British pub numbers have been in decline for a period of years, if not decades, with BBPA statistics showing the number of pubs in the UK down from 60,800 in 2000 to 48,350 in 2017.
During that period there wasn’t a single year when the number of pubs in the UK went up – but the times, they are a-changing.
The latest ONS figures under the heading ‘Economies of Ale’ show the sector finally found some forward momentum in 2018-19 for the first time in at least a decade.
Because of the different methods used in their research, the ONS figures are lower overall – putting the number of pubs in the UK around 52,500 in 2001 and 39,000 in 2017.
Since then, the ONS report counted 38,815 bars and pubs in Britain in 2018 but a slight increase to 39,130 in 2019.
Where is the growth?
The good news is, growth in UK pub numbers is being seen across the industry, including small and larger pubs alike.
Among those with fewer than ten employees, growth was 0.4% in 2019, with a net increase of 85 new venues opened over the preceding year – the first positive growth in this category in the past 15 years of ONS measurements.
This was part of a 0.8% growth rate for the wider industry, as a net 315 new bars and pubs opened their doors for the first time between 2018 and 2019.
How are pubs succeeding?
It’s been a turbulent time for the pub sector since the start of the century, and many venues have worked hard to update what they offer to customers.
In 2014 ONS figures showed an almost identical proportion of bar and pub staff worked in preparing and serving food as worked in traditional bar roles.
Since 2015, foodservice roles in pubs and bars have consistently outnumbered those whose main duty is to serve drinks – a sign of how venues have diversified to cater for customers who want to eat out rather than those on a night out drinking.
With trends like ‘Dry January’ gaining in popularity year by year, pubs are also doing more to serve non-alcoholic options not only for designated drivers, but for those who are trying to cut down or eliminate their alcohol intake entirely.
What else can pubs do?
Quiz machines have become a familiar fixture over the past 20 years and continue to offer new gameplay thanks to the ability to update the games and titles via a network link.
Finally, modern pub jukeboxes no longer just play music. They offer both music and video, along with interactive entertainment like automated pub quizzes that can keep customers engaged for longer.
All of this adds up to a diverse range of pub entertainment at a time when the sector is finally finding its feet once again, and we would urge all interested bar managers and pub owners to get in touch with Manco today to find out more.