The Oakman Group – comprising Oakman Inns and Ashmore Inns – has issued a financial update for the 13 weeks ending Sunday 4 October, with sites trading 40.6% higher at £15.1m sales with the four fledgling Ashmore Inns contributing £1.3m.
Oakman Inns’ 24 pubs and restaurants showed a like-for-like increase of 25.4%, up £2.7m; wet sales were up 12.7% and dry up 45.5% like-for-like; though room sales across the estate were down 52.3%, which the group notes as ‘unsurprising’.
This is the highest sales quarter in the group’s history and comes at a time when many parts of the hospitality industry are facing an uncertain future, due to, the group says, ‘a certain extent to government’s use of untested scientific theory’.
Removing the benefit of VAT cuts and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, the figures would still show double digit growth in like-for-like sales.
“Oakman has delivered the highest sales quarter in our history and in doing so have made considerable progress to restoring the damage done to our balance sheet during lockdown,” comments Peter Borg-Neal, executive chairman of The Oakman Group (pictured, right).
“The trading conditions since we reopened on 4 July have had a huge polarising effect on our industry with wet-led pubs and those in urban areas being negatively impacted through no fault of their own. Conversely, our pubs which are situated mainly in commuter belt market towns and in destination locations, have a substantial food offer, extensive internal areas and, in most cases, large gardens, have been ideally suited to the new trading conditions.
“As a management team, we anticipated this scenario and were well prepared for reopening. The first decision we took was to commit to our people to do everything we could to protect their health and livelihoods. Key to delivering against our promise was the recapitalising of our business, the government support and the creation of a cogent reopening plan.
“Key to the latter objective was the development of an industry leading Covid-safe protocol designed to not only reassure our customers and team members with respect to their safety but, also, to ensure we retained the vital ingredient of ‘pubbiness’. Our operating systems were carefully designed to create a seamless and relaxing experience for our guests. In addition, all information materials and signage were delivered with clear non-alarmist messaging and utilised our normal corporate colour schemes rather than warning tape and hazard style signage. Considerable effort also went into communicating our plans to our customers which paid immediate dividends when we reopened.
“In the early weeks we moved into gradual growth which accelerated considerably with the introduction of the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. We have continued to operate the scheme at our own expense. Whilst we do not see discounting as a sustainable competitive edge, the success of the scheme means that we have been able to compensate for the loss of margin by delivering high levels of sales.
“However, our main motivation for continuing the scheme has been to ensure we are able to retain all our people whilst also supporting our supply chain who are also rebuilding their business models.”
“We now employ over 100 more people than we did before lockdown”
“I am delighted with our Q1 performance which reflects a tremendous effort from all our team – across our 28 sites and in our central support functions,” adds Dermot King, CEO of Oakman Group (pictured, left). “Whilst we unfortunately had to take the tough decision to reduce the size of our central team, we have created more jobs in our sites and I am very proud that we now employ over 100 more people than we did before lockdown.
“We already have an excellent pipeline with three projects expected to go on site in January and a further three later in the year and Peter and I are looking at a number of carefully selected acquisition opportunities. I am looking forward to the future with considerable relish.”
Oakman Inns has also planned for winter by creating soon-to-be-launched modular glazed garden pods that are warm, bright, and light and will comfortably sit a “bubble” of 6 people.