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Pub decline halted as food drives growth

Published:  16 January, 2020

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released figures showing that the long decline in the number of pubs in the UK has stopped, with a “small rise” in 2019 buoying up the sector for the first time in decades.

This, says the report, is being driven by growth in the number of medium and larger pubs, with food to the fore.

Figures published today reveal that, while the total number of pubs fell from 51,120 to 39,130 between 2007 and 2019, employment in the sector has grown from 426,000 to 457,000 over the same period, with pub numbers also growing by a modest 315 in 2019. 

The ONS figures confirms that food-led operations are on the up, with fewer people now employed as bar staff, dropping by 8.7% between 2017 and 2019, with the corresponding number of kitchen and waiting staff rising from 29.1% to 43.8% over that time.

The long charted fall in pub numbers has primarily see smaller, wet-led pubs (those employing fewer than 10 people), calling time for the last time, while a reinvigorated food-led sector has been in the ascendancy for some time.

“While smaller pubs have been struggling to survive in recent years, bigger pubs have been growing in number. This growth has been driven by food rather than drink and we’ve seen a big rise in the number of people employed as pub kitchen and waiting staff,” said ONS senior statistician, Hugh Stickland.

“The latest year, however, shows the first rise in total numbers since before the financial crisis, with growth in pubs of all sizes. We’ll have to wait to see if this marks a revival for smaller ‘locals’.”