What can we expect from the pub trade in 2020?

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Business predictions: experts from across the sector look into the crystal ball to see what the year ahead has in store
Business predictions: experts from across the sector look into the crystal ball to see what the year ahead has in store

Related tags: Business, Beer, Public house

This year has seen a host of mergers and acquisitions plus the intrusion of Brexit and a general election yet trade professionals are hopeful 2020 will bring more certainty.

Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens


Consumer expectations will continue to rise as will competition for the leisure pound. This is good news as it creates opportunities for well-run, invested pubs that understand their customers. It also spurs on the evolution of pubs, making them better than ever.

Concerns about environment will have a greater impact on the pub industry with new practices, services and products being introduced across the board.

The environment increasingly matters to consumers and impacts the choices they make. They want to see pub companies and pubs take positive action, from sustainable sourcing to energy saving measures. We need to take heed and both lead and communicate to customers in this area.

This year saw a number of deals and changes of ownership, which will no doubt cause some form of ‘ripple e­ffect’ into 2020, hopefully leading to continued investment in pubs by operators looking to the long term.

Finally, our politicians will act collaboratively in the interests of the country and realise the unrealistic and unsustainable tax burden pubs face and take action to address this. The sun will shine all the time and England will win the Euros in 2020 on a sun-drenched summer night at Wembley.

Ei Group project and recruitment marketing manager Matt Ralphs


For the sector to continue to prosper, we need to continue to attract entrepreneurial, passionate people who are interested in having their own businesses.

As the make-up of the workforce changes with Millennials and Generation Z becoming the dominant demographic and these individuals seek jobs that align with their own values and make a positive impact on society, running a pub at the heart of the local community is a great opportunity.

Yes, it can often be challenging, but equally, it is hugely rewarding on many levels. So the focus for pub companies in the coming year will be to emphasise that message to the next generation of potential publicans.

We are completely committed to giving our publicans the freedom to build their own business, helped by access to a range of marketing and retail support tools, meaning they can make a real difference to the communities they serve.

British Institute of Innkeeping chair and Red Mist Leisure managing director Mark Robson


With all the challenges facing our industry at the moment, recruitment and retention are always high on the agenda.

In hospitality, we have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to finding new ways to attract talent and most importantly, develop and keep those members of staff.

However, from the new training programmes we saw presented at the National Innovation in Training Awards, through to innovation in how we as an industry care for our staff, particularly from a mental health point of view, I see the licensed trade going from strength to strength.

Davey Co managing director Paul Davey


My principal prediction for the licensed property market for 2020 is one of significant reinvigoration by virtue of a marked release of considerable pent-up demand both in terms of confidence in business acquisitions and investment operationally now the economic and political paralysis we have endured for far too long has at last been remedied.

Independent operators will be more confident to commit investment into developing existing sites as well as expansion through acquisition of other businesses that possess established, complementary trading platforms and appropriate demographic locations for further development and enhancement.

The consequences of the immense frustration we have all suffered as a result of the inability of our Government to govern effectively has now been relieved.

The fog of uncertainty and indecision has finally lifted and this bodes very well indeed in my view for a strong market in 2020.

The banks, which have been cautious to say the least with regard to the licensed leisure and hospitality sector, will, be far more supportive and this will facilitate a significant growth in market demand and sustained momentum.

I am looking forward immensely to 2020 with, frankly, great relief, renewed optimism and huge confidence in the prospects for the independent owner operator and privately-owned multiple site operator sectors.

British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin


In the new year, there will be a new Government in power and our priority will be getting them to provide the support our sector needs to flourish in 2020.

Pubs will continue to play a vital role in their communities in 2020, particularly with national events taking place such as UEFA Euro 2020 and VE Day 75. The great strides our sector has already made in sustainability and innovation will continue too and we are particularly excited to see how low and no-alcohol beer grows in 2020.

Brexit deadlines will be upon us and we’ll push the next Government to guarantee that pubs and brewers alike can retain access to the talent they need post-Brexit, enabling them to continue supporting economic growth.

Beer duty and business rates remain a concern for our sector and we hope the next Government will listen to the 228,000 people who have signed the Long Live the Local​ petition to cut beer duty, in addition to offering further rates relief for pubs.

CGA business unit director for food and retail Karl Chessell


The CGA AlixPartners Market Growth Monitor shows there have been 2,423 restaurant closures in the past 12 months, and 1,789 new openings.

Closures in the sector have come primarily from independent operators, as well as underperforming businesses.

The good news is that new operators have opened up creating a churn that’s been particularly high in city centres.

While more closures can be expected in casual dining, many sites will be swiftly reopened by new and emerging operators.

Coffer Peach Business Tracker has shown that like-for-like sales increases are back into positive territory and the latest Business Confidence Survey from CGA and Fourth gives further cause for cautious optimism, with 64% of bosses optimistic about prospects for their business over the next 12 months – up by six percentage points on the last survey three months ago.

