Stoddart – who recently told The Morning Advertiser (The MA) he was “appalled” with the Government’s pub strategy – described the forthcoming winter as looking “pretty scary” for both the 19-strong operator and the wider hospitality sector.
“Since the 10pm curfew and the weather turning, we have dropped 15% on our like-for-like performance in September,” he explained.
“We will be close to break even over the winter period to April 2021 as long there aren’t more Covid-19 regulations that scare our guest base or stop us trading. [The] 10pm curfew is just hurting all pubs and bars without any evidence of being beneficial to reducing Covid-19 transmission. Christmas will a huge drop on previous years.
“A second national lockdown would be hugely costly and we presume supported in some form by the Government. We are comfortable we have enough funding and free cash in place to survive most eventualities through working with our team and all our suppliers.”
As good a place as any
The company’s latest financial update revealed in 2019 the business was “flat like-for-like at £27m” while operating profit before exceptional items stood at £423k – down from £671k in 2018.
“The decrease is a disappointment reflecting the growing cost pressure on hospitality businesses in general between 2017 and 2019,” Stoddart commented.
In 2020, Peach refinanced the business, selling four freeholds for ground rent leases and removing most of its debt. It opened a new pub in Maidenhead with a £750,000 refurbishment, which closed after one day alongside all UK pubs on 20 March.
During lockdown Peach paid all its creditors and landlords. In July it was able to recover some of the losses it sustained from March to June, August like for likes are up and September has also been “profitable”.
However, despite a cold winter forecast, Stoddart described Peach as being “in as good a place as any hospitality business” at present.
“Working from home is a positive for our pubs, as are staycations and fewer people taking foreign holidays,” he added. “Our late-night bar trade is not huge; our guest base is still coming out to eat but is missing the bar. We have a shorter menu and more specials. Spend per head is up by 20%."
The update from Peach, whose directors surrendered their salary during lockdown, continued: “We retained our whole team except for a few individuals, which we sadly made redundant in July. The whole experience allowed us to review and improve how we work and tighten costs.
“In the re-start, we focused on delivering both hospitality and complete Covid-19 safety by following the guidance with rigour. We are trading well ahead of Coffer numbers.
“We aren’t releasing exact numbers. We believe we will end up post Covid-19 next summer with increased covers and spend per head.”