Training has also been important with JD pioneering new initiatives such as a Catering Academy. But challenges remain particular the “unequal” tax differential between pubs and their major supermarket rivals. Martin says it is threatening the future of British pubs.
“Supermarkets pay no VAT on food where we pay 20 per cent. It means supermarkets can subsidise the price of beer and other products,” he states. “Along with the Late Night Levy it’s hit the pub industry very hard. It is genuinely a tough business now and a Government who wants a competitive economy will have to change the tax regime to get equality. People can’t afford to go out much and pubs are closing down.”
JD paid out £600.2 million in taxes last year up nearly £50 million on the previous year. That’s £662,000 per pub.
He bats aside suggestions that the country’s pub culture is fading away. “The desire and the culture to go to the pub is still there but the disparity in price is too much. It is that which is making people change their habits.”
Despite this Martin is still focused on further Wetherspoon’s growth. It is eyeing up at least 150 new pubs in the next five years in the UK and Ireland.
He is also thinking of opening up in Europe for the first time. “We’re maybe looking at Dunkirk in 5 years’ time and Calais. It would be the start of our invasion of the continent,” he says. “However I am going to have a boat ready to get me back to Blighty if it doesn’t work in Dunkirk!”
Later when BT contacts Martin to double- check the details behind the French move and verify the number of pubs being planned, Martin replies: “Don’t know. Just an idea… never been to either….”
It’s a response which reminds you of the young Tim Martin who had dreams of law, pork pies, squash and 1,000 pubs. A mix of creativity, energy, fun, teamwork and cheek which has driven him towards his goal.
In the next instalment of this series, we hear some of Tim Martin’s opinions on a variety of subjects…