BII reveals devastating survey results & calls for urgent support for pubs

The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has today released the results of its survey of members since the announcement from the Prime Minister last week.

The country’s move to Plan B in England and the announcement of further measures for the devolved nations has had an immediate and devastating impact on the level of trade in our nations’ pubs with cancellations of bookings and a drop in footfall across the whole of the UK, at a time where operators needed to be building resilience back into their businesses ahead of the quieter winter months.

The survey, which saw over 500 licensee operators feeding in their experiences, shows trade falling dramatically for a large number of pubs in light of the caution urged by Government around the transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

Even without restrictions being placed on our vibrant pubs, vital for social connection and the mental health of communities across the UK, their businesses have been plunged into uncertainty once more.

78% of respondents reported trade as already being significantly down on 2019 levels with two thirds reporting that Christmas bookings have been cancelled and half seeing a reduction in size of bookings.

Two in 3 have seen a reduction in trade of more than 20% against 2019 levels, and of those, 1 in 3 are seeing revenue down by over 40%.

Operational impact
76% are having to reduce staff hours, but more worryingly, almost 1 in 4 are already saying they will be letting staff go. 53% are having to reduce their trading hours and half of respondents have seen significant levels of food waste with stock ordered in to cope with the seasonal demands, now useless.

The professionally managed venues had already put in place a raft of measures to reassure their customers that they were safe places to socialise, with 47% saying staff were wearing masks and 30% already limiting the number of bookings they were taking.

Having built up an average of over £50k of debt per pub over the course of the pandemic, licensees are now facing a cliff edge for their businesses, with the trade that they were relying on to help them rebuild after the disruption and uncertainty of the past 2 years, now gone.

Even since the results of the survey earlier this week, members are now reporting huge increases in cancellations of 75% or more, leaving them with food they cannot sell and staff they cannot afford to pay.

Steven Alton, CEO of the BII said, 'The immediate and devastating impact of the Prime Minister’s announcements over the past few days is now clear to see. Our members run welcoming and professional venues where people can safely socialise and reconnect in their communities.

“Often, these small businesses are run by families, who live in their pubs, and they are now facing a Christmas without the trade that they so desperately needed to begin their recovery. This presents an immediate cash flow crisis for our members who have invested heavily in the festive season and now simply won’t be able to pay their bills.

“Whilst most of these viable businesses have built up debts over the pandemic to ensure they can survive, many more have cashed in pensions, emptied their savings accounts and borrowed from friends and family on the basis that they can trade at pre-pandemic levels.'

Alton continued, 'These are people at the heart of their communities, but more than that, they are key employers in towns, high streets and rural locations across the UK, and have contributed huge amounts of tax to the treasury.

“They now need immediate support from Government to enable them to remain as those community pillars, providing that unique experience for people to come together and celebrate, commiserate and connect as human beings.

“We need support for these essential businesses, now, not in the New Year, as quite simply they will not survive without it. Our members have asked for vital support in the form of the reintroduction of grants, a continuation of the lower rate of VAT and a cancellation of business rates.

“The support and recognition that Government has given to them over the course of the pandemic was key to their survival, but without further and immediate support this Christmas, the investment in these businesses will be wasted and we will see widespread business failure.'

Alton concluded 'We are calling on the Chancellor to protect his investment and the unique heritage that pubs bring to the UK with an emergency package of measures in line with those seen at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis.”