Shropshire pub-goers boost chain's performance
Shropshire drinkers made the most of this the summer's heatwaves, helping a chain with a number of well-known county pubs to a strong summer despite its parent company struggling.
Like-for-like sales at the Restaurant Group – which owns the Brunning & Price pub chain and restaurant chains including Frankie & Benny's, fell 2.2 per cent in the six months to July 2, with total sales dropping over seven per cent to £333.1 million.
The firm, which is also behind Garfunkel's and Chiquito, saw adjusted pre-tax profit plummet 30.4 per cent to £25.5 million.
But the group said its pubs arm, which includes the likes of the Armoury in Shrewsbury and The Fox at Chetwynd Aston, both of which are part of Brunning & Price, performed well during the period.
That was partly because of good weather in the early part of the summer which drove drinkers out into pubs and helped soften the effect of falling sales at its restaurant chains.
But the group also said customer ratings had reached an all-time high after improvement efforts, while events such as beer and gin festivals helped sales. It is now set to increase the rate of pub openings.
Chief executive Andy McCue has been closing under-performing restaurants and rejigging menus as he looks to rejuvenate the overall group.
He said: "We have made good progress against our strategic initiatives outlined in March.
"Our leisure customers are enjoying a better value, higher quality product, our growth plans for our pubs and concessions businesses are advancing well, and we have made good progress in delivering cost efficiencies."
The group's other Shropshire pubs include the Woodbridge at Coalport, the Combermere Arms at Burleydam, and the Cross Foxes at Erbistock between Oswestry and Whitchurch.
The figures come after the Restaurant Group admitted it had lost value-conscious customers at Frankie & Benny's following significant price hikes, with the firm pledging to "look at the pricing architecture of the menu" and "reinvigorate the value offer" in a bid to attract more families.
The firm said initiatives such as a menu option of £9.95 for two courses had begun to bear fruit.
"While there remains a lot to do, there are early signs of customer awareness of our changes, with recent data showing an uptick in value for money ratings, net promoter scores and the brand rankings for quality of ingredients and freshness of food," the group said.