Premier Inn owner axes 1,500 jobs, less than the 6,000 initially feared

Premier Inn owner Whitbread has axed some 1,500 jobs after seeing sales more than halve amid enforced coronavirus closures and restrictions.

Bosses at hotel giant Premier Inn are looking forward to the potential gradual relaxation of restrictions from the spring. Picture: Premier Inn/PA
Bosses at hotel giant Premier Inn are looking forward to the potential gradual relaxation of restrictions from the spring. Picture: Premier Inn/PA

The hotels group, which also owns chains including Beefeater and Brewers Fayre, said like-for-like UK accommodation sales tumbled 56 per cent in the 13 weeks to November 26.

It cut jobs to reduce costs in the face of trading woes, but said redundancies were far fewer than the 6,000 initially feared thanks to more workers than expected agreeing to reduce their hours.

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The group said third-quarter food and drinks sales plunged 54.4 per cent across the UK and by 74.9 per cent in Germany, leaving total comparable group sales 55.6 per cent lower.

But it said accommodation sales slumped as much as 66.4 per cent in the five weeks to the end of December as restrictions tightened, with total UK sales down 73.4 per cent.

In the UK, around two-thirds of its hotels are open for essential business and key worker accommodation, while all restaurants are shut.

Chief executive Alison Brittain said: “We expect the current travel restrictions in the UK and Germany to remain until at the very least the end of our financial year.

“With the vaccination programme under way, we look forward to the potential gradual relaxation of restrictions from the spring, business and leisure confidence returning, and our market recovering over the rest of the year.”

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “Premier Inn owner Whitbread’s latest update has continued to paint a bleak picture of the sector. If anything, the numbers could have been worse given the current environment, though this number has deteriorated further in light of the recent tightening of restrictions.”

William Ryder, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, noted: “This hasn’t been a good year for hotels, and the last quarter has seen things deteriorate again for Whitbread.

“Occupancy rates had recovered to 58 per cent in September, but the November lockdown and progressively tightening restrictions in December saw occupancy collapse. Now that the nation is back in a full-on lockdown Whitbread is looking at another tough few weeks, and probably longer.”

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