The nation’s thirst for cut-price booze has helped pub chain JD Wetherspoon drive higher profits in the first half of the year. With profits rising 6.3% on last year, the chain reported record sales of traditional ales and ciders – presumably spurred on by the sizzling summer us Brits have just enjoyed (and kissed goodbye to).
The 3.8% increase in bar sales doesn’t come as a great surprise but what is perhaps more interesting is the chain’s rise in food and coffee consumption. Yes, apparently we’re flocking to Wetherspoon to get our daily dose of iron and caffeine. It reportedly sells 10 million steaks a year and more Lavazza coffee than any other company. Globally. Madness…
Despite the good news, Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin wouldn’t let the chance to moan about taxes pass him by, performing his usual ‘we’ve succeeded against the odds’ schtick.
‘I am pleased to report another year of progress, with record sales, profit and earnings per share, despite having paid £551.5m in taxes during the year (equivalent to £632,000 per pub),’ said Martin.
‘It is unsustainable to have far higher taxes for the pub industry than those for supermarkets. Already, 10,000 pubs have closed and many others are suffering, through insufficient investment. In particular, there should be VAT equality for pubs, restaurants and supermarkets.’
Having started out with its first pub in Muswell Hill, London in 1979, Wetherspoon now has 886 pubs in the UK. It opened 29 new venues this the past year, selling three, and plans to open 30 more this year. Wetherspoon’s ever-expanding empire is mirrored by the opening of new breweries, according to reports 189 breweries opened in the UK in the past year.
The news makes a welcome change from the high pub closure figures we’ve become accustomed to hearing about. Are we on the cusp of an ale renaissance? We'll drink to that.
- Read MT's profile of Tim Martin