The figures reflect the full impact of lockdowns over the winter of 2020 and 2021 during the time pubs were shut for 19 weeks in the UK and 30 weeks in France.
Wells & Co managing director Peter Wells said: “In many ways 2021 felt harder than the first year of the pandemic.
“The fear we all felt at the beginning was replaced with a palpable sense of fatigue. This was seen and felt both internally, as well as with our suppliers and pub partners.
Exciting period of growth
“We have supported our teams in the pubs, brewery and office through our employee assistance programs and encouraged everyone to focus on their mental wellbeing throughout these taxing times.”
Despite the pandemic and drop in sales income, Wells & Co added seven pubs to its UK managed estate, which totaled 25 at the end of 2021, as well as the 17 strong French estate, meaning the managed business still entered the year in a robust position with a pipeline of new sites set to bring its portfolio to include 50 sites by the end of 2022.
Wells added: “Our pipeline of sites remains strong, and we are also actively searching for further freehold opportunities within our heartland of the home counties. Despite the challenges, we are looking forward to an exciting period of growth.”
The operator’s brewery, Brewpoint, which has now been open for over a year, also saw a positive outcome for the year having performed ahead of expectations in the summer of 2021.
Very real challenges ahead
This, coupled with the sale of a handful of smaller pubs and careful cost control, meant 2021 concluded ahead of 2020 for Brewpoint, with a positive Earnings Before Interest, Taxation, Depreciate and Amortisation (EBITDA) of £5m and net debt reduced by £1m.
Wells said: “There are very real challenges ahead – consumer confidence has a long way to build, a return to full VAT in April 2022 coupled with the wide-ranging increases in input costs, in particular energy costs, means we will have to navigate numerous speed bumps on the path to full recovery.
“Our Pub Partner estate is the bedrock of Wells & Co and we will always do what we can to ensure our partners are in a position, not just to survive, but to thrive. When allowed to trade, their drive and energy was formidable.”