Slow down: Wetherspoon’s foot off growth accelerator

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon is to slow the pace of its expansion from 50 to 40 sites this year amid sustained cost pressures and slower sales.

The caution also reflects its anger over the prospect of more alcohol duty hikes in this month’s Budget.

Chairman Tim Martin renewed his attack on the tax regime.

He said that – including VAT, employee contributions, corporation tax and other duties – Wetherspoon’s tax burden increased to £250.1 million or 43.9 per cent of sales in the six months to 22 January, up from £225.7m or 43 per cent.

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The firm – which opened a pub in Musselburgh last month – reported an 11 per cent rise in interim pre-tax profits to £35.8m but said that sales since then have been disappointing. Revenues on a like-for-like basis fell 0.7 per cent in the six weeks to 4 March, while profit margins are set to fall due to cost pressures.