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Visit to Fullers by the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group and Save the Pub Group

On 17/06/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The All Party Parliamentary Beer Group (chaired by Andrew Griffiths MP) and the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group (chaired by Greg Mulholland MP) visited Fullers brewery in Chiswick last week. Some sixteen MPs and two members of the House of Lords were there too, for what you might expect was a fascinating brewery tour and some very generous hospitality. The group comprised MPs, including the Shadow Business Minister, Toby Perkins; and Gavin Williamson who introduced the adjournment debate on the beer duty escalator.

Michael Turner as Chairman (celebrating 35 years with Fullers) and Simon Emeny as Group Managing Director (becoming CEO in 19 days time) both spoke about the history of Fuller, Smith and Turner and their values. Employing nearly 4,000 people, they have a long term focus; a culture of style over fashion; a passion for quality; premium products (both pubs and beer) and pride in their brands and people. They have 386 pubs, an estate which has grown by 70% in the last ten years, doubling the number of people they employ. Of these more than half (207) are tenanted pubs, tied for beer, wines and spirits.

They emphasised their tenants as business partners and how the tie offered a huge incentive to help tenants develop their business. Help comes in many forms: maintaining all dispense equipment; technical support; group purchasing deals; rating advice; wine, coffee and menu support, Fullers signage, capital investment (last year £1.8 million), free BII membership, mystery shoppers; business development managers and the offer of a variety of courses for training. As they pointed out, 80% of this is offered by all pub companies. The last 20% makes Fullers more competitive to attract the best tenants.

Simon Emeny talked about a number of free of tie leases in their managed estates – pubs which they rent from ‘faceless’ landlords and including three leases which have become commercially unviable since the recession. They have tried speaking to the landlord; they wanted help. However, there was no response, so sadly the pubs are now boarded up and 75 jobs were lost. There was simply no incentive for the landlord to help. The tied model he said gives the landlord (whether a pub company or family brewer) every incentive to help the tenant; the free of tie has no oversight, no support and will eventually lead to more closures like the three tied pubs that they have been forced to board up.

Fullers will create 300 new jobs this year, helped hugely by the cut in beer duty, but Simon Emeny hates to think how many jobs will be lost if companies like theirs stop supporting tenants with the tie. He ended with the statistics that Fullers had, in the last 10 years, sold 26 tenanted pubs as pubs; all went free of tie; only 7 are still trading.

As one would expect Greg Mulholland took issue with much of what was said and tried to drive a wedge between family brewers and pub companies, but all were united in watching the film of ‘It’s Better Down the Pub’; and with an excellent tutored beer tasting by Fuller’s respected Head Brewer, John Keeling, and wonderful, imaginative, pub food it was a very successful evening which showed the beer and pub sector at its best.


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