Young’s chief executive Patrick Dardis has described the group’s investment in technology as “transformational”.
The rollout of new till software – currently in 15 pubs but due to be across the estate by the end of July – will allow customers to order through the app and Young’s to tailor messaging to individual preferences.
However, he insisted the evolution of the group’s technical capabilities did not herald a move into delivery, saying it posed a reputational threat as food quality could not be guaranteed.
He said there were a myriad of other ways in which Young’s was seeking to grow sales, including further rollout of the now 35-string Burger Shack brand, which adds an average of 10% to like-for-like food sales when it is integrated into a site.
Dardis admitted “it’s no secret we have a war chest” but stressed that he was only interested in high-quality acquisitions and wanted to maintain the freehold bias of the estate.
He also said the Geronimo estate, which will open the King’s Arms in Wandsworth this morning, is now trading at parity with the wider Young’s estate.
Asked if there were any initiatives in particular that had driven like-for-like sales growth of 4.2% across the managed estate, Dardis said: “There’s hundreds of things we do that contribute to that growth, and we are never complacent that we can repeat it. Many of these ideas comes from centre and a good example of that was our cucumber currency. We elected that for one day, our currency would be cucumber and in return customers got a gin & tonic. On one day we gave 4,000 cucumbers away to the homeless and got some great traction on social media.
“Cocktails continue to be a huge driver of sales – they were up 46% this year. We’re also seeing double digit growth through breakfast, brunch and Sunday lunch.”
Dardis said the group would continue to add to its Ram Pub Company tenanted estate but largely as a way of “warehousing” sites for conversion to the managed portfolio. He said the group had accepted offers on two sites in the Ram estate but there were “only a handful” of others likely to be disposed of.
On technology, he said: “This is transformational for us. Our till systems are 17 years old so they are very much legacy systems. The new system – it’s only in about 15 pubs at moment but will be everywhere by end of July – is much more intelligent. It will evolve. It integrates much more with the back office and with the Young’s app so you can not only pay but order. It gives us information on when customers come in and what they like. It means we can communicate directly to the customers about things we are doing that we think relate directly to them. It also allows us to be smarter on wage scheduling. It won’t all happen on day one - ee can scale this up over the next three to five years.”