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All Bar One owner gears up for reopening despite £121m loss

Hannah Uttley
·2-min read
O'Neill's pub
O'Neill's pub

All Bar One owner Mitchells and Butlers said it will open more than three quarters of its 1,745 pubs, bars and restaurants on Saturday as it slumped to a half-year loss.

The group, which also owns brands including O’Neill’s, Harvester and Toby Carvery, sunk to a £121m loss for the 28 weeks to April 11 as sales tumbled 12pc to £1bn following the closure of its sites in March. 

Mitchells and Butlers made a profit of £75m a year earlier.

Chief executive Phil Urban said the group will open about 1,320 of its sites in England on Saturday, with its outlets in Scotland and Wales following later, subject to local government guidelines.

The company will delay the reopening of some 160 sites in England including pubs and bars located in office and commuter areas and those deemed too small to operate profitably with social distancing.

About 60pc of staff have been taken off furlough in preparation for reopening this weekend, Mr Urban said.

“We expect a relatively big weekend so we’ve got quite a number of the team coming back,” he added. “But when they've been putting their rosters together, the general managers have been cognisant of who wants to come back and who would rather stay off for a little longer.”

Super Saturday: everything you can, can't, and shouldn't do in England from 4th July - Pubs
Super Saturday: everything you can, can't, and shouldn't do in England from 4th July - Pubs

Tables at Mitchells and Butlers’ pubs will be spaced at least 1.5 metres apart, while cashless payments will be encouraged and disposable menus used for hygiene purposes. Hand sanitising stations will be installed throughout its pubs and customers will be prohibited from drinking at the bar.

Mr Urban said carveries will continue to be served at the group’s Toby Carvery restaurants, but customers will be served by staff rather than helping themselves. Diners will still be encouraged to get their money's worth, however.

“Obviously one of the attractions of Toby Carvery is that you can help yourself and pile your plate high,” he said. “One of our catchphrases will be 'don't be shy’, so if you want more, ask for it.”

The pub chain warned that uncertainty still remained around the strength of the recovery, but expected sales to improve to 2019 levels by mid-2021.