The 23-strong company revealed that since opening post lockdown it has seen an average of 16% growth ahead of FY19 for the last 8 weeks, with strong performance across the estate despite the challenges of operating in London.
Brewhouse & Kitchen CEO Kris Gumbrell told The Morning Advertiser its suburban sites and those with a strong south coast presence had “seen some really strong numbers” but said that London was still a challenging market and has delayed the reopening of one London sites under an office block as it would just be “burning cash.”
Gumbrell said that while the company is trading well there is still some caution with customers.
“We are seeing some hesitancy and obviously as infections are growing there is more of that. It is certainly not a done deal that people are bursting through the doors happy and jolly,” he said.
“Our food sales have jumped up about 8% in terms of the mix so we are definitely seeing more aspirational food. People are more interested in the premium part of the product and people want to have face to face experiences again.”
He said that guests are coming back and are more demanding.
There was always going to be a huge amount of change that would come out of this Covid crisis for the sector and the customers have come back in a slightly different place,” he said. The company has not suffered some of the severe supply issues that are faced by many in the sector as it brews most of its beer on site.
“We are trying to move way from connection with the larger brewers, apart from Shepherd Neame, who brew our lager brands for us. They have been brilliant and have kept the supply chain going.” he said.
“We are focusing on the small guys again and we are about to launch a craft champions scheme to bring in small craft brewers again to give them a good run in our business to try and build up some volume and some presence in the market.”
While he admits there was some issues with food supplies in the summer its supplier had solved these very quickly.
“The distribution issue is here to stay and people are going to have to look at rationalising menus a bit more and buying more fresh little and often. And buying local is one opportunity for some operators,” he said.
Despite the relaxation of restrictions the pub company has kept many of its safety measures in place retaining screens, hand sanitisers and allowing staff to wear masks.
“We always said we wanted to be cautious and we wanted to take it step by step and move with the pace of the guest because at the end of the day they are the boss,” he said.
“We are already seeing nervousness creep back in.”
He said that the company had retained the majority of staff during the lockdowns by working hard to keep team morale and motivation in place. However, he did reveal that the company was facing challenges with its new openings as there are just not enough staff available. But it is focusing on encouraging young people into the sector and is running opening evenings at schools to highlight the industry as a career.