Premium bars slow Britain’s pub closure rate

23rd May, 2019 by Nicola Carruthers

The closure rate of pubs and bars in Britain has halved to an average of 15 a week, as venues benefit from offering premium drinks menus, according to new data.


Venues that offer a curated menu of cocktails are leading the growth of drinks-led pubs and bars

According to CGA and Alix Partner’s latest Market Growth Monitor quarterly report of the pub, bar and restaurant sector in Britain, the rate of pub and bar closures has slowed from 28 a week three years ago to 15.

The report shows that there are 49,496 pubs and bars in Britain as of March 2019, with 31,679 of these drink-led and 17,817 food-led.

When it comes to drinks-led pub and bars, net closures eased from 31 a week three years ago to 12 a week in the 12 months to March 2019.

This is in contrast to food-led pubs which were in growth three years ago but numbers are now falling. The report noted that these figures showed the “vital importance” for venues to strike “the right balance between food and drink”.

The report said the slowdown in closures of pubs and bars “signals that the long-term clear-out of unsustainable pubs and bars after years of oversupply may, finally, be reaching an end now”.

The change has also been attributed to the success of venues with a “premium-leaning offer” and the flexibility of offerings for different times of the day.

The report noted that chains and pub groups such as The Alchemist, Arc Inspirations, New World Trading Company and “smaller but ambitious” brands like London Cocktail Club are leading this movement. These venues have a “carefully curated range of upmarket and distinctive drinks”, particularly cocktails, the report detailed.

Many of these venues have also benefited from offering an “experiential aspect” by focusing on the environment and theatre of their venues.

As of March this year, there were 117,909 pubs, bars, restaurants and other licensed premises in Britain – 2.3% fewer than a year ago and 4.3% less than five years ago. This equates to 2,753 net closures in 12 months – approximately 53 a week.

“The slowdown in closures of pubs and bars is also a welcome trend, as it reflects the growth in quality operators in the premium bars sector,” said Graeme Smith, managing director of Alix Partners.

“Keys to success have been an experiential offer paired with a distinctive drinks proposition, and many have also developed a high-quality food offer which is taking share from traditional casual dining operators.

“The success of Loungers’ recent float is testament to this, and we expect to see renewed private equity interest in the premium bar sector over the next 12 months.”

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