Punch tenants angry over 'surprise' stock audits

By Ellie Bothwell

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Punch taverns, Public house, Bar, Punch

Licensee Dave Smith: 'Is Punch so desperate that it has to employ these services at, no doubt, extreme costs to try to ‘catch out’ already hard pushed tenants?'
Licensee Dave Smith: 'Is Punch so desperate that it has to employ these services at, no doubt, extreme costs to try to ‘catch out’ already hard pushed tenants?'
Punch Taverns tenants have expressed their anger after the pub company recruited a third party agency to carry out surprise stock audits in its pubs, as part of a fresh crackdown on licensees buying outside the tie.

The pubco told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser​ it has been using an outside contractor to check for bought-in stock for the past six months, to ensure the cellar inspection process is “conducted effectively across the estate”.

It said pubs inspected are chosen at random or based on a combination of sales data and geography, and licensees must allow access during trading periods, even if they have not been given notice, or they may be slapped with a fine.

Punch still has Brulines equipment installed in its pubs, but said the inspections ensure the upkeep of beer dispense equipment, that tied products are sourced from Punch and flow monitoring equipment is in working order.

'It's totally out of order'

Licensee Dave Smith, of the White Lion in Colsterworth, Lincolnshire, said an inspector from an outside agency visited the pub without warning in November to check his stock.

“They wanted to walk behind the bar, count stock and take photographs, and we didn’t know anything about it, so we refused access,” Smith said. “It’s totally out of order. We’re quite happy for our BDM [business development manager] to do that — it is their right. But this is an outside agency.”

He added: “Is Punch so desperate that it has to employ these services at, no doubt, extreme costs to try to ‘catch out’ already hard pushed tenants?

“Punch is keen to quote ‘working in partnership’ but in reality they are so desperate to recoup money at anyone’s expense. Perhaps they should realise that their most valuable resource at this time is their people — their quality tenants.”

Refused entry

Wayne Sykes, of the Anchor Hotel in Burnham, Essex, said three inspectors, one from an agency and two from Punch, visited the pub throughout December. He said he also refused one entry because they tried to enter the premises before trading hours, which contravenes the terms in his lease.

“I sent an email to the regional operations director about whether Punch staff actually know their code of practice or not. I got a very open-ended response,” he claimed. “The two main cellar visits we had were within a week of each other. Punch is thinking, 'you probably think you’re safe, we’ll try to do it again'.”

Third party agency

A Punch spokesperson said: “When our tenants sign up to take a Punch pub we make it clear that they have a legal obligation to buy agreed products from Punch Taverns at a price agreed at the outset. We manage these obligations openly and consistently in line with the agreement, UK law and the Industry Code of Practice.

“We have been using a third party agency to complete stock audits in support of our operations teams. The findings of the visits, including any refusal of access, is fed back to Punch Taverns and we then decide on any appropriate action in line with our code of practice.”

Related topics: Punch Pubs & Co

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