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Friday, December 3, 2021

Wetherspoons: Cocktail sales up but ales out, says pub chain


Cocktail sales have soared in comparison with traditional ales as more young people venture out post-lockdown, says Wetherspoons.

Sales of drinks like mojitos and cosmopolitans, as well as vodka and rum, increased by 45 percent in the 15 weeks to November 7.

However, draught products have suffered, with ale sales falling by 30%.

The chairman of the pub chain stated that older customers were visiting less frequently.

Wetherspoons pubs were forced to close for 19 weeks due to coronavirus restrictions.

Wetherspoons founder and chairman Tim Martin stated that some customers were “understandably cautious” as lockdown measures were eased.

“Trade improvement will thus depend, to some extent, on the outlook for the Covid-19 virus,” he added.

He also expressed hope that booster vaccinations and warmer weather in the spring would boost sales.

Overall, like-for-like sales, which exclude the effect of new pubs opening, were 8.9 percent lower for the first 15 weeks of the fiscal year than the previous year’s record sales.

Bar sales fell 9.6 percent, with the chain claiming that its Lloyds pubs, which offer live music, performed slightly better on weekends, “probably reflecting a higher percentage of younger customers.”

Food volumes appear to have been impacted by some customers working from home, according to the report. Breakfasts, for example, were down by 22%. Coffee was also a less popular menu item.

Trade in airports was still continuing to suffer, it said.

The firm recently reported a record annual loss of £154.7m as sales fell sharply in the year to 25 July.

Certain city centres such as Liverpool, Newcastle, Oxford and Chester had seen pubgoers return more recently, it said on Wednesday. In central London, though, sales are still down by 17.4%.

Recruitment drive

As Covid’s restrictions have been lifted, the company has been looking to fill vacancies for pub staff and managers in order to capitalise on the economic recovery.

It acknowledged that labour shortages had impacted the hospitality industry.

“Wetherspoon experienced some isolated difficulties in staycation areas during the summer and during the ‘pingdemic,'” the company said.

However, it stated that there had been a reasonable number of applications in total.

The number of employees has risen from 36,987 when the pubs reopened in April to 42,240 today.

It, like many other hospitality companies, has been impacted by supply chain issues such as driver shortages, which have been exacerbated by both the pandemic and Brexit.

Wetherspoons announced in September that some of its pubs had run out of some beer brands, including Heineken and Carling, due to brewers being impacted by the shortage of HGV drivers.

It admitted on Wednesday that it had seen “some problems from time to time,” but that shortages had only affected a “minority of products.”

According to the pub chain, problems have subsided in recent weeks, but the key holiday trading period is still ahead of us.

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