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Tue 7th Jul 2020 - Update: Whitbread, JD Wetherspoon and St Austell
Whitbread – we are in a good position to take advantage of structural opportunities: Whitbread has reported it now has more than 270 UK hotels and 24 restaurants now reopened with the majority of the rest of the estate due to reopen throughout July. All 19 operational hotels now open in Germany, including 13 new hotels that were refurbished and rebranded as Premier Inn during lockdown. The company stated: “The operation of 39 hotels opened for key workers throughout the crisis has enabled us to thoroughly test new social distancing protocols and hygiene standards ahead of the wider opening of the estate.” Alison Brittain, Whitbread chief executive, said: “We are very pleased to have commenced the reopening of our hotel and restaurant estates, which are now able to welcome all business and leisure guests. In the UK we currently have over 270 hotels open and expect the majority of the remainder of the estate to be open by the end of July. In Germany all of our 19 operational hotels are open, including 13 that were refurbished and rebranded as Premier Inn during the lock-down period. It is still very early days and therefore too early to draw any conclusions from our booking trajectory, especially as there has been volatility in hotel performance in other countries that relaxed controls before the UK. However, in traditional regional tourist destinations, we are seeing good demand for the summer months, whilst the rest of the regions and metropolitan areas, including London, remain subdued. Throughout the crisis we operated 39 UK hotels to provide accommodation for NHS staff and other key workers. This experience of successfully and safely operating hotels in a socially distanced environment provided key learnings and will enable us to deliver the highest standards to our customers as we reopen the rest of the estate. Enhanced social distancing and hygiene standards can be delivered consistently across our entire estate and this, together with more flexible booking options, our value pricing and our superior network will ensure that our leading customer proposition is maintained. As expected, our Q1 performance reflects the impact of the closure of our hotel and restaurant operations, in both the UK and Germany, at the end of March. The successful completion of the £1bn rights issue on 10 June will enable us to maintain our competitive advantage and financial flexibility, as we have both strengthened our balance sheet and secured the business so it can withstand a long period of low revenues. Our strong balance sheet, alongside both our leading operating model and the power of our brands, means that we are in the best possible position to take advantage of enhanced structural opportunities that we expect to become available in both the UK and Germany. This will mean that we are in a position of strength to continue to invest, increase market share, and over-time create significant value for shareholders.” In Quarter One, accommodation sales were down 79.1%, reflecting estate closure. 

JD Wetherspoon corrects Daily Mail article: JD Wetherspoon has corrected a Daily Mail article containing untrue information. The company stated: “An article dated the 2 July, in the publication Daily Mail Online, was headlined: “Wetherspoons Is Getting Rid Of 15 Pubs When The Chain Reopens For Business On Super Saturday”. This headline and other statements in the article were untrue. The fifteen pubs in question were put on the market over a year ago, in April 2019. Five of the pubs were sold and now belong to third parties. Eight of the pubs were withdrawn from the market and are no longer for sale. Two of the pubs are still on the market. The article also contained the statement that: “.... the branches … were put up for sale last April but the chain has now confirmed they will stay on the market – but still open on Saturday.” No one from Wetherspoon authorised to speak to the Daily Mail, or with any knowledge of the company, made that statement. The Daily Mail article remained online for approximately two days, but has now been removed.”

St Austell calls for more government support whilst sector gets back to sustainable level of trade: St Austell Brewery has called for more government support for pubs in the wake of re-opening at the weekend. Kevin Georgel, chief executive, said: “It’s very encouraging to have received so much positive feedback over the weekend, from those who enjoyed their pub experience and felt reassured by the new measures we’ve put in place. We’re happy that we’ve been able to provide peace of mind and a safe, comfortable environment for our loyal customers. We’re incredibly proud of our pub teams and tenants across the West Country, who worked so hard behind the scenes last week to get ready to welcome people back. We’d also like to thank all of our guests for supporting us, looking out for one another and respecting the guidelines. However, while it’s great to be up and running again – and things got off to a steady start – the reality is that we still face a long road ahead to recovery. Our trading across the weekend was significantly lower than last year and is likely to remain this way, until consumer confidence fully returns. We’re therefore urging the Chancellor for extended support for hospitality – by cutting VAT, beer duty and business rates – until we can get back to a sustainable level of trading. Pubs have been at the very heart of their communities, in good times and bad, for hundreds of years. The industry needs longer-term support, to ensure that pubs are protected for future generations.”

Three pubs close again after customers test positive for coronavirus: Three pubs in England have closed after customers tested positive for coronavirus. The affected pubs announced their closures via Facebook. The Lighthouse Kitchen and Carvery in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, said it was slowly working through a list of customers who had left details at the weekend. In Batley, West Yorkshire, the Fox and Hounds said a customer had phoned to say they had tested positive for coronavirus. The pub said staff had taken tests and the venue would be deep-cleaned prior to reopening. Meanwhile the Village Home Pub in Alverstoke, Hampshire, said some staff were isolating due to “a case of coronavirus in the pub”. It told customers who had visited at the weekend there was “no need to isolate” unless they showed symptoms or were contacted by tracers.

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