Issuing further financial support for hospitality would be a “good policy decision” for Government if they wish to see a fast-paced recovery, Whitbread CEO Alison Brittain has said.

Speaking following the group’s third quarter results, Brittain said Whitbread would be a “winner” when the market recovers, having “taken action to make sure we exit the crisis as a leaner, stronger, and more resilient business.”

For the 13 weeks to 26 November, the group saw total UK sales down 54.7%, but having completed its restructuring process and, following a rights issue in June, secured around £800m in cash on deposit and £1.2bn of liquidity through undrawn facilities, Brittain said Whitbread was “optimistic about the future.”

“We’ve got a good balance of business guests and leisure, we’ve got a domestic customer bias, we operate in the strongest sector,” she said. “And with the strength of our brand, our operating model and our balance sheet, we’re very well placed to continue to outperform an increasingly constrained budget, branded and independent competitor set.”

Having concluded its redundancy programme – which initially suggested 6,000 jobs could be at risk – the group was able to retain far more workers than originally expected.

The Q3 results revealed that the process led to 1,500 job losses, and though Whitbread had feared it might have to implement a second phase of redundancies in January, Brittian confirmed this was no longer the case.

“We worked very hard to find lots of different ways to make cost savings and alter the way that we operate to afford a lower level of redundancies,” she said. “A larger number of people than we had been anticipating also went to work for other businesses, like supermarkets, who were needing to take on staff.

“On top of that we had some hours changes within teams, and there were other costs we focused on delivering the cost-save through.”

In terms of direct financial support from Government, Brittain said Whitbread had received “around a third” of the £700m it payed annually in tax – equating to about £235m – and that it currently had around 23,000 staff on part or full-time furlough.

“The VAT and business rates changes were very important and those would be the areas where we would hope the Government will give further relief post the end dates,” she said. “It would be a good policy decision for the Government because hospitality has the opportunity to bounce back and help the economy recover as we come out of this pandemic.

“Having a vibrant hospitality industry is important to recovering jobs and paying tax. Helping us rebound successfully is a good policy decision for the government, and certainly rates and VAT relief will help.”

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