‘Christmas is an opportunity to put prices up’

By Nikkie Thatcher contact

- Last updated on GMT

Operator advice: Ball also urged licensees to consider ordering earlier for Christmas stock due to ongoing supply chain issues (image: Getty/ Zeferli)
Operator advice: Ball also urged licensees to consider ordering earlier for Christmas stock due to ongoing supply chain issues (image: Getty/ Zeferli)

Related tags: Multi-site pub operators, Wine, Heath Ball, Legislation

Consumers are likely to spend more than previous years this Christmas, due to missing out on eating and drinking in hospitality last year, one operator has predicted.

Frisco Group managing director Heath Ball believed this creates an opportunity for operators to increase prices.

He said: “People are going to revenge spending [because they couldn’t] last year. People are going to be buying better, so wine lists separately, it's good opportunity. Just put your prices up right now.

“I don't think people will care. We've been hit really hard at everything so it's good time to put your prices up for things.”

Ball, who’s pub the Red Lion & Sun in Highgate, north London was a previous overall Great British Pub Award winner, after taking the title of Best Wine Pub, predicted consumers will be trading up this Christmas.

Placing orders

He said: “People won't be buying the cheapest wine, I think they'll be buying three or four down the list. But I also think supplies [are] absolutely screwed so I'd be stockpiling.

“Personally, I have been buying now for Christmas. I don't want to be one of those guys with loads of toilet paper in the cupboard but at the same time, if you want survival in your business, I think the supply chain spikes and if you imagine being a small Soho pub, or a restaurant or anything like that, with no storage space, and you're not buying now, prices have gone up, you're really in trouble come Christmas.

“I'd advise to buy right now. The value of wine right now is in Australia, because [the] Chinese deal fell through. They've got loads of wine kicking around in the UK, it was supposed to go to China. I think people are going to be spending well, but you've got to roll with the punches.

“Who knows what the Government's going to throw at us. But yes, I try and buy stuff now and pay for it in December, when you still have cash.”

Furthermore, Ball outlined how ongoing supply issues are impacting his ordering for the festive period.

He said: “You’d [normally] buy week on week. But you're phoning those people now and they're telling you next week.

“If I if I place an order, today was a Tuesday, I'm not seeing it till next week. I know a lot of wine [is] stuck on freight somewhere.”

Supply chain concerns

When it comes to Christmas bookings, the operator is limiting table sizes to groups of no more than eight.

Ball added: “I'm capping them, I'm not doing more than eight. Okay. Because if the Government turn round and [change things], I'm just hedging my bets.

“I'm going to be busy anyway so I know that I can manage a table of eight better than I can, a group of 20.

“But I’m hedging my bets in case the Government turn around and go for whatever reason, this isn't working. But also if people ask me, to the people who still worried about Covid, it sends the right message.”

Ball outlined his concerns in the coming months, highlighting supply issues being the biggest worry for operators.

He said: “My big worry is they [Government] can do whatever they want when they want. And that's my worry.

“[Also], my worry is buying loads of stock and sitting on it and having to pay for it. My biggest worry is supply chain, staffing is not a problem for us, I think we're okay.

“You’ve just got to be able to roll with the punches. That's the way I look at it. You can't get disappointed or upset if it doesn't happen. You have just got to be ready.”

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