grinstead, West Sussex, which returned to its owner Harveys & Son when Whiting & Hammond’s tenancy ran out in 2014. Owner Brian Whiting said this was in large part offset by the continuing progress of the King’s Head near Sevenoaks and the opening of the Blue Ball, a Star Pubs & Bars site, which he said had immediately performed well beyond expectations. Gross profit margins slipped from 30% to 28% according to its latest accounts for the year, mainly because of the cost of launching the Blue Ball and the expansion of the head office team. Underlying food and drink margins remained stable. Whiting & Hammond, which employs about 300 people, also owns the Cricketers Inn in Meopham, the Chaser Inn in Shipbourne, the Little Brown Jug in Tonbridge, and the Kings Head at Bessels Green. Whiting said: “Trading conditions remain competitive with town-based chains offering an alternative dining experience, particularly in poorer weather. However the company remains focused on its offering of excellent food and service in a pub environment such that the underlying customer base remains firm.” Whiting added in his report: “Whilst further sites are always under consideration it is anticipated that much of the current year will be spent ensuring that the recent additions to the estate are making a strong contribution to the overall business.” Whiting & Hammond opened its latest pub, for which it raised £200,000 in 24 hours on peer-to-peer lending platform Funding Circle, in March. The Rose & Crown is a former Young’s managed pub. As well as a new oak-framed extension and expanded kitchen, the venue features four heated “tiki” huts in the newly landscaped garden. In June, Whiting & Hammond ended its four-year tenure of Stanmer House. Brighton-born entrepreneur Alex Proud has unveiled plans to transform Stanmer House into a near Michelin-level restaurant and boutique hotel. Proud signed a long lease for a “significant” sum on the country house.

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