Pub Operators Announce Redundancies Amid Accusations Sector Is Being “Scapegoated”

Two of the UK’s largest pub operators have announced hundreds of job losses as the sector faces what it claims are “exceptionally harsh” restrictions under the new tier system.

Mitchells & Butlers, whose brands include Harvester, All Bar One and Toby Carvery, said 1,300 staff have been made redundant, and London based Fuller’s said it has axed 350 workers.

This latest blow to jobs as a letter from over 50 pub and brewing businesses to the prime minister claims that the industry is being “scapegoated by the latest restrictions. Click here

Michell & Butlers, which has a brand portfolio including Harvester, Toby Carvery, O’Neills, Miller & Carter and All Bar One said it had “not been immune to the impacts of the pandemic… The reduced levels of activity and closure of a small number of our sites meant that we could no longer support these roles”.

In its full-year results to 26 September 2020, the group reported total revenue of £1.48b, a drop of 34.1% on the prior year, due to the impact of Covid restrictions, and a pre-tax loss of £123m against a £177m profit last year.

Although the group said the future trading environment was both “challenging and highly uncertain”, the business was “well placed to recover quickly”.

Chief executive Phil Urban said: “Throughout a very uncertain and challenging year our businesses and teams have adapted quickly, creating a safe environment for guests and putting us in a strong position to benefit when consumers are able to eat out again. We saw direct evidence of this from a strong trading period in July and August before further restrictions came into force.

“With our great estate, balanced portfolio of brands and proven management team, we remain optimistic that we will be able to regain the momentum previously built and continue to achieve sustained market outperformance, when the current operating restrictions are eased.”

Fuller’s has reported a £22m loss in the 26 weeks to 26 September.

Chief executive Simon Emeny said: “The imminent roll out of a vaccine is excellent news for the future. The tightening of the tier system will present further challenges over the winter months, but we welcome the Prime Minister’s comments that we will see the need for restrictions fall away in the spring. Without doubt, a return to normality is in sight. When the current lockdown was announced, we acted swiftly to implement the lessons learned last time round and this latest closure has been made with minimal stock losses.

We also immediately placed 98% of our team members – across our pubs, hotels and in our support functions – on furlough or flexi-furlough, thereby minimising our cash burn. The extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until March 2021 provides a degree of breathing space and will allow us to apply a sensible and measured approach to costs as we reopen our estate, particularly at the most affected sites in our city centres. We entered this crisis in a position of strength, buoyed by the sale of the Fuller’s Beer Business.

We have used the time and space created by the pandemic wisely – completing targeted investments in our estate, rightsizing our teams and utilising the support available to manage our cash reserves where possible. It has not been easy, but prudent financial management, an estate that is 92% freehold, and a strong Balance Sheet mean that we will be in the best possible position to get back on a growth trajectory. We know our customers want to come back, we know they trust us to look after them and provide a safe and sensible environment to enjoy a great Fuller’s experience and, over and above this, we have a dedicated and passionate team of people with the ability and desire to delight, surprise and welcome back those customers.”