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Thu 3rd Jun 2021 - Hawthorn ‘expectations exceeded’ with tenanted estate trading at 98% of 2019 volumes
Hawthorn ‘expectations exceeded’ with tenanted estate trading at 98% of 2019 volumes: Pub company Hawthorn, which owns circa 700 pubs, has reported like-for-like volumes in its leased and tenanted estate are at 98% compared to the same period in 2019, and sales at 83% in the operator managed estate. The company said this had ‘significantly exceeded management expectations’. Some 91% of its pubs re-opened on 17 May. The company invested £8m in pub partner support to help retain tenants and ensure rapid recovery on reopening. Chief executive Mark Davies said: “Covid-19 represented the single greatest challenge that our sector has faced in generations. I’m immensely proud of the tireless work that our team have put in to ensure that our pub partners and operators have been able to navigate this difficult year and reopen safely and successfully. Our people are our most important asset, and relationships with our partners are stronger than ever thanks to the unprecedented levels of support – both financial and personal – that we have provided, which will benefit the business for years to come, and help us achieve our objective of being the leading national community pub operator. This is a very exciting and important time for Hawthorn. We were delighted with the recent acquisition of fourteen community pubs from Everards and the appointment of Colin Rutherford as our new chairman last week. We look forward to continuing to grow Hawthorn, and with our commitment to building the very best community pub company, with industry-leading support and a people-first approach, we are confident that there is a great future ahead for Hawthorn. And finally, at an industry level, step four in the government roadmap is really important to our sector so that our community pubs can operate at normal capacity and return to pre-covid profitability. It is crucial therefore that the government continues with an evidence-based approach, and bases its decision-making in science, not on media speculation, to facilitate 21 June becoming ‘Freedom Day’ for community pubs across the UK.” It has invested £7m in more than 200 capital expenditure projects across the estate, many of which has enhanced outside space. Chief executive of parent company NewRiver Retail Allan Lockhard said: “As previously announced, we have undertaken a full strategic review of our portfolio to help us refine our retail strategy. As part of this review the board took the decision to dispose of our Hawthorn community pub business. The divestment is ongoing and will significantly improve our financial strength, provide the firepower required to reshape our portfolio and enable Hawthorn to capitalise on the significant growth potential available as an independent platform.”

Sector businesses express recruitment concerns: Nine in ten hospitality business leaders expect to face staff shortages this year, the latest Business Confidence Survey from CGA and Fourth reveals. Half (51%) of those responding to the poll anticipate shortages in all roles, with another 39% concerned about back of house roles only. The figures reinforce widespread concerns about a crisis in hospitality recruitment as trading restrictions ease. Many restaurant, pub and bar staff have left their jobs during lockdowns, and Brexit has also caused a steep drop in people travelling from Europe to work in the UK. Shortages appear to have caught many employers by surprise. The Business Confidence Survey shows half (51%) of leaders have found that the reduced recruitment pool has been a bigger issue than they anticipated since restrictions began to ease. Nine in 10 (88%) employers now expect to hire staff this year – half (44%) of them to a greater extent than expected – while just 4% are confident they will not need any new recruits. Although two thirds (67%) of leaders remain confident about their ability to recruit, retain and train staff, there is likely to be intense competition for available labour in the coming months, increasing the pressure on businesses to keep hold of team members. Business leaders are also concerned about drops in staff productivity. Nearly half (47%) say improving employee productivity will be a major focus for their business in 2021, with just 4% unconcerned about the issue. With many staff only just back at work after many months of on-off furlough, employers now face the challenge of engaging and motivating teams. Anxiety about staff, along with concerns over sales, input costs and the risk of further restrictions, could dampen business optimism in the coming weeks. Ahead of full reopening, the Business Confidence Survey showed that 79% of leaders were optimistic about prospects for the eating and drinking out market – the highest level for just over six years. Karl Chessell, CGA’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “It’s already apparent that recruitment and retention are going to be huge concerns for hospitality over the remainder of 2021. Post-Brexit shortages had been expected for some time, but covid-19 has multiplied the difficulties and many businesses are already facing a staffing crisis at the worst possible time.”

Trade body welcomes bonus bank holidays next June: UKHospitality has welcomed the announcement that there will be Thursday and Friday bank holidays to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next June, calling for swift clarity and legislation, to provide hospitality venues time to plan their hosting of national celebrations. The trade association’s chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Our pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues will be delighted at the granting of a four day weekend to mark Her Majesty’s Jubilee, and keen to host celebrations in their safe and supervised venues. We know from previous royal events that the nation loves to celebrate together, especially in pubs and bars, but the long weekend will also enable more people to take short breaks too, and is most welcome for a battered and bruised industry. What would help enormously would be for swift government announcements and actions to legislate for the sorts of deregulation measures previously granted on such occasions, such as automatic extended licensing hours and public realm use permissions, so that venues can easily plan to optimise customers’ experiences and safety. We share the government’s appetite to make this a celebration to remember, so the more time to plan, the better!”

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