Pub group Fuller's has reported that its managed like-for-like sales were at 76% of 2019 levels for the 12 weeks to 3 July, reflecting the continued impact of social distancing on trading, particularly in its London pubs.
Chairman Michael Turner described trading with social distancing as "like trading with one arm behind your back" after the group's estate was closed for approximately 71% of the financial year due to Covid restrictions.
In the financial results for the 52 weeks to 27 March, revenue was down 77% to £73.2m with a statutory loss before tax of £57.8m compared to a profit of £8.4m in the 2020 financial year.
However, despite the pandemic and the widely reported recruitment and supply chain issues across the sector, chief executive Simon Emeny said he was looking "to the future with confidence".
Fuller's reported strong performance across its hotels and pubs with rooms, when restrictions permitted, benefiting from a strong boom in staycations. The group said it has put a firm focus on outside spaces and pub gardens, with plans to invest a further £4m during this financial year to ensure they are a "year round asset".
Its £52m equity issue in April helped to strengthen its balance sheet, and at 27 March the group had £319.5m of available facilities, with undrawn committed facilities of £84m.
Emeny said: "The boom in staycations and desire to get back out with friends has led to strong trading in parts of our estate – particularly Cotswold Inns & Hotels and our rural pubs with rooms – and there is an incredibly busy season to come with numerous weddings and a high level of advance bookings.
"With our entire estate open, like-for-like sales for the 12 weeks to 3 July 2021 are running at 76% of 2019 levels, cash generation is strong and our net debt levels are below where they were pre-pandemic. The importance of our perfectly balanced estate has come in to play with different parts of the business showing different recovery trajectories and we are very comfortable with the company's current position.
"We have a clear set of priorities for the next 12 months. We will continue to deliver our strategic goals, invest in our estate and implement our new central finance system. Other projects, such as our employer brand and further work around our digital customer journey, will be progressed and we will, as ever, keep a watching brief on appropriate opportunities in the market. In the short term, we will continue to address challenges around recruitment and supply chain, which are having an impact right across the hospitality sector."
Fuller, Smith & Turner is a premium pubs and hotels business with 209 managed businesses, 1,027 boutique bedrooms and 175 tenanted inns, predominately in the south of England.