From a change in Government to ‘average’ beer prices

By Tim Bird, owner of Cheshire Cat Pubs & Inns

- Last updated on GMT

Plenty to say: Cheshire Cat Pubs & Inns owner Tim Bird says quarterly low & no sales are higher than in the entire year of 2018-19
Plenty to say: Cheshire Cat Pubs & Inns owner Tim Bird says quarterly low & no sales are higher than in the entire year of 2018-19

Related tags Tim Bird Cask ale low2no Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators Finance Beer

Where do I begin with my ‘opinion piece’ this month? There’s a lot to talk about… so many topics and so little time.

The things that stand out are, of course, the upcoming election on 4 July ‘Independence Day’ (how ironic). It has been interesting reading all our industry ‘bodies’ little ‘manifestos’ for the hospitality industry then there was CAMRA’s rant about the price of a pint, plus the growth in low & no drinks, probably because of the price of a pint… we also have the European Football Championships, AKA the Euros, starting this week and then there’s the weather.

As I write this, my heating is on! I know I live in the north and you’re all probably sunbathing in Newquay but the weather here is simply cold. This time last year we were enjoying a heatwave. I write notes each week, each year, and enjoy going back in time to see what we were up to.

All I seemed to talk about last year in June was how warm and sunny it was. This year we are recommending to our teams they light the pub fires and heat the bedrooms. The one thing we cannot control of course is the British weather so, as always, we have to crack on and make the most of it.

Our cask ales are enjoying solid sales growth at present because it’s simply too cold for a lager or cider. No doubt it will be 25°C in September and October, with the nation enjoying the feel good factor of a warm sunny autumn. Maybe someone should have waited for that election... 

Before heading in to politics, I have to say I read CAMRA’s article about the rise in the price of a pint… both draught bitter and lager were mentioned. The prices came from the Office of National Statistics apparently. The figures state the average price for a pint of lager in the UK is £4.75... where exactly? I need to go there with lots of my friends!

Average is £1 more

Do their figures come from a working man’s club in Keighley? I can ask this question because I was born in Keighley, all the ‘famous’ Timothys come from Keighley you know? The average price for a pint of draught bitter is £3.88… where is this place?  No wonder the big brewers keep increasing our cost prices, they think we all still have some significant headroom.

I would say the average price for a pint of lager is at least £1 more at £5.75. Smaller pub companies have seen around 40p to 70p a pint added to premium lagers cost prices since 2021 so have been forced to put prices up significantly. Before you all shout… ”you’ve got ‘posh pubs’ in Cheshire, so your prices will be higher”, I don’t actually know anywhere in the UK where the average pint of lager is £4.75. One thing I would add… it’s about time the bigger ‘hard-working’ brewers brought their prices down to help pubs thrive. Over to you premium lager brewers. There's more chance of getting VAT on food reduced I’d say.

So who do we vote for? This, to me, is similar to changing your shirt when you’ve spilt a curry on your chinos. I have given up on any political party successfully looking after my personal interests but I will never give up on a political party that can help our industry on its road to recovery after all the setbacks it has endured and in many quarters still endures.

I agree with Sacha Lord, we need a minister for hospitality. We are a big enough employer and contribute significantly to the Government coffers. We deserve a champion working on the hospitality industry’s behalf in Government but that champion has to understand, intrinsically, the wonderful diversity of our industry and what makes it tick.

I guess most people would say there will be a ‘change of political colour’ on 4 July, in fact it’s almost a sure thing unless Kier Starmer does a Neil Kinnock at the last minute. As the saying goes…. there are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened.

Low & no sales flying

Whatever way it falls, as an industry we need to all decide and agree what the industry’s biggest need is and go for it… less is more… it's business rates reform for me first please.

Finishing on a high, here at Cheshire Cat, we now take more in a quarter on low & no beers and cider than we did in an entire year in 2018-19. Quite a statistic.

I believe, if our brewing friends work hard, we will have three different low & no draught beers on tap by the year end in most of our pubs with enough demand for it to work well. So Diageo, Erdinger, Lucky Saint IPA and the rest, let’s get moving.

To all our favourite microbrewers, a low 2.6% ABV cask ale would be a winner too. It is a great growth opportunity for us all and the new Government should stop taxing 0% beers, spirits and wines and encourage their growth for all the right reasons.

Finally… England probably won’t win but for the sake of all the pubs and bars around the country who benefit greatest from the footy let’s hope it finally comes home and we avoid Germany on penalties… ouch!

Here’s to a cracking summer for our industry!

Related topics Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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