Tim Martin, the founder and chairman of the pub chain JD Wetherspoon, has outlined the company’s plans to invest £145 million in expanding and upgrading its pub estate. Over the next 12 to 18 months the 75 planned projects would establish 18 new pubs, upgrade and extend 57 of its existing pubs, and create 2,000 new jobs.
Martin said he was committed to Wetherspoon’s long-term investment and job creation programme over the next decade, but only if the UK opens up again with no lockdowns or changing rules. While the public tend to support their introduction, Martin has openly opposed the idea of a vaccine passport scheme for pubs.
Wetherspoon will open its patios, beer gardens, and rooftop gardens at 394 of its pubs across England from the 12th of April as COVID-19 restrictions ease and allow licensed premises to serve patrons outdoors. A YouGov poll on 5 March found that while 7% intend to visit a pub garden on the day, 11% will give it a few days and 19% will wait until later in April. In December, Three quarters of Britons (74%) said they would feel comfortable returning to pub gardens while half said they would be comfortable to visit pubs indoors (49%).
New YouGov BrandIndex data shows Consideration scores for Wetherspoons among the British public have increased significantly as Brits prepare for outdoor hospitality to reopen. While Northern Ireland has yet to announce when pub gardens will reopen, Consideration scores have increased from 14.1 on the 22nd of February, the day the roadmap out of lockdown was announced, to 29.9 on the 5th of April – an increase of 15.8 points. Scores peaked at 35.9 in the middle of March.
Similarly, Purchase Intent scores (whether a brand is someone’s first choice to purchase from) increased from 3.2 when the roadmap was announced to 15.7 on the 5th of April, an increase of 12.5 points.
Another metric where Wetherspoon’s has seen significant increase is Word of Mouth Exposure scores, which measure whether someone has talked about a brand with friends and family in the last two weeks. Since the Prime Minister announced the roadmap on the 22 February, Wetherspoon’s scores increased from 6.6 to 20.8 – an increase of 14.2 points. Buzz scores, which measure whether consumers have heard anything negative or positive in the past fortnight, also increased by 7.1 points in the week leading up to the Easter bank holiday suggesting anticipation for the reopening of hospitality is only growing.