Pub group Marston’s has put the brakes on its openings programme in response to the “subdued” nature of the market.
So far this year it has opened 27 new properties, but looking ahead to 2018 the company says it will not match that figure.
It now expects to open 15 pubs and bars, and six lodges, in the 2018 financial year.
“This modest trimming of our openings programme reflects a degree of caution given recent subdued market conditions, but our investment criteria are unchanged,” the company explained.
In a year-end trading update, the 1,500-strong chain said it has made further progress in implementing its strategy, achieving growth in revenue and earnings led by the performance of wet-led pubs and brewing.
In Destination and Premium, like-for-like sales were 0.9% above last year. The more subdued summer trading and relatively stronger performance of wet sales compared to food sales was consistent with the market.
A disciplined approach to pricing and promotions and good cost control contributed to the operating margin in Destination and Premium being only slightly below last year despite the continued cost pressures.
In its wet-led Taverns business, like-for-like sales were 1.6% above last year, while in Leased, like-for-like profits are estimated to be up 1% compared to last year reflecting the high quality of its Leased estate, together with licensee stability.
It has opened 19 new pubs and bars and eight lodges this year. Openings were weighted towards the end of the financial year, and four pubs planned for September will open in late October.
Marston’s says that new pubs continue to open strongly and the performance of those opened in recent years remains good and in line with targets. It regards investment in new pubs and bars as an important component of its strategy to achieve organic growth and said it has a “good pipeline” of sites beyond 2018.
CEO Ralph Findlay said: “Our priority is to focus on quality, service and standards. We are well placed to continue to implement our growth strategy through investment in higher quality pubs and bars and through our unrivalled beer brand range supported by high customer service standards.”