Emeny: prioritising investment on food has been key

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Reasons to be cheerful: tourism and people returning to the office have helped Fuller's
Reasons to be cheerful: tourism and people returning to the office have helped Fuller's

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Fuller’s CEO Simon Emeny has cited more than one reason for a boost to the pub operator’s latest results.

Talking to The Morning Advertiser about the gains made in the group’s results for the 52 weeks ended 30 March 2024​, he said: “They’re probably up or they are up for internal and external reasons. Internally, we’ve prioritised investment around food and our new menus, and we recruited a really good food and drink director to add to the marketing director who we recruited last year. Our marketing has been excellent.

“We’ve had a lot of big increases in pre-booked sales and the investment that we’ve made in our pubs – we spent £21m last year refurbishing pubs and hotels and investing in people – has really paid off.”

He added Fuller’s has enjoyed high levels of engagement, high NPS scores and high levels of customer satisfaction while the team has done a very good job to make sure the business is run “better and better”.

“In terms of the external environment, even though we’ve had growth in rural suburban and urban pubs, we’ve really benefited from a return to pre-Covid lifestyles and, in particular, a return to people being back in offices,” Emeny said.

Normalised behaviour

“I’m not saying working from home is dead and buried but people have enjoyed coming back to office life and that means they go for drink at lunchtime or after work and you see more office events being organised, which has worked very well for us.”

He also said tourism in the UK – and London in particular – has been very strong and that has helped Fuller’s too as the external environment comes back to more normalised behaviour.

On the subject of Fuller’s transferring 23 pubs from its Managed & Hotels estate to its Tenanted division, Emeny explained: “We took time to analyse the business and to analyse the estate coming out of Covid. We didn’t want to rush into anything but we took the view that managed pubs needed scale now with the increases that we’ve seen in the national living wage and we had some smaller pubs that we knew would be more efficient working under our Tenanted model and particularly under our turnover agreement.

“We took that decision about a year ago and that’s gone down very well. Most pubs are now performing really well.

“Then we also decided that we had 37 non-core tenanted pubs that didn’t form part of our long-term plans that we are in the process of selling to Admiral Taverns so it’s been a very good year in terms of making sure we now have the perfect estate going forward.”

Very little debt

He continued: “We’re not planning any further changes but it’s left the balance sheet in an even stronger position and is aligned to the strong returns we’ve given shareholders so we’re in a very strong position with very little debt.”

Emeny said the core success of Fuller’s is investing in premium sites, particularly around food in affluent areas, and the 37 smaller sites it disposed of fit the mould perfectly at Admiral and added “it’s the perfect home for those pubs. It’s Admiral’s core speciality and not ours”.

In Summary he said: “The results have left us in an excellent position because unlike a number of our competitors, we’ve got very low levels of debt.

“We’re increasing investment in our pubs so we’re going to spend £30m this year on our core estate. We’ve delivered something like £35m back to shareholders in the past two years so our shareholders are very happy.

“We have an ambition to grow the business through acquisitions so that we’re in a position now where, over the course of the next 12 months, we can continue to pay down debt, give good returns to shareholders, invest in our core estate and grow the business –that’s an exciting place to be.”

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