A trading update released earlier today (21 Jan) reveals that like-for-like sales across the 80-strong North West-based Group were up 4.4 per cent for the whole of December, with actual sales standing at £3.6m – a year-on-year increase of 23 per cent.
And veteran pub entrepreneur Clive Preston, who started Amber Taverns in 2005 and now chairs the Group, says it is the continued devotion to a strictly-wet-ledand 'community pub' ethos that have helped the business grow in both profitability and size, having just acquired site number 81 with more in the pipeline.
“We couldn’t be happier with these latest results,” Preston told BigHospitality. “People say that pubs that focus on drinks are now in a niche market – well it must be one of the biggest niche markets in the country. There are millions of people that just want to go to the pub for a drink.
“We’ve persistently argued against having to be food-led and we’ve religiously kept to that view. And it’s paying dividends – we just took £3.6m.
“Many pub groups have of course chosen to go the food way, but I just think that market’s going to become more and more competitive.”
Amber’s 81st unit comes in the form of the Black Bull in Doncaster, which will continue to trade for a few weeks before undergoing a major refurbishment with an investment of £300,000.
And at the end of the month the Group will open its 82nd unit, The Bull in Morecambe, following a £350,000 refit. Amber is also close to exchanging contracts on a further two properties in Staffordshire and the West Midlands.
The recent ice and snow has grounded planes, left roads impassable and caused severe delays to the rail network. And Preston admits it is also having a detrimental effect on his business.
“It’s affecting us, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “But there’s nothing we could do about it.
“Most of our customers probably live within a half-a-mile radius of the pub, but for some of them, particularly the elderly, it’s a long way to walk in these conditions.
“I don’t subscribe to the view that the snow can actually boost trade for pubs, maybe that’s just for those businesses that are focusing on food that are getting a boost in lunchtime trade.”
Amber Taverns recently agreed a £24m funding deal with Lloyds Bank Wholesale Banking & Markets. This enabled the Group to add 11 new pubs last year as it continues to plough ahead with expansion plans.