Pubs report mixed results for bank holiday

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Mixed bag: More than £50m pints pulled across bank holiday weekend but trade down vs 2023 levels (Credit: Getty/SolStock)
Mixed bag: More than £50m pints pulled across bank holiday weekend but trade down vs 2023 levels (Credit: Getty/SolStock)

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More than 50m pints were estimated to have been pulled across the May Day bank holiday (3 – 6 May), though sales were down against 2023 as pubs report mixed trading results.

Figures from market intelligence firm Oxford Partnership indicated trade had been hampered by the lack of sunshine and cost-of-living concerns.

Some 52.7m pints of draught beer and cider were consumed across the UK, a 2.6% drop compared with 2023.

The average pub served 1,393 pints of draught beer and cider over the weekend, equating to a £6,436 income generator.

However, despite the wet weather, there were some bright spots across the on-trade.

Saturday (4 May) was the biggest day of the year so far, finishing 12.3% and 2.1% ahead of the same day in 2019 and 2023 respectively.

Hoped for better 

Footfall was up 1.7% overall, driven by rural locations, with Saturday the busiest day, up 3.4% against 2023, while Friday (3 May) also performed better than last year, up 1.1%.

Suburban areas benefited from a 1.4% increase to footfall, while city centres saw a marginal decline of 0.2%. Dwell time was also up, rising by 2.4% overall across the four-day period.

Oxford Partnership CEO Alison Jordan said the weekend had proved to be “a mixed bag for the on trade”.

Category wise, stout (up 12.6%), ale (up 3.9%) and cider (up 4.9% driven by fruit flavours), all fared well across the weekend.

Meanwhile, core and premium lager performed poorly, with a 6% and 5.9% downturn respectively, and world lager suffered as consumers opted for lower ABV brands.

In line with the figures, operators from across the sector reported varied results, with some encouraged by “solid” trading and others having “hoped for better”.

"It was so lovely to see our beer garden full, with a mix of diners and drinkers."

Owner of the Unruly Pig​ in Bromeswell, Suffolk, Brendan Padfield, which is number one​ on the Top 50 Gastropubs list​, told The Morning Advertiser (MA)​ bank holiday trade had been “encouraging”.

“Whilst the weather was mixed, trade was not, it was great. We were fully booked throughout. Crossed fingers for the rest of May and June”, he said.

However, owner of the Dog at Wingham in Canterbury, which also has eight bedrooms, Marc Bridgen told the MA​ trade been “unpredictable” across the weekend.

The operator explained while Friday lunchtime saw a “better than expected” service, evening trade was “very poor” with half the number of covers anticipated as well as quiet sales at the bar and empty rooms.

In addition, Bridgen detailed Saturday afternoon was “terrible”, yet the evening was “rammed”, while Sunday proved more positive for the pub, which is number 16 ​on the Top 50 Gastropub’s list and Monday trade finished up “better than expected”.

Though overall, the operator said he had hoped for better bank holiday trade, adding revenues were “okay” but “didn’t rescue” the poor week leading up to it.


Elsewhere, owner of Cheshire Cat Pubs & Bars​ Tim Bird told the MA​ trade had been “solid” over the bank holiday across the firm’s seven sites, with sales turnover up 14.5% like-for-like.

“This was despite indifferent weather and sporting distractions, as we don’t show sport in our pubs obviously, on the Saturday, while the Sunday and Monday were also great days. All in all, a great team effort and a good weekend”, he said.

In addition, general manager of the Plough at Normanton-on-the-Wolds, in Nottinghamshire, Becky Cassapi, said the sun came out and so did the customers.

She continued: “We had a fantastic bank holiday here at the Plough; it was so lovely to see our beer garden full, with a mix of diners and drinkers.

“For the first time this year we were able to open up our patio doors and maximise the extra covers outside.

“We had a record-breaking Sunday service followed by a full to capacity pub quiz after; what more can we ask for?”

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