South West pub owner announces record sales for last 12 months

The owner of Bristol pub chain Butcombe Brewery has revealed record sales for the last year.

Liberation Group, a privately owned premium pub operator and brewing group with sites stretching from Mayfair in London to St Aubin in Jersey, has reported a record sales performance for last year.

Total group revenues were  up 20% to £144.4m versus the same period FY23 and strong underlying growth resulted in like for like  Managed Pub EBITDA increasing by 19%.

The group’s UK managed pubs produced a very strong performance, with 8% like for like growth.

Jonathan Lawson, chief executive of Liberation Group, said: “2023 was a standout year for Liberation Group as we delivered a year of record sales with growth across all of our divisions.

“It is particularly satisfying to see the way that mature parts of our business continue to grow such as our managed estate, tenancy and Butcombe drinks, whilst also seeing newer elements coming through strongly, such as accommodation.

“We should remind ourselves that in 2016 we only had 10 rooms and now we have over 400, with the potential to achieve 700 in the existing estate as our accommodation offering increasingly forms a substantial lever for our overall managed business. This performance is undoubtedly a differentiator for our Group when we look at the wider performance across the sector.

“Our events-led offering is key as we continue to see a rise in the importance of experiences for our customers.  For example, our premium pubs and inns are perfectly placed to take advantage of a growing trend for smaller, more exclusive and intimate weddings or celebrations and experiences such as comedy nights, outdoor cinemas and supper clubs.  As we head into the summer months, we also see a rise in bookings around festivals such as Glastonbury and Goodwood Festival of Speed.

“Looking forward, we remain optimistic for the year ahead as we start to see a calmer cost environment and are excited by the plans that we have for growing the existing business.  In accommodation, we have progressed rapidly in the last five years and the launch of Butcombe Boutique Inns presents an exciting next step.”

Investment into the estate continued during the year, with seven developments across the managed estate, which, alongside targeted divestments, enabled the creation of a high-quality freehold estate in both the managed and tenanted divisions.

Examples include the Northey Arms in Box, Wiltshire, which, post investment, has achieved sales growth by an average of 22%.

The brewing and drinks business continued to thrive in a highly challenging market, with a record year of volumes and sales in Butcombe Brewery and a fantastic performance from the Cask and Keg brands such as Tall Tales Pale Ale and Goram IPA Zero.

Butcombe Original is now firmly established in the UK top 10 cask ales and is on track to become the number one brand in the South West of England in the near term.

The strong demand has necessitated investment in the Butcombe brewing business and led to increased capacity.

Accommodation and events now core to the group’s broader appeal

Within the managed estate, the c, including a strong focus on accommodation given the value this drives into food and drink. The pubs division pivots effortlessly between business users during the week, who value the ‘home from home’ approach, and leisure customers at the weekend, drawn to the Group’s unique countryside locations.

The group has made a solid start to the new financial year with sector strong LFLs in the managed estate and encouraging year on year growth in its Brewing and Drinks division.