South West pub chain announces record year

The owner of a chain of pubs and inns in the South West has reported a record year for business.

Liberation Group, which owns Butcombe Brewery,  has reported revenues of £147.0m.

The group’s UK managed pubs produced a very strong performance, with eight per cent like for like growth, on the back of excellent contributions from all categories.

The growth also reflected the contribution of the pubs acquired from Cirrus Inns in December 2022 which have been fully integrated into the Butcombe Managed estate.

Accommodation has ramped up in its importance for the Group and now drives a substantial proportion of food and drink sales with 42 of the Group’s 78 managed pubs offering accommodation.

The majority of the group’s sites lend themselves perfectly to a variety of customer needs, including short breaks, business use and occasions.  The group’s Channel Island sites continued to perform very well and reap the benefits of bringing modern casual dining to Jersey and Guernsey.

The Butcombe Brewing drinks business produced a standout performance delivering strong sales and volume growth with sales up by 23 per cent.

This growth reflects the continued appeal of its brands, the quality of beers and a positive reaction to new product development in the keg ale market.  Goram IPA Zero, the group’s multi award-winning alcohol-free IPA, performed particularly strongly in January with record volumes up 95 per cent on the same period last year in our managed estate as customers turned to ‘Dry January’ and ‘zebra drinking’, whereby customers alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages throughout the night, in greater numbers.

The tenanted division had an excellent year with sales up 4.3 per cent on the same period last year.

The group continues to focus on its strategy to rationalise the estate portfolio and drive sales and EBITDA across a smaller, high-quality, group of pubs. These are run by quality tenants who work closely with the Liberation teams and deliver outstanding service to their local communities.

The Channel Island drinks businesses in Jersey and Guernsey improved +3% on the same period last year and continues to see the reward from years of long held customer relationships while also being able to target new opportunities in the on and off trade.

Chief executive Jonathan Lawson said: “These are really pleasing numbers and my starting place should be a massive thank you to our incredible teams who demonstrate real passion for delivering a quality experience for our customers on a daily basis. It is particularly satisfying to see the way that mature parts of our business continue to grow such as CI drinks, tenancy and Butcombe, whilst also seeing new elements coming through so strongly, such as accommodation.

“We should remind ourselves that in 2016 we only had 10 rooms and now we have well over 400, with the potential to achieve 700 in the existing estate. We are increasingly seeing accommodation as a substantial lever for our overall managed business and see events and occasions as a fourth revenue stream in its own right along with drink, food and accommodation.

“The headwinds on cost have eased and the outlook is better than the one in our rear-view mirror and the improvement in consumer confidence is noted and welcomed. Our performance at Christmas was testament to the hard work from our teams, but also a reflection of the long-term trend in consumers valuing experiences more than stuff. We need to build on this and continue to provide amazing experiences for our customers.”