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Thu 13th Jan 2022 - M&B – Lfl sales in the year to date down 1.5%, festive season lfl sales down 10.2%
M&B – Lfl sales in the year to date down 1.5%, festive season lfl sales down 10.2%: Mitchells & Butlers has this morning reported that like-for-like sales in the 15 weeks ended 8 January 2022 declined by 1.5%, with total sales down 5.2%, as the business was adversely impacted by covid related site closures. In the seven weeks to 8 January, like-for-like sales were down 6%, with food sales up 0.5% against a 13.8% decline in drink sales. For the 15 weeks to 8 January, food sales were up 5.2% versus a 9.1% decline in drink sales. The company said it made a strong start to the year with like-for-like sales growth of 2.7% over the first eight weeks to 20 November 2021, with food sales up 9.5% versus a 4.8% decline in drink sales. The company said: “This encouraging performance continued until early December when concerns first arose around the emergence of the new covid variant, omicron, leading to calls for further caution in socialising which resulted in a downturn in activity across the sector. As a result, over the seven weeks since the last update like-for-like sales have been down 6.0%, with the adverse impact of omicron being particularly felt in the most recent four weeks, over the important festive season, during which like-for-like sales have been down 10.2%. The trading environment remains uncertain, but we continue to benefit from our wide range of brands, offers and locations. Sales have remained stronger in suburban and food-led brands, particularly at the more premium end of the market. As previously announced, in the current year inflationary cost headwinds are expected to be higher than the normal pre-covid level of £60m to £65m, due particularly to high levels of statutory wage rate increases and persistent historic high prices in energy markets.” The group currently has cash balances on hand of £235m, with undrawn unsecured facilities of £150m. The business also announced that trustees of the M&B Executive Pension Plan, working closely with the company, have successfully completed a full scheme buy-in with Legal and General Assurance Society Limited. The company said that this transaction eliminates substantially all remaining risk in this scheme within the level of existing committed contributions. The Executive Plan makes up approximately 20% of the company’s total pension obligations, with the vast majority of the balance being in the M&B Main Pension Plan for which the next triennial valuation will be as at 31 March 2022. Phil Urban, chief executive, said: “This first quarter performance represents a robust performance given the challenges the industry faces from the rapid spread of the new variant both in terms of reduced consumer activity and disruption caused by the inevitable isolation of team members. Experience shows that as restrictions ease, and confidence returns, our business is able to swiftly recover. To that end, whilst we expect activity to continue to be adversely impacted in the short term, we are encouraged by the latest data on the omicron variant which we believe will boost consumers’ confidence to return to pubs and restaurants allowing us to regain the momentum which was beginning to build, supported by the benefits from our new set of Ignite initiatives.”

Next edition of Turnover & Profits Blue Book to feature more than 500 companies with 48 new additions: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is updated monthly for Premium subscribers, will see 48 companies added, taking the total number to 507. Among the companies being added are Daisy Green Food, Flight Club and AG Restaurants. The next edition, to be published at midday on Friday (14 January), will also feature group editor Mark Wingett’s next quarterly pick of the companies well-placed to grow in the post-pandemic era. His latest pick of companies are Brakspear, Simmons Bars, Hub Box, Park Holidays, Vaulkhard Leisure, Hostmore, QFM Group, Caprice Holdings and Ivy Collection. The picks are also accompanied by a 2,100-word report. The Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, shows the full damage done to the sector by the pandemic, with 321 companies making a combined loss of £8.17bn compared with 186 companies in profit – making a combined £797m. Losses now outstrip profits in the sector ten times over. Total turnover of the companies stands at £28.5bn. The Blue Book provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranking companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors’ earnings and highest paid directors. Premium subscribers also receive two other databases – the New Openings Database, produced in association with StarStock, and the Multi-Site Operators Database, produced in association with Virgate, which are also updated each month. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Mark Wingett.

Loungers opens first London site, in Ealing: Cafe bar operator Loungers has opened its first site of the year, and its first in London, in Ealing. The Nick Collins-led group opened Castano Lounge in Ealing High Street yesterday (12 January), which became its 156th Lounge, and 187th site overall. A further London site, Estadio Lounge in Wembley Boulevard, is set to follow later this year. Further Lounge openings are planned in Basildon, High Wycombe, Gainsborough, Uxbridge, Barry Island, Bognor Regis and Shrewsbury, while the business is also set to open a Cosy Club site in Chester. In December, Nick Collins, chief executive of Loungers, said that the Lounge and Cosy Club operator was now confident it could add a fifth build team and increase its openings capacity to 30-32 sites a year. Alex Chatterton, sector analyst at Panmure Gordon, recently argued that there is scope for Loungers to eventually operate 600 Lounge sites and 100 Cosy Clubs across the UK.

Oakman Group launches chef academy scheme: Oakman Group, the Dermot King-led pub-restaurant operator, has launched a new training scheme for chefs. The 36-strong group said its new chef academy scheme will train people up on a paid, two-week intensive, residential course, at the end of which they will get a job. The group says the hospitality sector has been crippled by the pandemic and the effects of Brexit, and one of the biggest problems is the severe lack of staff. The business will be hosting its chef academy in January, February and March. The intensive two-week residential course will be based at The Woburn, in Bedfordshire. All attendees will be paid and given a full meal allowance, and at the end of the two weeks will be offered a job at one of Oakman’s sites across England, with a starting salary from £10 per hour. King told the Bucks Herald: “Our aim is not to hire chefs – it’s to create them. We’re looking for people with a passion for food and a desire to learn, and we can help them by giving them excellent training and coaching from our team of chefs. Too often, people think the hospitality sector is just a job and not a career. We think differently, and our chef academy is one example of how we like to invest in people and training.”

KPMG – One in three cutting back on household spending: The cost of living squeeze is forcing a third of people to cut back on their household spending this year, according to new research. Fewer than one in ten of 3,000 adults surveyed by KPMG believe their spending will increase. Spending less on eating out was the most common answer among those looking to reduce their 2022 household spending, while half said they aim to spend less on clothing or takeaways. Linda Ellett, head of consumer markets, leisure and retail at KPMG UK, told The Standard: “The cost of living squeeze is under way for many households and it’s not a surprise to see a third planning on reducing spending. Faced with inflationary pressures, some businesses are mulling upping their prices, or have done so, but they will be mindful that they are operating in a marketplace where consumers are themselves having to tighten the purse strings. The competition for share of wallet in 2022 is heating up. It’s vital that businesses double-down on their productivity, on the value and efficiency of their supply chain, and assess whether new products or offers can give them an edge in this landscape.” One in four respondents said they had not managed to save during the pandemic. Of the 74% that had, the rising price of goods and services was named as the biggest deterrent to spending savings, followed by higher taxes and household bills and uncertainty linked to the pandemic.

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