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Rolling update: On-trade reports strong Christmas

Published:  08 January, 2014

The majority of the on-trade is toasting its festive successes, but some operators faced disastrous Christmas storm damage and power cuts that caused thousands of pounds worth of losses.

The New Forest's Hotel TerraVina described Christmas as "an absolute disaster" as a power cut hit just after midnight on Christmas Eve and wasn't restored until after December 25. It had to cancel 181 diners and 27 guests across the two-day period. Managing director Nina Bassett put the cost the loss of revenue and inconvenience at around £20,000, but said additional damage was caused when the power came back on. "Southern Electric hadn't regulated the power, so a lot of equipment blew up causing thousands of pounds worth of damage." It is currently seeking compensation from the power firm, and insurance loss adjustors have also visited the property.

Bassett said that although staff had tried to make contact with guests before they arrived, in some cases it wasn't possible. "All of the guests were amazingly understanding. We passed out blankets, cold platters and Champagne. Nobody shouted about us ruining their Christmas."

Supplier Bibendum's chief executive Michael Saunders said he was "very pleased" with the firm's December performance. "We saw a record number of orders in the week before Christmas and this was reflected in our final numbers. Especially pleasing was our increased spirits sales especially at the premium level. It was a very strong end to 2013 and an excellent launch pad for the new year."

Regional on-trade sales director Antony Rixon said: "It was a good Christmas for most of our on trade customers, although not one without some challenges. Like for like sales in most of our major customers was up on last year and we are very happy with our numbers. Our regional business grew 10% with exciting new openings in London, the Home Counties, York, Newcastle, Liverpool and Bath all delivering good results.

"The biggest challenge came from the terrible weather that started the weekend before Christmas kept some drinkers at home and also led to some businesses being affected by flooding. Sussex and Kent based gastropub group Whiting and Hammond had several businesses that were very heavily impacted by poor weather, floods and loss of power. Despite those troubles, owner Brian Whiting is reporting strong sales which is a brilliant testament to his business and his team."

"Looking at Bibendum's sales, Prosecco did unsurprisingly well as did Sauvignon Blanc from across the globe. We had strong sales for wines from Chile, South Africa and Alto Adige in Italy as well as classic areas such as the Loire and New Zealand."

More unusual favourites included premium Washington State Merlot, Bobal from Valencia, Argentinean Bonarda and top quality Tokaji.

Numbers in its off-trade business were also strong, with Prosecco an obvious winner with premium own label Picpoul and Malbec also performing well.

Paramount had a 'tremendously successful December', with year-on-year increases on all three floors.View from ParamountParamount had a 'tremendously successful December', with year-on-year increases across the board.

General manager Adam Jannese of London's Paramount venue at the top of the Centrepoint building, which has outlets across three floors,  said December was "a tremendously successful month" with year-on-year increases on all floors. "We were also extremely pleased with the success of [restaurant] Zinc over the December and New Year period and the figures exceeded our expectations.

"Trade overall was strong," said Jannese, identifying sparkling wine as a star performer. He said as Prosecco has grown in popularity, Champagne is now reserved for extra special occasions. He said Paramount's Champagne sales are up approximately 12% year-on-year, with Prosecco now making up 40% of all sparkling wine sales. Premium spirits have also seen significant rises - Hendricks and Grey Goose now make up 50% of their category sales.

Kane Brooks, beverage operations manager for 10-strong gastropub group ETM, told Harpers that wine sales at some venues were up 20%. In the sparkling category, Prosecco still has a stronghold, but Champagne is growing. "In 2012 Champagne accounted for 15% of those sales while Prosecco made up 85%. However, in 2013 the percentage accounted for by Champagne had increased to 24% and Prosecco reduced to 76%."

Its bestsellers were New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, accounting for 22% of wine sales and Malbec, which made up 18% of wine sales.

Let us know how your business fared over the festive period by commenting below, emailing Gemma McKenna or tweeting @harperswine.