Shepherd Neame, owner and operator of more than 300 pubs in Kent and the South East, has published its financial results for the year, describing its performance as "resilient" and "well-positioned for growth once normal trading conditions resume".
In its results for the financial year ended 27 June 2020, the group said it had traded well up to the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK, with turnover up 4.6% and underlying pre-tax profit up 6.1% for the first eight months of the financial year to 29 February.
However, across the full year, turnover dropped from £145.8m the prior year to £123.6m, reflecting the impact of the government-enforced closures, while underlying pre-tax loss was £2.9m compared to an £11.4m profit in 2019.
The group's variety of wet, dry and accommodation businesses as well as geographical locations is described as "extremely resilient" with demand for food and accommodation "strong since reopening".
However, Shepherd Neame has had to make approximately 170 roles redundant across its pubs and brewery, and the lockdown restrictions in England from tomorrow are expected to be "extremely disruptive and adversely impact performance", with uncertainty over when trading may resume and therefore an impact on the important Christmas period.
Chairman Miles Templeman also expressed concerns over the short-term future of its 15 managed pubs in the City and West End of London, which did not reopen until September and have been hit by the reduced footfall in central London.
Chief executive Jonathan Neame (pictured) said: "This has been the most challenging period any of us in the hospitality industry have ever faced. I am incredibly proud of how everyone across the business has reacted, and the ingenuity and team spirit shown by our licensees and team members during this time has been inspiring.
"Trading during the summer months was encouraging, highlighting the strength of our offer and people's undiminished desire to go out and socialise in a safe environment with family and friends.
"We have worked hard to drive positive cash flow in the new financial year and have sufficient liquidity for the foreseeable future. We welcome the ongoing support from the chancellor, but the sector faces a very tough winter as we return to lockdown with fresh uncertainties.
"Shepherd Neame has weathered many crises in its long history and I am determined that we emerge from this crisis in a position of strength, ready to seize the opportunities that lie ahead."
Shepherd Neame is Britain's oldest brewer. Established in 1698 and based in Faversham, Kent it employs around 1,700 people. At the year end, the company operated 319 pubs, of which 234 were tenanted or leased, 69 managed and 16 were held as investment properties under commercial free of tie leases.