Zonal sales director Tim Chapman


We all wish we had a crystal ball for the year ahead, one thing I can predict is it’s not going to be dull. There are plenty of challenges on the horizon from ongoing political uncertainty to greater competition for the leisure pound.

Creating memorable experiences is high on the consumer list of demands and technology has a key role to play.

For venues, having connected technology sitting at the heart of their business is becoming ever more vital as technology will become increasingly sophisticated.

Automation will enhance the guest experience and aid front of house teams, while online ordering will start to become mainstream as it continues to gain momentum.

The online booking space is also an exciting place to be with technology revolutionising the way in which we reserve tables and engage with brands. Google Reserve is the latest to join the online booking market and it will be interesting to see how it take holds in 2020 with consumers and operators alike.

As we cater for the mobile-first generation, gamification alongside convenience are driving the change. For example, we’ve seen a growth in operators introducing self-ordering and payment through mobile and table-side tablets and kiosk solutions, as these interactive, self-service approaches to order and settling a bill are proving popular with consumers where speed of service is a priority.

As a result, EPoS will become that central hub for collecting data from a plethora of order platforms, including beyond the bricks and mortar of the bar, as delivery and click and collect continue to grow in popularity.

The demand for seamless connectivity, greater choices of ordering channels and share of data will rise as new and different technologies enter the sector. Furthermore, the use of chat bots, voice and the need to integrate with other ordering platforms and channels will grow in the year ahead as brands adopt new business streams.

However, I am firm believer that technology is there to enhance the customer experience and will never replace the human touch that is essential when it comes to making that personal connection with customers to create fun and memorable occasions – that’s one thing that will never change.

Fleurets director Simon Hall


The best-in-class will seek selective expansion, particularly for more wet-led operations. Increased high street competition and rising costs will increase restructuring activity and will present opportunities for selective growth for smaller and regional operators.

Expansion of value-based brands will squeeze trading levels across the market. Other tenanted packages will be sold as new and established owners both seek to rationalise their estates.

Continued merger and acquisition activity across tenanted, managed and experiential leisure sectors will be see along with an increase in the number of pubs operated under franchise agreements.

We will also see demand for well-secured leisure investments remaining strong.

Matchpint co-founder Dominic Collingwood

Dom Collingwood

A major managed pub company will launch (or acquire) an eSports concept.

No-and-low alcohol will be the fastest growing drinks category, with a number of mainstream non-alcoholic spirits coming to market to complement and scale up the success of market leader Seedlip.

There will be another sports rights acquisition of by an OTT (over the top, internet-led) broadcaster, prompting rumours that Facebook, Netflix, and Apple will enter the next race for Premier League rights next year.

The number of pubs in the UK will remain stable, with sales growing slightly in wet-led venues. Euro 2020 will grip the nation in June. England will avenge their Euro ’96 result by defeating Germany on penalties in the second round, but a limp quarter final loss will bring us back down to earth.

Brexit (and uncertainty around whether, and with what new trade deal) will continue to dominate mainstream news. A year of emotional highs and lows – the perfect excuse to visit a pub.

Campaign for Real Ale chief executive Tom Stainer


Despite the suggested turnaround for pub closure figures recently released, 2020 is likely to be a hard year for pubs.

The newly formed Government is going to have to take a long hard look at how the pressure on pubs can be eased, and that includes reducing the business rates bill to slashing beer tax.

In a tough economic climate, pubs are forced to essentially become ‘more than a pub’ to remain competitive and attract footfall, such as by introducing a food offering or offering alternative local services, such as a village shop in the pub.

That being said, pubs play a hugely pivotal role in our communities, helping to tackle loneliness and isolation and need greater support both from the Government and from consumers who ‘vote with their feet’. There’s no better way to support your local than by using it.

British Institute of Innkeeping chief operating officer Steven Alton


With more and more people looking for somewhere unique to stay within the UK, letting rooms is an area ripe for expansion in 2020.

Pubs are such dynamic spaces, serving many different customer types and providing that much needed ‘third space’ where people can relax.

Our fantastic licensees can provide all of the same functionality of a hotel, with a warm and welcoming atmosphere unique to pubs.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls


A Conservative majority should provide us with the stability that has been in short supply in recent years.

Throughout the general election campaign, Boris Johnson’s message has been that he wants to get Brexit done.

The majority of nearly 80 MPs will give the Prime Minister the breathing room to push through his deal and begin to focus on his domestic agenda and deliver the support we need for the sector.

We need the Government to deliver the rates reduction it promised at the earliest opportunity ahead of full-scale reform to boost high streets and support valuable employers in every region.

There should be plenty of reasons for pubs to feel positive in 2020: lots of high-profile events, such as the UEFA European Football Championship should encourage customers into pubs to celebrate.

One of UKHospitality’s primary focuses, and something which should help pubs, will be our work on the sector deal for tourism.

The knock-on effect for pubs and other hospitality businesses should be significant; delivering a real boost for recruitment and retention of team members.

Related topics: Events & Occasions

Related news

Show more