Belhaven owner Greene King has vowed to “take advantage of circumstances” should Brexit prompt a crisis of confidence that cuts into consumer spending similar to that following the financial crisis.
News of record sales was overshadowed yesterday by the cautious tone in the group’s first-half results, which warned of rising costs and the likelihood of a more challenging consumer environment.
But chief executive Rooney Anand said the firm is positioned to tap into prevailing conditions as it did in 2007-08, when it re-positioned its network of local pubs and restaurants as the sensible alternative to a more expensive night out.
He said: “Our game plan then, which worked very, very well, was to make eating close to where you live the smart choice, not the sad choice.
“I think our businesses are very well-poised to take advantage if those sorts of circumstances arise again.”
Half-year revenue topped £1 billion for the first time, helped by Greene King’s £774 million acquisition of rival Spirit Pub Company. Underlying pre-tax profits rose 9 per cent to £92.5m in the 24 weeks to mid-October.
Nicholas Hyett, analyst with Hargreaves Lansdown, said in a note to investors: “Greene King expects the economy to weaken next year, with negative consequences for discretionary spending.
“Coming on the tail of the introduction of the national living wage, restrictions on European immigration could add further pressure to an already increased wage bill.”
Greene King has owned the Dunbar-based maker of Belhaven Best since 2005, and brews a number of other beers including Old Speckled Hen. The group, one of Britain’s biggest pub/brewers, also runs hundreds of food-driven outlets including the Hungry Horse brand.
The results came as it emerged that bank details of more than 2,000 of Greene King’s employees were mistakenly emailed last week to computers across the pub network. The emails have since been deleted and an internal inquiry launched.