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Drinks suppliers ‘pulling out all stops’ as on-trade orders surge

Published:  14 May, 2021

UK on-trade drinks suppliers are cautiously optimistic that the surge in demand at venues able to offer outdoor service will continue as indoor trading returns.

Fergal Tynan, MD at Alliance Wine, told Harpers that “everyone across the industry is pulling out all the stops for what should be a day to celebrate”, while expressing a mix of “excitement, relief, but an understandable caution”.

Tynan reported that in the week ahead of indoor reopening “orders have surged”, but tempered this welcome news with the observation that “so far it has been a cautious reopening compared to last autumn with many operators, especially in city centres, choosing to wait until next week to reopen”.

“It’s clear that everyone is planning for a big week next week but we’re still a long way from pre-Covid levels,” he added.

Managing stock levels and delivery remain a challenge for many, though, with Tynan saying that delivery networks are still stretched, with last minute still not always as achievable as it was pre-pandemic.

At Carson & Carnevale, director Jon Carson painted a similar picture, also saying that the “stop-start-stop-start” nature of trading over the past 12 months had been “challenging to say the least”.

“It was and has been so satisfying to see outdoor venues thrive since 12 April [outdoor reopening]. Those of our customers that were fortunate enough to be able to reopen have experienced unprecedented sales for this time of year, with many trading up too, which has been fantastic for all concerned,” said Carson.

“Most importantly, from a sector perspective, we anticipate that this demand will continue and remain hopeful that trading will surpass levels that we have seen for a long time.”

Carson said that his team “couldn’t wait to support the on-trade again”, which represents 90% of Carson & Carnevale’s business, suggesting that the on-trade had had it even tougher than many of its suppliers, which used their greater resources to pivot business towards other sales channels.

“Following lockdown the biggest challenge ahead will be getting the big machine that is the hospitality sector working again,” added Carson.

“From the conversations that I have had with customers there are concerns over staffing and indeed the continuity of supply. As an importer, the latter is very much something we are responsible for and whilst forecasting is hard enough the disastrous impact that Brexit has had on the supply chain, from both a cost and efficiency perspective, is bigger than most people realise.”

To help smooth out these issues, both Carson and Tynan said that “communication is key” and would remain so in the coming weeks and months as the on-trade finds its feet again.