Wetherspoon under threat as owner admits people have realised where to get cheaper booze
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JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin has said the pub chain could be under threat as people have realised there are cheaper ways to drink.
Martin said his company, which has almost 900 pubs across the UK, had a ‘momentous challenge’ on its hands to tempt customers back after lockdown.
He also said Wetherspoon hasn’t made a profit since the pandemic, with sales unable to reach the same level as they did in pre-pandemic 2019.
The Wetherspoon boss believes that now punters have seen the cheaper prices on offer in supermarkets, they may not fancy going back to pubs - even one that offers Curry Club.
Martin said: “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.”
Martin said numerous issues had come together at once causing a nightmare for the hospitality industry.
“To coin a Shakespeare phrase, ‘the multiplying villainies of nature do swarm upon’ the hospitality industry,” he said. “Following the lockdowns and restrictions of the pandemic - and surprisingly perhaps, the aftermath has been just as difficult for many companies.
“Most commentators, including most publicans, understandably predicted a post-lockdown boom, in which the public would react to enforced cabin fever by embarking on a celebratory spree, but the reality has, in contrast, been a painstakingly slow recovery in sales, for some but not all, accompanied by great inflation in costs.”
Wetherspoon total sales rose from £773 million to more than £1.7 billion in the year to the end of July - but this is still lower than 2019’s £1.8 billion.
Martin said Wetherspoon has 'improved its prospects in a number of ways in recent financial years' and noted that 'underlying sales are improving' - but, like most of us, he is also accurately aware of the rising costs.
He went on: “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.”
Martin’s comments come just weeks after the company put 32 of its boozers up for sale.
Eddie Gershonor, a spokesperson for Wetherspoon, told LADbible: "On occasion, Wetherspoon does put some of its pubs up for sale.
"This is a commercial decision. We understand that customers and staff will be disappointed with it. The pubs will continue to operate as Wetherspoon outlets until they are sold."