The future of our pubs

I had originally planned to write an article around a month ago – that was delayed… I wanted to write a piece on the opportunities that were emerging from the huge changes to our pubs, from government, peoples differing attitudes and habits, Brexit and indeed the industry as a whole.

It seems ‘on the surface’ that many of these changes will now not happen, investment will be delayed until further notice while stock markets and other indicators reflect the unknowns and shy investors.

I, like most in the industry, have had time to reflect and upon further inspection there is a hell of a lot to be excited about.

What’s on the horizon?

It’s tricky – we have to work with what we know and what we have. The easiest way to break this down is into the large businesses and the small to mediums. The government has rightly stepped in and is supporting both in various ways, whether you can now furlough your teams or business rates have been cut or freezes on various duties.

It is a case of understanding what you are entitled too (some helpful websites below). My advice, for small to mediums is take what you can and enquire about everything. A missed opportunity for a freeze of commercial rent or similar could be the difference between your business being there to trade this Christmas. Not a message of warning, more a pointer to what your friends and competitors are already doing!

Now the question of the Chancellor’s budget which, on face, seems to be promising a lot of what the pub sector has been calling for a long time; a report titled ‘Unlocking Pubs’ Potential’ complied back in February showed real promise, perhaps the recognition that pubs up and down the Union have been owed for a long time.

In essence it highlighted the importance not only that pubs play in our community if the form of social well-being but also the economic benefits. Let’s not forget that the Hospitality industry as a whole has been the fastest growing of any sector since the economic downturn and the 3rd largest employer in the UK. Does it go far enough?

A difficult question to ask given the current situation. The Beer freeze will save pub goers around £80 million and secure 2000 jobs.

With over £190 million of support pledged to pubs in the coming years. There is also the cutting of business rates for small businesses – this now stands at £5000 per business with the rateable value of £100,000.

Small but important measures ladies and gents! As I have said before, this is a START and by no means enough! But a well needed positive!

The changing nature of employment

One of the major changes to our industry has been the points-based immigration system that will comes into place in Jan 2021.

This will drastically change the nature of the workforce in hospitality.

What will it mean? There will be large swathes of the current workforce that will not eligible to work in the UK and with the industry already struggling to fill jobs as the sector grows as such a fast rate, this will only become more difficult.

One of the main issues I have with the governments approach is the terminology – low skilled worker.

Any Michelin starred chef would be considered skilled would they not? And I can guarantee that they would say their Kitchen porter is as important to the team as any Sous or Commis.

So, what can be done? One of the key aspects is re-evaluating how important the industry is to the UK, in essence, it is hugely important.

Why not have the government to incentivise proper courses and trainings in the form of apprenticeships? I believe that the government and therefore hospitality industry as a whole has become too reliant on EU nationals filling the otherwise vacant positions that our growing industry provides. ]Now, out of necessity rather than want, we must train the next generation of professionals. Apprenticeships of this form should be hailed as a fantastic career choice – it should be considered a profession. It is in the rest of Europe – why not here too?

The government must endorse and assist with the setting up of qualifiable courses and schemes up and down the country!!

What can we look forward to?

In addition to the most recent budget, the figures coming from the Pub industry as a whole look good.

Here a just a few of the positives to look forward to over the course of the year:

  • Total beer sales in 2019 was over 8 billion pints, not bad for a night’s work! That’s a 1.1% increase on last year
  • Average spend per head in pubs was up 19% in 2019
  • The fall in commercial rents that will now have to be approved by HMRC to kick start the growth the industry

Special mention

Having spent a large amount of time in pubs across the country, one area in particular has always impressed me.

Although I don’t mean to group together, THE NORTH! Whilst London and the South jostles positions to adopt the new trends in food, drink and socialising as the capital decrees them to pub companies in the North and Midlands too have got it bang on.

A clear product, served by eager, knowledgeable and professional staff is something to be shouted from York to London. In fairness there are examples of this all over the country, but it seems to be mostly in the North.

A little wonder why top candidates from the likes of 16 Hospitality, Paragon Group, True North Brewery, Provenance Inns & Hotels, I could go on, are well known as being some of the industry’s best! Hats off to you guys!

In Summary

Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties

In the UK, we have this in bags!!

There is one certainty I can give you through all the unknowns. When this is over and it will be over, pubs – gear up, get your teams ready because when our immunity matches our spirit – we are coming for you!

Thanks for reading and stay safe

Luke Cotterell

Pubs Recruitment Specialist



Date Published: 31st March 2020