Greene King boss urges thousands of EU staff to stay post Brexit as he prepares to call time on ‘very special part of my life’

Rooney Anand of Greene King Picture: GREENE KING

Rooney Anand of Greene King Picture: GREENE KING - Credit: Archant

Being at the helm of one of the giants of the UK’s pubs and brewing industry has been “a great journey and an adventure” said its chief as he enters his final few months in post.

Rooney Anand, the transformational chief executive of Greene King, who has seen the group grow almost beyond recognition in his 14 years in post, is due to call time on April 30, 2019. “It’s a very special part of my life,” he said.

Current turnover, published in its interim report on Thursday (November 29), was at £1.051bn for the first six months to October 24, and the Bury St Edmunds firm has outperformed the sector in all but one of the months over that period, presenting Mr Anand with a pleasing start to his final year in charge. “It’s a very pleasing first half - the team has done a fantastic job,” he said.

Greene King interim resultsHigher costs - wages, raw materials and rates - have hit the sector, but moves to make outlets customer-friendly and responsive were paying dividends. A new generation of discerning drinkers were making an impact, he observed, with big increases in gin sales - up by 89% - and craft beers, which rose by 36%. “It’s more premium, it’s more expensive, they drink less,” he said.

Gin ranges at Greene King pubs had been broadened, with attractive glassware and greater ranges of flavours and upmarket mixers available, helping towards the remarkable boost in sales.

Restaurants and pubs sector shrinksThere are other challenges for the firm, such as Brexit. With 9.2% of the group’s 39k staff - or around 3,700 people - coming from the European Union, the company has been keen to reassure them in the face of the uncertainties that was creating. “We are working with them and helping and supporting them to make them feel very much part of the family and not wanting to go back,” he said.

But while the company is mitigating against the potential effects of Brexit, Mr Anand would not be drawn on the potential implications of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. “I think we need to wait and see after December 11,” he said.

The Brexit factorMr Anand, who lives in Cambridge, said he would probably remain in the area after stepping down, no doubt enjoying his tipple of choice, Greene King IPA, in one of the chain’s local pubs, of which there are around 500 in the region.

During the first half, the firm invested £2.9m in 18 of its pubs across East Anglia, a region in which it employs around 5,000 staff. He would be “sad” to leave his many colleagues, he admitted.

“It has been a great honour to lead the company and to be part of a really great journey and adventure,” he said.

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“I hope to leave behind something that’s become a household name and the biggest factor over the years has been the calibre of people who have wanted to work for us.”