Will 2018 be the year of the wet-led pub?

By Peter Linden, MCA

- Last updated on GMT

Rub a dub: could wet-led pubs be soaking up more profit this year?
Rub a dub: could wet-led pubs be soaking up more profit this year?

Related tags: Pubs, Wet-led pubs

Results from last year’s pub industry survey with licensees revealed wet-led pubs were in a better trading position than their food-led counterparts. The question is, could this trend become more pronounced in 2018?

The research, conducted by MCA Insight and The Morning Advertiser​, found a mixed picture on trading overall. Two fifths (40%) of respondents said their turnover was up a bit, up from 36% in 2017, however, only 16% said it was up substantially, a drop from 23%. The proportion of respondents reporting their turnover was down slightly had risen to 16%, up from 8%. But there was a modest decrease in those saying it was down substantially, at 8%, down from 10%.

How would you describe your pub’s turnover this year?

The UK Pub Market 2017, Will 2018 be the year of the wet-led pub

The results show a negative picture overall, with fewer licensees reporting their turnover was up, and more reporting their turnover was down. When we asked publicans which single factor had the biggest impact on sales declining, the top reason was the economic climate, chosen by 26% of respondents, a big increase from 14% in 2016. This was followed by supermarket pricing, at 21%, which had dropped from 23%. The beer tie was picked by 10% of respondents, down from 16%.

Difference between wet and food-led pubs

Do food-led and wet-led pubs feel the same away? More wet-led pubs, 15%, said their turnover was up substantially, compared with 11% of food-led pubs.

When asked about declines in turnover, fewer wet-led pubs reported this, at 25%, compared with 27% of food-led pubs reporting a drop in turnover. This would suggest wet-led pubs were experiencing better trading than food-led pubs in 2017. 

When asked to identify the main factors driving sales growth, 21% of wet-led pubs picked hosting events, compared to just 5% of food-led pubs. In the current market conditions, a round of drinks with friends or family, instead of a full meal, might be the consumer’s preferred way to socialise, especially when coupled with a pub quiz or tasting event.

Now, 12 months on, MCA is running its annual industry survey again, together with The Morning Advertiser​.

Many of the challenges from 2017 are still being felt in the market, not least weaker consumer confidence and high food and labour costs. Yet evidence suggests that wet-led pubs in particular are in the best shape they have been in for years. Will 2018 be a success story for the traditional boozer or will food-led pub restaurants bounce back into the lead?

These are some of the topics that MCA Insight and The Morning Advertiser​ are exploring in this year’s Pub Market Report 2018​. 

Related topics: Other operators

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