UK pub giant with 20 Scottish sites eyes bright summer after post-lockdown rebound

Marston’s, the pub and hotel chain with more than 20 sites in Scotland, is confident cash-strapped punters will continue to frequent its establishments following news of a post-lockdown rebound in trading.

Unveiling results for the half year to April 2, the group’s chief executive, Andrew Andrea, said UK pubs and bars had proved to be “incredibly resilient” through a number of crises.

He said people wanted to socialise again after more than two years of lockdowns and restrictions due to Coronavirus.

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The firm’s Scottish estate had been performing well, he noted, after it faced longer and tougher Covid restrictions. Bookings for accommodation at sites with lodges were strong, he added.

On a statutory basis, the group generated a profit before tax of £25.6 million for the first half, which compares with a loss of £105.5m a year earlier.

Total revenue for the 26 weeks came in at £369.7m, against just £55.1m in the same period last year, which was impacted heavily by the pandemic.

First-half like-for-like sales returned to 97 per cent of pre-pandemic 2019 levels, despite restrictions over the festive trading period.

The firm said a menu overhaul was driving simplicity and efficiency “without compromising guest satisfaction”.

The historic Marston's business has more than 1,400 pubs across the UK. Picture: Alex Styles Photography

Andrea also said the business was investing in its existing estate, including in Scotland, as it drives forward with its food-led, family-friendly model.

He added: “Whilst mindful of the challenges which every hospitality business currently faces, trading remains stable and we look forward to an uninterrupted summer.

“We are navigating our way through cost increases, mitigating these as much as we can through cost efficiencies and pricing strategies, whilst welcoming customers back without compromise to the best Marston’s guest experience. The pub remains the home of affordable socialising and has continually proven its resilience in previous times of economic challenge.”

Shore Capital analyst Greg Johnson, who has a buy note on the stock, noted: “We continue to believe that there is a long-term play on returning profitability towards historic levels, reducing debt to below £1 billion and realising value in [brewing joint venture] CMBC. Delivery of which would be comfortably above the current share price.”

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