Wearside pub chain hails growth across North East and Yorksire

Pub operator Wear Inns has recorded strong like-for-like growth in both food and drink sales after completing an overhaul of its estate.

John Weir (Managing Director) and John Sands (Chairman) of Wear Inns
John Weir (Managing Director) and John Sands (Chairman) of Wear Inns

The company says it has seen like-for-like net sales in the financial year to March 2016 of £13.6million, up 3.4% on the previous year, with food showing a rise of 8% and drink sales increasing by 2.7%

And the strong performance has continued into this year with sales up to June showing a 5.8% increase (drinks 6% and food 3.7%).

It comes after Wear Inns completed a review of all 26 pubs in the estate, investing in small refresh works, kitchen equipment and developing external areas, which is continuing into this year.

The company is also on the acquisition trail having just completed the purchase of The Whistlestop, within walking distance of Leeds United’s Elland Road, with plans to spend over £170,000 installing a new kitchen to allow it to serve a wider range of food, as well as refurbishing the pub's interior and making a feature of the outside patio area.

Wear Inns managing director John Weir said: “We are delighted by the performance of all our pubs. The growth has been driven by increased footfall as a result of promotions, new products, a better environment, our improved food offering, and great staff.

“We have seen a real confidence in our local marketplaces. We have more people popping in for food and a couple of drinks after work, while Sunday lunch continues to draw in customers.”

Weir said, while there had been growth across the board, especially the likes of The Lambton Arms in Chester-le-Street; Ox Inn, Stanley; The White Bear, Barnsley; Priory,York; Victoria, Whitley Bay and The New Inn Wetherby, had all seen a significant increase in trade.

“Over the past year we have introduced a number of new products including Staropramen, Birra Moretti and the Strongbrow dark fruits range alongside a wider range of cask ales and spirits, especially new gins and vodkas,” said Weir. “The fruit ciders in particular have proved popular. We have also seen more women coming with friends to our pubs which has contributed to a significant increase in sales of Prosecco and cocktails.

“We also now have the facility to change our menus every six or seven weeks if required, keeping the offer fresh, with the introduction of new menu dishes and our wider range of burgers all making significant contributions to our strong food sales, but also retaining our traditional dishes which are at the heart of our menus.

“We have had fantastic support for our strategy of providing great value, all day, every day from our suppliers – Heineken, Molson Coors, Bidvest and Regal Gaming – which has enabled us to run a number of successful promotions, particularly around sport. We do have a number of promotions running for Euro 2016 so hopefully England can help us by going far in the tournament.”

Weir said the company had agreed to sell The New Inn Durham having undertaken a property review and long term view of return on investment but is still looking to expand its portfolio. Any new site must be at the right price and a good fit with the rest of its estate – something which hasn’t been easy to find though several sites are currently under consideration in both the North East and Yorkshire.

A new package for weddings, Christenings, parties and other events is also being created to support the growing demand at those pubs which have function rooms.

“It has been challenging at times but it is very gratifying to see our investment pay off,” said Weir. “We have a great team of local, entrepreneurial managers and staff focussed on delivering the best pub experience. The positive feedback we have received from both regular and new customers is being translated into sales putting us on a strong footing for further growth.”

Wear Inns recently made the Investec Mid Market 100 list, ranking the fastest growing companies in the UK with a turnover of over £10 million, for the second time, the only pub company to achieve that

It follows the London Stock Exchange highlighting the company in its report, 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain, celebrating the country’s most dynamic and fastest-growing small and medium sized businesses.

Wear Inns, which has its headquarters in the old offices of the Castle Eden Brewery in County Durham, is the biggest independent freehold managed operator in the region in terms of volume of beer sold.

Since Weir and the company’s chairman John Sands formed Wear Inns in 2006, the workforce has grown from 105 to 290.