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Tue 22nd Oct 2019 - Update: Admiral Taverns buys 150 pubs, Whitbread, Bread Ahead
Admiral Taverns completes acquisition of 150 Star Pubs & Bars sites: Tenanted operator Admiral Taverns has completed the acquisition of 150 tenanted community pubs from Star Pubs & Bars. The company stated: “The acquisition of the nationwide portfolio marks the latest stride forward in Admiral’s proven growth strategy as a leading operator of community pubs. Through (our) highly supportive and award-winning operations-centric approach, the group has developed a high‑quality estate of approximately 950 sustainable, individual and authentic wet-led pubs, which sit across England, Scotland and Wales.” Chris Jowsey, chief executive of Admiral Taverns said: “On behalf of the entire company, I am delighted to officially welcome our new licensees to Admiral. Core to our approach is our commitment to invest behind our pubs and licensees, supporting them to build vibrant social hubs that can thrive at the heart of their local communities. Our team have been working hard to ensure the integration process for our new licensees has been as smooth as possible and we look forward to developing these new working partnerships.”

Whitbread reports strategic progress in challenging market: Whitbread has reported sales down 0.1% to £1,078m in the first six months of its financial year, with adjusted profit before tax down 5.6% to £251m. Alison Brittain, Whitbread chief executive, said: “We have delivered a resilient first half profit performance despite challenging market conditions in the UK. Shorter-term trading conditions in the UK regional market have been difficult, particularly in the business segment where we have a higher proportion of our revenue, whilst trading in London remained strong. Against this challenging backdrop, we have a number of activities underway which continue to build our brand strength as the UK’s favourite hotel chain. We are enhancing and optimising our UK hotel network and have successfully trialled new higher specification ‘Premier Plus’ rooms in two hotels, with fantastic customer feedback. We are on track to have 500 Premier Plus rooms this year, with ambitions for a total of 2,000 over the next year. We have also made good progress in delivering our ambitious efficiency targets, helping to offset part of the ongoing industry-wide inflation. In Germany, our confidence in the long term opportunities grows and our expansion plans are firmly on target. Our German pipeline has increased 25% to 7,280 rooms over the last year and we continue to look for ways to accelerate our ambitions. We have opened new organic hotels in Hamburg and Munich, which are both performing well and we are also making good progress in preparation for completing the 19 hotel acquisition in February 2020, with 13 hotels to be rebranded to Premier Inn in the first half of next year. Whilst the near-term market conditions in the UK remain uncertain, we have confidence in the long-term structural opportunities available in the domestic budget travel markets in the UK and Germany. Following successful completion of our return of surplus capital programme, we still have a strong balance sheet, providing support for ongoing disciplined deployment of capital, which will deliver growth over the longer term.” The company added: “Market conditions in the UK continue to be challenging with business confidence remaining weak and leisure confidence in decline, coinciding with heightened political and economic uncertainty, which has continued into the third quarter of FY20. This has impacted hotel domestic demand, particularly in the regional market, where 80% of Premier Inn hotels are located. There has also been a greater decline in short-lead discretionary bookings, which tend to be at higher price points. With this uncertainty, it is difficult to predict how business confidence and business investment will evolve in the second half of FY20 and into FY21 and impact demand for short-stay, domestic travel. Trading conditions in the UK hotel market will continue to be monitored closely.” Of its circa 400-strong pub restaurant business, it stated: “Total revenue grew by 0.6% year-on-year, but like-for-like sales decreased by (1.2)% (H1 FY19: (2.6)%) due to a continuing subdued casual dining market.”

Bread Ahead to launch Wembley site next month as blueprint for larger venues: Independent bakery and baking school Bread Ahead is to open a site at Wembley, north London, next month. Owner Matthew Jones told Propel earlier this year the new site would be the “blueprint” as it looks to open larger venues in the capital. Jones will launch the 11,000 square foot venue at Quintain’s new £3bn urban development. It will feature a 220-cover restaurant, deli, baking school and wholesale bakery. New dishes on the menu will include sourdough pizza, roast chicken with salad, baked potatoes and bread and butter, and baked vanilla cheesecake. There will also be grab-and-go items such as deep-filled focaccia sandwiches and brioche soldiers. The move marks a major step up in size for the company, which launched in Borough Market in 2013 and has since added branches in Chelsea and Soho. Jones told Propel: “We are definitely going to go for bigger sites. I go to the States quite a lot and what some of those bakery companies are doing is inspiring.” He said the company would look to add to its estate in 2020 and 2021, with another central London site among the targets.

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