Spirit on target despite catching a chill

SPIRIT Pub Company said it expects to meet full-year forecasts despite second-quarter sales falling because of cold weather.

Spirit, which runs about 800 managed pubs and 400 leased pubs, saw net sales at pubs managed directly by the company fall 1.1 per cent in the eight weeks to March 2 after prolonged bad weather in January and February.

“Recent trading has been impacted by adverse weather conditions and, with the consumer environment remaining challenging, we are redoubling our efforts to improve the retail offer in all areas of our business,” chief executive Mike Tye said in a statement.

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“We remain confident of delivering full-year expectations,” he added.

Best known for its Chef & Brewer and Flaming Grill pub chains, Spirit overcame rises in beer duty and raw material costs last year to report a 16 per cent increase in full-year pre-tax profit.

The company, which owns a range of family-targeted brands, said it had invested in 50 pubs in the year to date and had merged brands that have a similar customer base, disposing of its Original Pub brand.

Net income fell by 4.2 per cent at Spirit’s leased pubs, run by publicans who pay the company rent and rely on it for their beer supply.

The company said it is making good progress disposing of underperforming pubs among its leased estate, having sold 20 so far this year.

Shares in Spirit have risen more than 20 per cent since it demerged from Punch Taverns in August 2011 as part of a move to cut billions of pounds of debt. Punch’s shares have slipped 17 per cent over the same period.

Spirit employs 16,000 people across Britain and has around 130 pubs in Yorkshire.

The group announced this month that it will provide work placements to 450 students over the next two years, with 150 to be placed in 2013.

Jo Bradford, national qualifications manager at Spirit, said: “Our main goal is to encourage students to discard the myth that hospitality jobs are part-time roles or something that you fall into.

“We have created a range of training schemes, apprenticeships and development programmes that allow us to provide a structured map of career progression within all areas of the business.”