Pub group JD Wetherspoon has reported a record loss of £154.7m in its latest financial results for the year to 25 July 2021, during which its pubs were closed by lockdowns for approximately 19 weeks.
As revenue dropped 38.8% to £772.6m, the group's losses increased from £34.1m last year to £154.7m.
Like-for-like sales in the first nine weeks of the current financial year were 8.7% lower than the same weeks in August and September 2019. In the last four weeks of the period, like-for-like sales were -6.4%. Excluding airport pubs, where like-for-like sales declined by 47.3%, like-for-like sales declined by 7.1% in the first nine weeks, and by 4.9% in the last four.
Wetherspoon, which has a portfolio of 861 pubs, also announced it was planning the promotion of a number of ‘worker directors', experienced pub or area managers, to board positions, in the hope of appointing more ‘front line' people to the board in an attempt to "protect the DNA of the business for future generations".
Chairman Tim Martin (pictured) admitted some areas of the country, especially ‘staycation' areas in the West Country and elsewhere, had found it hard to attract staff – although total employee numbers averaged 39,025 in the financial year, which increased to 42,003 for the week ending 20 September 2021.
He said: "During the pandemic, the pressure on pub managers and staff has been particularly acute, with a number of nationwide and regional pub closures and reopenings, often with very little warning, each of which resulted in different regulations.
"In the last year, the country moved, in succession, from lockdown, to ‘Eat Out to Help Out', to curfews, to firebreaks, to pints with a substantial meal only, to different tier systems and to further lockdowns."
He added: "In spite of these obstacles, Wetherspoon is cautiously optimistic about the outcome for the financial year, on the basis that there is no further resort to lockdowns or onerous restrictions."