Whitbread: ‘We are still paying suppliers in a timely manner’

Premier Inn Beefeater

Whitbread has insisted it is continuing to pay suppliers in a “timely manner” – after highlighting some of the steps it has taken to act responsibly during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company – which owns restaurant brands such as Beefeater and Brewers Fayre, as well as the Premier Inn hotel chain – said it was conscious of the need to operate in a way that leaves the business best-placed to recover from the situation.

“Whilst our reaction to the Covid-19 crisis has been robust, our actions have been taken with a view to the long-term impact on the business. We believe it is important to act responsibly in times of crisis and treat our stakeholders fairly,” the company stated.

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Whitbread said examples of these actions include “continuing to pay our suppliers, many of which are small or medium sized businesses, in a timely manner” and ensuring its quarterly rent bills were paid on time and in full in March.

Payment has been a huge talking point during the crisis, with suppliers accusing some operators of failing to settle debts for working already completed.

Other responsible measures that Whitbread said it had taken include providing full cash refunds to customers that have cancelled bookings, topping up the salaries of all furloughed staff and making hotel rooms available to NHS staff and other key workers.

Additionally, the firm has passed fleet delivery capacity to supermarkets and donated more than 158 tonnes of food to charities following its restaurant closures. Executive and non-executive directors have also taken pay cuts.

This week, Whitbread revealed the extraordinary impact that the virus has had on its business.

Total accommodation and F&B revenues were down 75% year-on-year for the 11 week period to 14 May 2020, and 99% in the last seven weeks.

Whitbread said that its internal scenario planning currently assumes that its UK hotels and restaurants will remain closed, or operating at low levels of occupancy, until September.

But the company insisted it will be able to reopen each of its hotels and restaurants “quickly” once it is safe and practical to do so. It intends to deploy a phased approach to help match supply against levels of demand.

Whitbread added that its experience of operating 39 hotels that are currently open for NHS staff has given it a “head start” in implementing workable solutions for social distancing and enhanced hygiene measures.

These include social distancing signage and protocols, health screening and illness response procedures, correct use and regular changing of PPE equipment and enhanced cleaning standards.

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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