The company reported that like-for-like sales growth increased 2.4% in the first eight weeks of its current financial year, with chief executive Alistair Darby stating that the business is “gathering momentum”. He also highlighted that the company’s remodel programme was “generating strong returns”.
The group said that the increase in revenues was a result of both growth in like-for-like sales and the contribution of new pubs and restaurants, including 15 weeks of trading from the 173 outlets acquired from Orchid.
Total like-for-like sales increased by 0.6%, with growth from both food and drink sales. Food sales growth was driven by volume growth of 0.9%, partially offset by a small reduction in average spend per head. Drink sales growth, by contrast, resulted from average spend growth of 1.6% and volume declines of 1.1%.
Darby said: ”Our remodel programme is aimed at enhancing our existing businesses, to ensure that they surpass our guests’ high standards. We have actively increased the pace and level of expenditure on remodels.174 businesses were remodelled in FY 2014, compared with 97 in the prior year, generating returns in excess of 30%.”
The group currently serves around 135 million meals and 435 million drinks each year.
Operating profit before exceptionals climbed 1%to £313mduring the year, while pre-tax profit fell from £142m to £123m. EBITDA before exceptional items stood at £422m (2013: £420m)
It said that staff turnover was at a historic low of 78% and its net promoter score had grown strongly to 63% (FY 2013 59%).
Capital expenditure increased to £162m (FY 2013: £128m), including 23 new site openings and eight conversions. This comprised £94m (FY 2013 £88m) spent on maintaining and enhancing the high level of amenity in the group’s restaurants and pubs, £26m on infrastructure projects (FY 2013 £12m), and £42m on new site openings (FY 2013 £28m).
£258m of cash was invested in the acquisition of 173 largely freehold, well-located pubs from the Orchid Group in June.
Darby said: “In the last year we have made significant progress, investing in the business for future growth. We completed the acquisition of Orchid, accelerated remodel and expansionary capex and have made a substantial investment in our systems. At the same time we have maintained our focus on the delivery of our four key priorities. In the year ahead, we will continue these actions.
“The business is gathering momentum and we have made an encouraging start to the year. We expect to benefit further from these investments during this financial year.”
The company said that in the last year it has reviewed the way it recruits team members.
Darby said: “We have introduced collective recruitment days across multiple brands and concentrated geographical regions. This approach allows us to demonstrate the scale of our business and the career opportunities available to potential future employees.
“We are proud of our investment in young people, which currently sees more than 1,500 people on a vocational or apprenticeship programme. We have pledged to take on a further 1,000 apprentices over the next two years.”