Loyalty and maintaining reputation is crucial to the pub and brewing industry, so the biggest concern after general economic instability is that, after Brexit, there won’t be a pool of staff to recruit from to keep guests happy and returning – particularly in London, and also in some of the bigger breweries that rely on migrant workers.
Migrant staffing is incredibly important to the industry, with agriculture and manufacturing also likely to be particularly hard hit.
We asked pubs and other businesses how they were planning for Brexit in 2017 and only 15% were able to provide a comment, which is unsurprising given the ‘unknown’ to plan for. Some, though, saw it as an opportunity, and are already working with schools and colleges to make hospitality a more attractive career prospect for young Brits. So businesses should start thinking about how they would manage a changed employment landscape.
Also essential for pubs to consider is a changed supplier landscape; the way the food service industry approaches supply strategies is already changing.
The weak pound has contributed to significant price rises in imported produce, in some cases forcing food and drink manufacturers to improve supply efficiencies, reduce margins or increase prices to their customers while trying to maintain quality.
The decisions made around access to world supply markets could determine the scale of the price rises pubgoers will feel in their pockets – worth considering while the growth in popularity of cooking and drinking at home provides continued competition.
In attempts to offset rising import costs, the industry is sourcing more goods produced in Britain. It’s proving to be a double win as more pubgoers demand transparency around provenance and are willing to pay for it. Our research also found 99% of consumers would buy more British or local produce if it was made easier for them, leaving opportunities for pubs to capitalise on a resurgence in consumer appetite for British food and drink. There’s also a huge opportunity there for British craft brewers and distilleries, and also British wine, which is soaring in popularity while the UK becomes an ever-more attractive investment for European wineries in preparation for climate change.
With under a year to go until Brexit, my hope is that the pub industry will soon have answers and reassurances that give proper time and head space to plan. The matters of business rates, VAT, duty and so on are not going to go away either – some certainty would be welcomed by the industry.