According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of pubs and bars in the UK rose for the first time in a decade during 2019. Following on from more than 15 years of closures, this is the first increase seen since the financial crisis. With 315 new additions, or rising by 0.8% to 39,130 in total, the number of smaller pubs with fewer than 10 employees also rose by 85 in 2019, which is great news considering smaller venues across the UK have been struggling to survive in recent years.
Driven by food sales and changing consumer habits, the new data shows that bars and pubs are now employing more people to serve food rather than drinks. Guess Dry January sticks for some people? Whereas in 2003 roughly 40% of employees in the pub industry were hired to serve drinks, and 30% to work in the kitchen, today the opposite is true. Food staff now make up 43.8% of employees in the sector. Instead of going out for a pint or a glass of wine, food is now becoming the main focus for people, with consumers choosing to spend more of their disposable income on eating out rather than drinking out. In fact, according to the charity Alcohol Change UK, overall consumption of alcohol has fallen by roughly 16% since 2004.
A spokesperson for the British Beer & Pub Association said that the association “cautiously welcomed any good news for pubs”, and only time will tell if this marks a revival for smaller locals across the UK. The association hopes the upcoming Budget will welcome good news for pubs and bars. It said, “Policy makers have a great opportunity in the March Budget to help pubs flourish, by easing the significant tax pressures they face from beer duty and business rates”.
National chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), Nik Antona, called for a review of business rates. He said, “To ensure pubs survive and thrive, they need a fair tax system and stability going forward. Camra continues to call on the Government for a review of the business rates system, as was promised in the Conservative general election manifesto”.
If you’d like to check out some fantastic pubs in your region that are providing social, cultural, and economic benefits to your community, or you are planning a trip and want to know what the best establishments in your surrounding area are, be sure to pick up a FREE copy of one of our eating out guides here or browse through digital versions of our many guides on our issuu page here: https://issuu.com/foodanddrinkguides