Xmas worse than predicted for 2 in 5 pubs

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

December woes: Xmas period proved mixed bag for operators (Getty/ onurdongel)
December woes: Xmas period proved mixed bag for operators (Getty/ onurdongel)

Related tags Finance Suffolk Food Kent

The festive trading period was a mixed bag for pubs, with some struggling but others finding it better than expected.

The sector was hit by the triple whammy of rail strikes, soaring energy prices and the cost-of-living crisis over December in what UKHospitality dubbed​ “a winter challenge like no other”. 

The majority of the 115 operators that responded to the recent poll by The Morning Advertiser​ (43%) found Christmas trade to be poorer than anticipated.

However, 38% of pubs found the festive trading period to be better than expected.

Furthermore, 18% of operators said trade was as expected. 

To the surprise of Brendan Padfield, owner of the UK’s top gastropub – the Unruly Pig, Bromswell Suffolk, the Christmas trading week​ was “as good as ever” after a quiet start to December. 

Padfield guessed this was because people had decided to let their hair down and celebrate, with many returning to visit family in Suffolk for the festive season. 

December difficulties

Marc Bridgen, operator of the Dog at Wingham said while trade picked up for the festive period, the first half of the month saw the pub in Kent operating at far below predicted levels. 

Bridgen had made £125,000 in December, which was £25,000 under expected trade. 

This year, he had focused on making the pub the best it’s ever been through curating the best team, the chefs and food, as well as investing in property. 

Despite this the site was still 20% to 30% behind where it thought it would be. “It’s no reflection on quality of product or offering,” the owner added. 

Recent research revealed  the average pub saw sales drop​​ by £855 over key Christmas trading dates versus pre-pandemic levels, due to rail strikes and the cost-of-living crisis. 

Sales loss

What’s more, rail strikes have cost the sector a total of £2.5bn in lost sales since industrial action began in June last year, according to UKHospitality. 

The trade body’s chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "[Train strikes] pile further misery on commuters, visitors and tourists as well as hard pressed hospitality workers and businesses already vulnerable due to the loss of vital pre-Christmas sales. 

"The sector has struggled to recover from Covid and these protracted rail strikes since May have made that bounce back much tougher. Enough is enough, this needs to end now." 

Related topics Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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