As the summer weather begins to take effect, the eateries, pubs and bars in the cities and towns of our region inevitably get busier, especially those with outside space.
Even before the summer, the latest Coffer Peach report shows that like-for-like sales in the pub and restaurant sector are up 4.4 per cent nationally in April against the same month last year.
The sector is performing well generally. This is particularly evident in relation to those operators who have updated their offering to track trends and spending patterns. There have been significant changes to the type of establishments and their food and drink offerings since the days of cheap drink offers, limited food and queues outside of nightclubs.
It is one thing being busy, but it’s important for operators to have a clear picture of how having a busy venue is reflected in financial terms. Regular management accounts reviewed against KPIs are vital and is one way in which RSM has been assisting clients in the sector, producing reports in real time. It is also important that as and when operators open new venues or refurbish existing ones, all available tax allowances are identified and claimed, a key financial benefit that can sometimes be missed by busy business owners.
The smoking ban and change to licensing hours have undoubtedly had a significant impact on the sector, as has the increase in the number of national operators in areas such as Newcastle’s Grey Street and Eldon Square’s Grey’s Quarter. These national chains sit alongside some excellent local independent operators all offering something a little different with gourmet burgers, wood fire pizzas, real BBQs and clean eating all now being available next to the more traditional operators.
This is also the case with bars and pubs. Whilst national chains and large corporate landlords will always be present, it’s the rise in craft breweries, micro pubs and gin bars that is testament to the type of experience the typical customer is now looking for. The drinks selection is bigger and better than it has ever been but evidently now it’s how drinks are served, with branded mixers such as the North East’s own Fentimans and fresh ingredients, that is just as important as the choice and brand of spirit.
Premiumisation of food and beverage sides of the leisure sector has resulted in the consumer having a wider choice and the ability to almost tailor their afternoon or evening out to a bespoke experience.
The North East is a hotbed for craft breweries, with the established names such as Wylam with their magnificent venue in Exhibition Park, Maxim, born out of the ashes of Vaux, and Tynebank with an impressive facility along the River Tyne sitting alongside the new kids in town such as Almasty Brewing Co, Anarchy Brew Co and Box Social Brewing, to name but a few. This has left the consumer with a real alternative to the large corporate brewing groups.
Last, but certainly not least, are the fantastic theatre and music venues in the region, from the iconic Sage Gateshead, the newly improved Boilershop in the Stephenson Quarter and the legendary Cluny, to the second season of Kynren close to Auckland Castle and the unique Live Theatre on Newcastle’s Quayside. There are several generous tax breaks available to the creative sectors and these can assist with the real cost of productions and performances.
All in all, the quality of choice in the North East has never been better, so here’s to a great summer. Fingers crossed the weather keeps its side of the bargain so we can all enjoy it in the sun.