JD Wetherspoon's decision to open its pubs for coffee and a bacon butty is poised to further grind down the high street coffee bar chains, The Observer says. It says that when Wetherspoon's chairman, Tim Martin, said last week: "It's goodnight, Starbucks," he had a point.

AMT, which sticks primarily to station concourses, and Compass's Ritazza chain, which keeps its overheads down and is extending its menu, are among the few making a profit. Whitbread's Costa has taken seven years to make money, helped by the realisation its brand was strong enough to move on to secondary sites.

Louis Salvoni, of the Real Coffee Society, says that you simply cannot make money selling coffee alone and that the chains are misguided.Martin says the economics of pubs opening earlier are good as they have already paid the rents and overheads. He says if opening at 10am is successful, why not open earlier?

A feature in The Observer Food Monthly says High Streets have sprouted enough coffee shops to keep people awake for the rest of their lives even though the market is in freefall.

It conducts a tasting panel of Espresso, Cappuccino and Latte at five businesses: Algerian Coffee Stores, Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero, Bar Italia and Starbucks Coffee. Bar Italia comes top and Starbucks trails the pack by a wide margin.

Meanwhile, JD Wetherspoon claims it has the best record last year for retaining pub managers. Its turnover of managers at its 600-plus pubs was 11.5%, the Financial Times says.

The share price rose 10p yesterday to 301.5p after it reported a 21% leap in pre-tax profit to £53.6m on turnover up 24% to £601.3m.

Investec Securities said some analysts' concerns about the slight fall in operating margin to 11.7% were misguided. The broker was more interested in like-for-like profit growth because it meant more cash generated by the pubs.

ING Barings, which is reviewing its forecasts, said the company had only beaten forecasts because of a downgrade earlier in the year to take account of the impact of the World Cup. Wetherspoon is expected to report about £63m pre-tax profit for the full year.

Financial Times 07/09/02 page 15, page 21 (Companies Report)
The Times 07/09/02 page 43 (Stock Markets), page 45, page 47 (Results in brief)
The Daily Telegraph 07/09/02 page 33
The Observer 8/09/02 page 5 (Business), page 12-21 (The Observer Food Monthly)