The UK’s second biggest tenanted pub operator is to splash out £3 million on its 200-plus Scottish estate, hotels and restaurants this year in widescale refurbishments that it says will create 250 jobs.
Punch Taverns, which has 3,330 pubs in all, said the investment will help develop key hotel sites in northern Scotland, the Central Belt and Borders, along with a number of pub sites throughout Scotland.
Brian Davidson, operations director at the group, whose outlets include Tonic in Edinburgh and Tickety Boo’s in Dundee, said the investment would cover everything from hotels to “traditional wet-led sites” and gastro-inns.
He said: “Tourism and the economy in Scotland are particularly buoyant and we have seen a growing demand for good quality hotel accommodation coupled with traditional Scottish hospitality. Our hotels and pubs are all in prime locations and refurbishment schemes have been designed to make the most of the site’s heritage whilst celebrating locally sourced food and drink.”
The new Scottish investment drive for 2016 comes as Punch Taverns yesterday reported a 10 per cent fall in underlying half-time earnings to £94m in the 28 weeks to 5 March, down from £105m in the same period last year.
The fall reflected the impact of £288m of non-core disposals over the past 18 months, a programme which the company said was now “substantially complete”. A total of 258 pubs were sold in the latest six-month period.
Punch Taverns’ latest investment north of the Border is in addition to the £1m it has spent in recent months on the 24-bedroom Portree Hotel on the Isle of Skye and £500,000 on developing the 16-bedroom Crown Hotel in Stornoway.
The group said it was looking for publicans and hoteliers to run refurbished sites across Scotland.
“Scotland boasts a wealth of talented entrepreneurs. We have some great pubs and hotels coming up for lease that need strong local entrepreneurs to run them,” Davidson added.
“We will work closely with them to develop their business plan, making this a great opportunity for the right candidates to take the lead on running their own invested site.”
Punch Taverns, whose head office is in Burton-on-Trent, completed a deal to restructure £2.3 billion of debt in 2014, having been saddled with large liabilities after a major expansion programme before the 2008 financial crash.
Duncan Garrood, who became group chief executive last summer, said: “We are already making good progress delivering on the strategy we set out in November 2015.
“We have launched new operating models, renewed our focus on customer service and delivered improved support to our publicans.” Average profit per pub rose 3 per cent in the latest period, while same-floorspace net income growth in the core estate was 1.6 per cent.