How WFH 'is killing off our thirst for pints'
Working from home is killing demand for the traditional British pint, says the boss of pub chain Wetherspoons.
Tim Martin says the recovery in sales of draught ales, lagers and ciders following the pandemic is lagging behind other drinks in his 861 pubs.
He blames the slump on Britain’s continuing reliance on home working, which means fewer drinkers are enjoying pints over lunch or after work.
Across the group, sales of spirits are 4.4 per cent higher than before the pandemic, food is 2.1 per cent up and cocktails by 18.1 per cent.
Beer and cider, historically the biggest element in pub takings, are still 8 per cent below the same time in 2019.
Mr Martin, who founded the Wetherspoons chain with one London pub in 1979, said the post-Covid bounceback is lagging far behind expectations.
He said: ‘Many people predicted a boom in pub sales when lockdowns and restrictions ended, due to pent-up demand, but recovery for many companies has been slower and more laborious than was anticipated.’ In another sign of the impact of working from home, he said London was struggling more than other cities.
Wetherspoons said pubs were also suffering from a hangover effect of ‘fear factor’ messaging at the height of the pandemic.
Mr Martin said the measures used to encourage compliance had left behind ‘lingering after-effects’ and lots of people were still cautious about going out.
He also said many people been driven into early retirement, shrinking the workforce. The rapid ageing of the indigenous population will also be taking its toll.
UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls agrees that working patterns have changed and it is ‘quite clear’ that town and city centres are recovering more slowly. “People are coming back to offices, but they are not coming back full time and that means lower footfall.”
Official figures showed 9.9 million people were working from home at least one day a week, more than double the 4.7 million total in 2019.