JD Wetherspoon to spend chunk of £65m budget upgrading older pub kitchens

A Wetherspoon banner is shown after it was announced that adults with children are only allowed two alcoholic drinks at JD Wetherspoon pubs in order to limit their stay, 3rd January 2008. A spokesman for the company said it was "uncomfortable" with children being on the premises for long periods because of a lack of play facilities. AFP PHOTO/LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

JD Wetherspoon has ring-fenced £65m for upgrading older pubs in its estate this year, including new investments in kitchens and catering equipment.

The chain, which numbers 900 sites, said this morning that it is increasing capital expenditure in the current year to bring some of its more established sites up to date.

As well as spending on its kitchens, the chain said the £65m outlay will cover staff rooms, garden upgrades and IT improvements.

JDW did not break down the proportion of spend it will allocate to each area, but bosses said they anticipate expenditure continuing at this, or a slightly higher, rate for the next few years.

The investment comes as the group continues to right-size its estate. JDW has opened nine new pubs since the start of the financial year but has sold or closed 38. It expects to open one more pub before the financial year end. Tim Martin, JD Wetherspoon

The cost of pub disposals and closures is likely to lead to around £24m of exceptional, non-cash losses in this financial year.

Even so, the business remains in a sound financial position. Net debt at the end of this financial year is currently expected to be around £715m, while it has spent nearly £90m buying the freeholds of a number of properties of which it was previously the tenant this year.

Trading for the 11 weeks to 9 July has been solid, with like-for-like sales up 5.3% and total sales up 3.6%.

Chairman Tim Martin said the “unusually good weather” had boosted turnover and said it anticipates that like-for-like sales of about 3% to 4% will be required to maintain profits at this year’s levels in its next financial year.

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