Punch Taverns will create 250 new jobs in Scotland as part of its plans to invest more than £3million in its portfolio north of the border, the pub operator said yesterday.
Punch, which has about 230 sites in Scotland, said the new investment was on top of the £1.5million it spent on refurbishing hotels on Skye and Lewis in the last year.
A third of that money went towards sprucing up the 16 bedroom Crown Hotel in Stornoway, an establishment which is famous for serving Prince Charles’ first underage drink.
The remaining £1million was used to refurbish the 24 bedroom Portree Hotel on Skye.
The next 12 months will see the Eagle Hotel in Dornoch and the Corriegarth Hotel in Inverness get revamps costing £200,000 to £300,000 each.
Punch will also spend £100,000 on the Scotia Bar in Aberdeen and £300,000 on Blacksmiths, a pub in Inverness.
By investing in its Scottish portfolio, Punch is hoping to tempt the country’s rich pool of entrepreneurs to choose one of its sites for developing their own business – and capitalise on the growing tourism market.
Brian Davidson, operations director at Punch, said: “We have some great pubs and hotels coming up for lease that need strong local entrepreneurs to run them.
“As part of our support package, we will work closely with them to develop their business plan, making this a great opportunity for the right candidates to take the lead on running their own invested site.”
Mr Davidson was speaking after Punch revealed its interim pre-tax profits had plummeted 84% to £54.7million on revenues of £212.9million.
The previous year’s figures were inflated, however, by the proceeds from Punch’s capital restructuring efforts.
On an underlying basis, pre-tax profits came in at £27.3million for the 28 weeks to March 5, a year-on-year decline of £3.1million.
The Staffordshire-based firm sold £288million of worth of real estate in the last 18 months in a bid to shrink its debt pile.
At the start of last month, the business boasted 3,330 establishments across the UK, the vast majority of which are held on a freehold or long leasehold basis.
Punch hopes to reduce that figure to 2,800.
Mr Davidson said Punch’s estate in the north of Scotland had not been impacted by the divestments.
Average profits per-pub went up 3% during the period under review.
The listed company’s shares closed last night almost 12% higher to 108.5p.