Another cracking set of results from Wetherspoons: the pub group said today that profits were up 17.5% to £36m in the six months to 24 January, on record sales of £488m - all the more impressive given the carnage in the pub sector since the start of the recession. One of the reasons for Wetherspoons' outperformance has been its very successful move into breakfasts and coffee (it now sells more coffee than most of the big chains) - which explains why CEO Tim Martin now plans to start opening his pubs at 7am, to catch the pre-work crowd. And the post-night-shift drinkers, of course...
After a year in which smaller pubs have been going bust right, left and centre, it's pretty good going for Wetherspoons to post record sales and profits (albeit the chain may have contributed to some of its rivals' demise, by sucking up a bigger share of local custom). And its move into the breakfast market - pitched at its usual low price point - has clearly been a huge success. Martin says it's now selling a whopping 25m coffees a year, making it the 'second or third biggest coffee chain' in the country, and about half as many breakfasts. So his plan to move the opening time from 9am to 7am – allowing employed people to sample his wares too - seems a logical one.
We suspect Wetherspoons' cheap-and-cheerful 'charms' may leave a few of you cold - and the chances of it turning into a business breakfast destination of choice seem slim, to say the least. But there's no denying the success of its model. Martin, who's opened 17 new pubs in the last six months, expects to open 50 more this year and hopes to double the size of his estate in the next 10 to 15 years. This will create lots of jobs. And apparently, this year his staff will get an average bonus of 13% of salary. Not quite Barclays Capital numbers, but not to be sniffed at.
As usual, the outspoken Martin also took the opportunity to have a pop at the Government's treatment of the pub industry today, suggesting that it's taxing pubs into the ground (Wetherspoons alone paid £198m in tax, VAT and excise duty during the period, which is more than £2 of every £5 it generated).
One other notable point: Martin also said today that there might be booze available at this new 7am opening time, supposedly to cater for 'shift workers'. So if you fancy a pint of lager with your bacon, eggs and coffee, you know where to go. (By the way, in case our paymasters are watching, we didn't really mean it about having a pint before work. Except on Fridays maybe. And even then definitely no more than one.)
PS. MT's Dave Waller recently spent an amusing night working the doors at his local 'Spoons for our regular 'The Sharp End' column. Check out how he fared here...
In today's bulletin:
Booming Waitrose powers John Lewis to bumper profits
Man United bidders bolster attack by signing Nomura
Fancy a pint before work? Wetherspoons to open at 7am
Editor's blog: Go easy on the kids
The phone that will tell your boss exactly what you're doing