The boss of pub group Young’s has said some of the cost inflation weighing on the sector, such as soaring food prices, is “starting to ease” as it hailed positive sales.
The business, which runs 227 pubs, said sales rose by almost a fifth over the year to April 3 and have remained buoyant in recent weeks.
Young’s told shareholders that managed like-for-like sales have risen by 4.8% since the start of April as it saw a “well-timed Easter and bank holiday sunshine” offset the impact of a wetter start to spring.
Nevertheless, it reported “minimal upside” from the additional bank holiday for the King’s coronation.
Young’s said it continues to face “challenging times” as a result of high inflation and the resumption of train strikes.
However, it provided an upbeat tone for the rest of the financial year, highlighting the Rugby World Cup as an opportunity to boost sales.
Simon Dodd, chief executive of Young’s, said: “It’s been a good start to the new financial year with sunny weather over Easter and the early May bank holiday.
“There is also huge excitement for the Rugby World Cup later this year.”
It came as the group revealed that revenues rose by 19.4% to 368.9 million for the year to April, although pre-tax profits dipped by 14% to £36.2 million, driven by property revaluations.
Mr Dodd added: “Our performance last year was even more impressive given the cost headwinds facing the industry, and we are encouraged that some of these pressures are starting to ease.”
The boss told the PA news agency that it had witnessed a particular easing in food prices.
“We have seen food cost inflation at around 12% but that is definitely softening and we are hoping that will come down to single digits in the next six months,” he said.
Analysts from Stifel said: “Profit before tax has surpassed the previous peak, putting Young’s in stark contrast to pub peers still 30-60% behind their pre-pandemic profit base.
“Current trading is solid and consensus expectations for full-year 2023/24 profit before tax look well set at this stage.”