Skip to main content

News & Insights

Business leaders networking at the Peach 20/20 Conference  

30 Apr 2024

Death of the pub? Not what I’m seeing

By Peter Martin
Early evening on a Wednesday out in London with Young’s CEO Simon Dodd emphatically proves one thing - there’s plenty of life left in the local.

We set out to drop by four Young’s establishments around the South Bank and City - the Founders Arms, the Wheatsheaf, the Bunch of Grapes and the Oyster Shed. All were bustling, if not bursting to the brim.

We know that Youngs has some of the best sites in the capital, but what else is it that’s bringing the public to its pubs in numbers - and making Simon and his top team so confident in the future of the sector?

There are few key insights from my time with Simon, CFO Mike Owen and ops director Jon Falarczyk:

1. It’s all about the GMs

“We’re essentially a collection of individually different pubs,” says Dodd, and that’s why Youngs gives its managers plenty of autonomy to run and develop them.

2. This includes GMs having a big say on capital investment

A new bar in the courtyard at the Wheatsheaf in Borough Market and an extension to the mezzanine at the Oystershed in the City were both suggestions from managers. The business case was made, and the investment followed - along with the resulting uplift in sales, Dodd is glad to say.

3. Managers are bonused on beating budget

This means the best are earning easily six-figure salaries - and the top performing pubs are similarly returning profits often well into seven figures. And it’s breeding an entrepreneurial band of young GMs.

4. Senior management's role is support and investment

Senior management’s role is to provide wrap-round support and investment - and a quick response, making sure the operation isn’t interrupted. 

5. Technology is part of the support package from the centre

Youngs is upgrading all its websites and developing a loyalty scheme for its pubs with rooms. It also runs its own Youngs Agency, calling on a central database of Youngs-trained part-time staff. It’s all about giving GMs more time on the floor. 

6. Bedrooms are the future

Bedrooms, by the way, are part of the future for the business - it now has 1,000 rooms across its estate.

7. The focus is very much wet-led pubs

With the acquisition of City Pub Co it now has 280+ sites, stretching from Wales to Norfolk, but with around 75% still in its heartland within the M25. And the focus is very much wet-led pubs - the average drink to food split across the estate is 70:30, rising to 85% drink in a pub like the Grapes, close by London Bridge station. 

8. Beer culture is strong

And although the bulk of sales comes from big name brands, the range is kept interesting with the regular introduction of new craft offerings - Deya from the Cotswolds being the latest. But you’ll still find a link to Youngs heritage with Youngs Original and Special on handpump.

9. A year of consolidation?

2024 is supposed to be a year of consolidation after the City Pub Co deal, but it’s still investing in individual sites - expanding the size of The Guinea, its gem in Mayfair, as well as creating roof terraces at a number of its London sites. And don’t bet against an opportunistic acquisition here and there.

10. The future is rosy

One thing all the Youngs team agree on is the future of the pub. It’s rosy - and they are all keen to rightly show it off and talk it up. It’s an asymmetric market out there, and we know where Youngs sits.

Thanks for the tour and for the few pints we downed too.

View all News & Insights