Putting food on the table helps revive pub fortunes
Published 31 January 2020

The Prince of Wales village pub

Pubs are thriving for the first time in a decade as a new generation of landlords place food centre stage, new data suggests

Last year, the number of UK pubs and bars soared by 315, the first net increase in 10 years, according to a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Meanwhile, total turnover hit £847 million, the highest level since 2008. The findings are being welcomed by the sector, where the number of pubs has declined by an annual average of 732 over the past 17 years, equating to 12,450 closures.

‘Our relationship with the pub goes back more than a thousand years and is one of this country’s greatest traditions, so it has been incredibly sad to see so many sites close their doors for the last time,’ says Matt Preisinger, from Brewhouse & Kitchen, the UK’s fastest growing brewpub group.‘However, there is light at the end of the tunnel and the British pub is roaring yet again. This is in part due to our continued traditional relationship with our loyal customers and the communities we operate in, but what has really driven growth is innovation and a renewed focus on creating an interesting experience.’

One of the biggest turnarounds in the sector has been increasing consumer focus on food, according to the ONS, with one report finding that the average household spends more than three times as much on pub food as on alcohol. In response, pubs have been directing resources towards their kitchens; 43.8% of people working at pubs are now employed as chefs or waiters, compared to just 28.9% as bartenders.

The opposite was true in 2003. ‘Food has never been more important to the
trade, and the majority of our customers now see dining as a key reason to visit a Brewhouse & Kitchen brewpub,’ adds Matt. ‘As such, the industry is having to move with the consumer and broaden its horizons. ‘One of the ways we’ve done this is by offering dishes cooked with beer, such as whole roast chicken steamed over a can of US pale ale, which we pair with a glass of IPA and a side serving of stout-infused barbecue sauce.’

Originally published in Waitrose & Partners Weekend
Daniel Tapper, January 2020