‘Drink and food prices to rise due to soaring costs’ warns pub boss

Clive Watson, founder and executive chairman of City Pub Group, said the group also has vacancies for 10% of jobs amid staffing issues.

Henry Saker-Clark
Thursday 23 September 2021 13:55
The Nell Gwynne Tavern in Covent Garden, one of City Pub Group’s locations (City Pub Group/PA)
The Nell Gwynne Tavern in Covent Garden, one of City Pub Group’s locations (City Pub Group/PA)

A leading UK pub boss has warned that the price of drinks and food are on the rise after a surge in costs to run venues.

Clive Watson, founder and executive chairman of City Pub Group, told the PA news agency that pub regulars will have to be prepared to pay more.

He said the group has been well protected from the cost of recent supply disruption, driven by shortages of lorry drivers, food manufacturing staff and CO2 due to fixed-price contracts with suppliers.

However, Mr Watson said wider inflationary pressures, such as increased wages to attract new staff and soaring construction costs, mean trips to the pub will get more expensive for customers.

“We are seeing cost inflation everywhere and it isn’t stopping,” he told PA.

“This is going to feed through into everyone across the sector, although obviously not just pubs – it is a huge issue right now industry as a whole.

“We are seeing inflation of 4% and more for most things so we will have increase the prices in our pubs, just as everyone else will.”

Clive Watson, executive chair of City Pub Group

The firm said it had not seen an impact from the shortage of CO2, which had seen some brewers warn that continued disruption could weigh on canning and bottling operations.

City Pub Group said its suppliers told them at the end of last week that they had strong supplies of CO2 and the restart to CO2 supplies by fertiliser plants in the north of England is expected to alleviate short-term concerns.

Mr Watson also highlighted that the company has seen staff issues ease since July, when the “pingdemic” heavily impacted on employee numbers, but that the group still has significant vacancies.

“We currently have around 10% vacancy rates at the moment, so although the staff issue is better, it is still present,” he said.

“The UK has an aging population and we don’t have all the people to fill these types of jobs, so we need international workers to be coming back into the picture.

“Personally, I feel we should have an EU visa scheme to encourage workers here for two to three years to solve this. I think it is a no-brainer really.”

His comments came as the firm, which runs 50 pubs and hotels across the UK, revealed that its latest sales have been at 90% of pre-pandemic levels.

City Pub Group added that its city centre venues have seen a positive recovery as office workers and students return to venues.