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Wetherspoons to stay open as it reports pre-virus sales rise

JD Wetherspoon plc has said that it will keep its pubs open as it posted its financial results for the 26 weeks ended 26 January 2020.

The group saw revenue hit £933m (2019: £889.6m) up 4.9%, and like-for-like sales rose by 5%. Profit before tax stood at £57.9m (2019: £50.3m), and operating profit came to £76.6m (2019: £63.5m).

The group said that its 870 pubs will remain open at all times unless the Government states otherwise, and they are taking even further precautions to minimise the spread of COVID-19 to both customers and employees.

In order to enable social distancing, the pubs will ask customers, once drinks have been ordered, to find a table and avoid standing at the bar. Tables will be well spaced, and customers asked to respect others by choosing alternate tables in the pub. The customer space within a Wetherspoon pub is, on average, more than 4,000sq ft., which is approximately three times the size of an average pub.

Customers can use the Wetherspoon app to order food and drinks, to be delivered to their table. Other precautions will include, but are not limited to, all payments being made by card, where possible; regular updates being provided to all employees, together with education on prevention; reinforcing personal hygiene controls, including emphasis on frequent and proper hand-washing, for both customers and employees.

Pubs will clean and sanitise contact points more frequently and dish/glasswashers will fully sanitise all cutlery, plates, cups and glassware, after every use.

Chairman Tim Martin said, “As recently reported, in the six weeks to 8 March 2020, like-for-like sales increased by 3.2% and total sales by 2.9%. In the following week, to 15 March, sales declined by 4.5%. In the early part of the current week, following the Prime Minister’s advice to avoid pubs, sales have declined at a significantly higher rate.

“It is obviously very difficult to predict, in these circumstances, how events will unfold in future weeks and months, but we now anticipate profits being below market expectations, so long as the current health scare continues. As a result of this uncertainty, it is impossible to provide realistic guidance on our performance in the remainder of the financial year.'

He continued, “The company has decided to delay most capital projects and to reduce expenditure, where possible, including the cancellation of the interim dividend. As a result of these actions, combined with the Government’s proposals on business rates relief and credit guarantee facilities, the company believes it has sufficient liquidity to maintain operations at a substantially lower level of sales.'

Martin finished, “As many companies and commentators have noted, the current health crisis places the hospitality industry, in particular, under great pressure. Wetherspoon, like our peers, will be working closely with all parties, including employees, banks, landlords and suppliers, in order to emerge from the situation in the best shape.”