Surge in UK pub numbers “more down to food than drink”

A supervisor in an Edinburgh pub has said the rise of the number of pubs in the UK is because they are selling more food than drink.

The number of pubs and bars is on the rise in the UK for the first time in ten years, and according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), this is the first increase of pubs opening in over a decade.

Photo Credit: Elise Kennedy

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said that the rise in these businesses is “cautiously welcomed.”

Owners are suggesting that these increases are connected to the change in customer demands. There is a trend in people spending more money eating out rather than drinking out.

The number of people that are employed in the pub and bar industry has increased over the course of the years. However, this has been suggested to be due to the growing numbers of larger, food-orientated pubs.

Management is now employing more positions serving food rather than people behind the bar.

The shift has resulted in an increase in customers going to pubs to eat rather than drink – the number of kitchen and waiting staff rose from 29.1% to 43.8%, according to the recent ONS report.

The Golf Tavern is one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs (Credit: Caitlin Gallagher)

However, small local pubs, particularly those outside of city centres, are still under pressure as they are facing challenges in order to match the low prices that larger chains are able to offer.

Robert Alexander, bartender at Usquabae Whisky Bar And Larder, thinks smaller pubs will struggle under the rise of more businesses.

“I feel smaller pubs will be affected by this rise as people are always looking for the next new thing, especially the younger generation.”

Bar supervisor, Sian Salmon, believes that pubs are focused more on food and doesn’t see the rise in pubs as a bad thing.

“I think it’s good because, like you say, there are a lot of small pubs at capacity, but if you’re at capacity then you’re at capacity. I think it gives people a lot of options and a lot of different types of venues, but I don’t see it as a bad thing.

“We are a lot more food-heavy than we used to be. Just over the last few years, people have realised and just keep coming back for food. We get a lot of repeat custom here and a lot of tourists as well because we are quite an old pub in the books.

“My personal experience would just be time to cook. I guess it’s just a bit more social, something to do outside the house. Once you’re drinking you might get a bit peckish especially on the weekends, after you’ve had a few pints you might smell the food around the room.”

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