Wetherspoon posts £30m losses as pub chain faces ‘challenge’ to get drinkers back

The company has still not fully rebounded from the pandemic, having reported profits of £132m before Covid

August Graham
Friday 07 October 2022 16:09 BST
Related: Wetherspoon pub in chaos as rat spotted sneaking under tables

Pub chain Wetherspoon has posted losses of £30m as it struggles to get back on track after the pandemic.

The business is facing “a momentous challenge” to persuade pubgoers back into its bars after they got used to drinking cheap supermarket beer during Covid, the company’s boss has said.

Tim Martin revealed that while his business had cut losses significantly, it has still not managed to return to a profit since the pandemic, and sales remain lower than in 2019.

Back in 2019, the company made more than £1.8bn (PA)

“During lockdown, dyed-in-the-wool pub-goers, many for the first time, filled their fridges with supermarket beer – and it has proved to be a momentous challenge to persuade them to return to the more salubrious environment of the saloon bar,” he said on Friday.

Total sales rose from £773m to more than £1.7bn in the year to the end of July. But sales were still behind the more than £1.8bn the company made in 2019.

The same story could be seen on pre-tax losses, which were cut from £167mn before exceptional items last year, to just £30.4mn this year. Before the pandemic the company made a profit of £132m.

It opened seven new pubs during the year, and sold, closed or ended the leases on 15 others. In July the business ran 852 pubs across its estate.

“The company has improved its prospects in a number of ways in recent financial years – we own an increasing percentage of freehold properties; the balance sheet has been strengthened; interest rates have been fixed at low levels until 2031; we have a large contingent of long-serving pub staff and underlying sales are improving,” Mr Martin said.

But he warned that the business is facing increasing costs.

“However, as a result of the previously reported increases in labour and repair costs and the potentially adverse effects of rises in interest rates and energy costs on the economy, firm predictions are hard to make,” he said.

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