Punch hails trading improvement

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Punch Taverns said its recovery remained on track

Punch Taverns said its recovery remained on track as food-led pubs helped offset the impact of freezing weather on sales in recent weeks.

The group, which has more than 6,700 sites, reported like-for-like sales growth of 2.2% in its managed pubs and said financial support for outlets in its leasehold estate had stabilised at around £2 million a month.

Recent investment at Chef & Brewer and Fayre & Square meant food sales in its managed division rose by 2.6% in the 16 weeks to December 11.

However, Punch added that disruption to footfall caused by the recent weather knocked around one percentage point from its managed sales performance.

The update comes as chief executive Ian Dyson, who joined the company in September from Marks & Spencer, prepares to unveil a review of strategy that could see the company call time on many of its pubs.

It has been reported that he may hand the tenanted estate – pubs Punch owns but leases to independent landlords – to the group’s bondholders in a radical move to tackle the company’s £3 billion debt pile.

The plan would allow Punch to focus on the remaining 800 pubs directly managed by Punch, which includes the Chef & Brewer chain. Mr Dyson is expected to give an update on the review in the first quarter of next year.

He added that actions already taken by the firm in both the leased and managed businesses had resulted in an improved trading performance.

“We are now looking to build on this momentum by focusing on further operational improvement across the business,” Mr Dyson said.

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