Festive cheer from bar and pub operators Buzzworks and Montpeliers

ColinBlair DavidWither

Two of Scotland’s most successful pub and bar companies Montpeliers  and Buzzworks saw a significant uplift in like-for-like sales over the six-week festive period and, in fact, outperformed the UK average with hikes of 4.5% and 5% respectively compared to a UK average of plus 1.5%.http://www.montpeliers.co.uk http://www.buzzworksholdings.com

Their results bear out research, just published from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), which showed that food proved to be a winner for Scottish bars and pubs, over the Christmas and New Year trading period. The Scottish Licensed Trade Association’s figures showed that 53% of outlets serving food performed “significantly better”.

Colin Blair of Ayrshire-based Buzzworks Holdings commented, “We saw like-for-like sales increase 5% and that didn’t include our new businesses.” He continued, “The biggest change I saw was more people coming out in groups to eat and drink. People were choosing to eat out rather than dine in.”

Buzzworks venues include Scott’s in Troon and Largs, Lido in Prestwick and Troon, and Elliots also in Prestwick, The Longhouse in Kilmarnock, The Treehouse in Ayr and the newly-opened Stewarton venue, The Mill House.

The company has also just secured themselves a place on The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For 2016. This recognition comes as a result of a survey, which is completed by all staff and reveals how employees perceive their work environment. They are now recognised as being one of the best employers within the UK across all sectors. Last year only one Scottish company made it onto this prestigious list.

While David Wither MD of Montpeliers, the company behind Edinburgh’s Tigerlily, Indigo Yard, Montpeliers, The Candy Bar, Opal Lounge and Rick’s, told DRAM, “Everyone I have spoken to saw increased trading in the six-week period, which included the first week in January. We were up 4.5%.”

UK-wide it was drink-led managed pub and bar businesses, which collectively saw a 3.1% like-for-like increase over the same period last year.

The SLTA figures showed that 39% of businesses reported growth for the calendar year and 34% expected to see growth in 2016. Only 16% of businesses surveyed (and most of these were in rural areas) didn’t expect to see growth. Also of concern was the fact that around 40% of the rural pubs surveyed by the SLTA also showed a decline in Christmas business.

Paul Waterson, Chief Executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association said, “Whilst we see some encouraging signs as licensees adapt to new consumer trends and new government legislation, our big concern is the performance of pubs and bars serving rural locations.”

The Coffer Peach Business Tracker showed that pub and restaurant groups saw collective like-for-like sales increase 1.8% over the six-week Christmas and New year period, with most of the uplift coming in the last two weeks of the festive season. Mark Sheehan, Managing Director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said, “Restaurant and pub groups reported another bumper festive period with very strong growth even against good like-for-like figures in 2014. However, looking ahead, we do predict a tougher 2016 with a marked downturn in consumer confidence and strong competition in the sector from the many expanding restaurant, bar and pub groups. Notwithstanding, overall we continue to expect growth ahead of inflation in most parts of the country and the various sub-sectors.”