Wells & Co has reported a £8m decline in revenue for the full year to 3 October 2021, to £30.5m, but said it ended the year “well ahead” of the previous year’s figures.

It achieved a positive EBITDA of £5m and reduced its net debt by £1m.

Within the reporting period its 190 pubs in the UK were shut for 19 weeks, while its 17 managed sites in France were shut for 30 weeks.

Despite the impact of the pandemic, the fifth-generation brewer and pub operator said it managed to push ahead with its strategic plan to grow its managed house business, adding seven pubs to the estate during the year, bringing its portfolio to 25.

Its managed operations entered the new financial year in a robust position with a pipeline of new sites set to increase its total estate to 50 managed sites by the end of 2022.

“In many ways 2021 felt harder than the first year of the pandemic. The fear we all felt at the beginning was replaced with a palpable sense of fatigue,” commented group MD Peter Wells.

“This was seen and felt both internally, as well as with our suppliers and pub partners. We have supported our teams in the pubs, brewery and office through our employee assistance programmes and encouraged everyone to focus on their mental wellbeing throughout these taxing times.”

Wells said there were still many challenges ahead, with consumer confidence needing to be rebuilt and the return to full VAT in April, coupled with wide-ranging increases in costs means “we will have to navigate numerous speed bumps on the path to full recovery”.

The business is actively searching for further freeho0ld opportunities within its heartland of the Home Counties, though Wells acknowledged that recruitment for its expanding managed house division remains testing in the current market. “However, we also see it as a real opportunity for our team members to gain internal promotion and develop their careers,” he added.