JD Wetherspoon’s sales have fallen by almost a fifth since the reopening of its chain of pubs last month and the company warned it will report a loss for its financial year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The group, which has reopened 844 of its 873 pubs, said that bar and food sales were down 16.9% year on year in the 44-day period to 16 August.
Wetherspoons said the government’s eat out to help out scheme, which gives diners 50% off to a maximum of £10 per person on Monday to Wednesday, had boosted sales.
“Sales have gradually improved, with a rapid acceleration recently, largely due to subsidised food, coffee and soft drinks in the early part of the week,” the company said. “Sales have also been helped by the addition of extra outside seating.”
Wetherspoons said landlords, landowners and local licensing authorities had proved to be flexible in accommodating extra outside space to help sales.
Tim Martin, the chairman of Wetherspoons, said the group expects a period of “more subdued sales” once the scheme comes to an end at the end of August and warned it will make a loss for the year to the end of 26 July, compared with a profit of £102.5m the previous year.
He said the chain has recorded 24 positive tests for coronavirus among staff since reopening in July.
“Wetherspoons had five positive tests for Covid-19 among its 43,000 staff before lockdown and has had 24 positive tests since pubs reopened on 4 July,” he said. “Since reopening, the amount of testing has substantially increased. Risk cannot be eliminated completely in pubs but sensible social distancing and hygiene policies, common ones with continued assistance and cooperation from the authorities, should minimise it.”
Martin also hit out at media reports that some of its establishments were not adhering to health and safety rules and allowing overcrowding.
“Wetherspoons has made strenuous efforts to adhere to government regulations and guidance,” he said. Martin said that after an article about one pub, The Fox on the Hill, the establishment had received visits from the police, licensing authorities and public health officials.
Martin said that last week the company received an email from the London Coronavirus Response Cell giving the pub’s infection control measures a clean bill of health.
Source: The Guardian