Oakman Inns & Restaurants, which operates 18 pubs across the home counties and the Midlands, has announced first quarter trading that is ‘significantly ahead of expectations’, with like for like sales up 12.4% for the quarter ending July 2nd.
Three major fund-raising exercises have produced over £24m in total, with the lion’s share being available for a raft of major developments which will see the the group operating an anticipated 30 units within the next two years.
Oakman Inns chief executive Peter Borg-Neal, said: “We are absolutely delighted with our performance over the first quarter and it reflects a lot of hard work by my very talented colleagues.
“The good weather has been a factor in the 12.4% like for like growth – as has our investment in some of our older sites last year. However, when you strip everything back our comparables are at +4.4%, demonstrating the health of the underlying business.
“We now face the task of maintaining this excellent core performance whilst embarking on a very aggressive expansion plan. I have every confidence that Alex Ford, operations director, and his team are up to the task.
“I am delighted that we have already raised the cash we need and I would like to thank and recognise my FD, Joseph Evans, for the skill and tenacity he showed in getting our senior debt facility with Santander over the line.
“We have also developed innovative ways of raising debt to supplement this facility.
“Of the £24m we have raised, over half is available to fund our CAPEX [capital expenditure] programme. We still have some dry powder and will consider raising more cash if the right acquisition opportunities become available.”
He said the Oakman management team had been strengthened with the promotion of Jill Scatchard to the position of human resources director.
She has developed and introduced the internal training and development programme, “Oakmanology”, which he believes is behind Oakman being named as 8th best employer in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For 2017 – the highest ranked hospitality company in the UK.
Scatchard has been replaced as HR manager by Paulina Szydlowska, who joins from Jason Atherton’s restaurant group.
Borg-Neal added: ““The financial impact of the swingeing imposition of ridiculous increases in business rates has actually reduced the number of sites we will be opening in the next twelve months by two.
“Nevertheless, we still have an excellent pipeline in place and it looks like being an exciting twelve months ahead of us. Given the challenges that come with expanding a business, our decision to build up a strong central support team ahead of this growth looks to be fully vindicated.
“Particularly because we need to be confident that we have a team who can recruit and retain talented individuals to operate our pubs.
“To this end, it was a great pleasure to give Jill her richly deserved promotion and we are delighted to welcome Paulina into the Oakman family.
“Their task has been made slightly easier by the fact that the Government seem to have finally realised how important it will be to retain non-EU people in the UK workforce post-Brexit.
“In conclusion, I would recognise that there are some uncertainties in the wider economy that may present challenges to our industry.
“However, the Oakman strategy remains the same. We intend to think in clear and simple terms about what matters to this evolving market and will retain a focus on quality, great people and excellent sites.
“We see further opportunity to obtain sites where we identify strong consumer demand alongside poor supply side provision – with places such as Harpenden, the Chalfonts and the Bedford area being among our key targets.”