Wetherspoon sticks to target of 30-50 new pubs as it mulls Carlow move
British pub chain JD Wetherspoon is sticking to its target of opening 30 to 50 pubs in Ireland, despite reining in its ambitions for new pub openings across the UK and Ireland next year.
The group is currently in talks to buy a site in Carlow, as well as extra sites in Dublin and Cork.
A Wetherspoon spokesman said the group's target for Ireland remains to open 30-50 pubs in due course, though that's not "set in stone".
Management said the target for new openings across these islands next year is now 30, rather than 30 to 40.
Goodbody equity analyst Simon Matthews said the Irish market is more attractive to Wetherspoon than the UK.
"In Ireland, they have an open playing field in terms of growing an estate and, when you look at the competitive dynamics, they are in a position to exploit their purchasing scale and operational expertise as there are no other large pub groups in the country. This is not the case in the UK - even though Wetherspoon operates around 900 pubs, it ranks 7th in terms of size among the pub groups there with the largest player owning around 7,000 pubs."
Vintners' Federation of Ireland chief executive Padraig Cribben said he didn't think publicans should be worried about Wetherspoon's growth.
"Their target . . . will represent less than half of one percent of the total pub population," Mr Cribben said.
"In any town in Ireland there's always a cheap and cheerful pub".
But Mr Matthews said the scale of some of Wetherspoon's premises may strengthen their impact.
"If you look at the Forty Foot that they opened in Dublin, that's 8,000 square foot. It's a huge premises, and so you'd have to assume that it's impacting a significant number of pubs in the hinterland, five, six, eight pubs probably.
"If you extrapolate that and they are rolling out 50 pubs, that suggests about 5pc of Irish pubs would see an impact from Wetherspoon's expansion.
Sunday Indo Business