As consumers cautiously increase their spending and some cost pressures ease, pub operators have the chance to grow sales and share over the rest of 2024.

At the recent Restaurant Show in Birmingham, CGA client director Dani Rowlands gave an expert overview of the big pub trends for suppliers and operators to know. Here are five of her top takeaways. 

CGA pub men bar

Market-beating sales growth

Pubs’ sales have built back steadily to pre-Covid levels over the last two years, and the CGA RSM Hospitality Business Tracker has shown that they achieved better year-on-year growth than other channels through most of 2023. However, growth has generally been below the rate of inflation.

Easing of inflationary pressures

Pubs and consumers alike have faced enormous cost pressures in recent years, but there are signs that some may be easing. The Foodservice Price Index, from CGA and Prestige Purchasing, shows inflation fell below 10% for the first time in two years in March. And CGA’s latest Cost of Living Pulse indicates that the pressure on consumers is lessening and they are steadily increasing the frequency of their eating and drinking out. 

Fragile business confidence

While some trends are positive, pub leaders remain cautious about the future. CGA’s latest Business Confidence Survey shows only 41% of all hospitality leaders are optimistic about prospects for the general market in the next 12 months — down by eight percentage points quarter on quarter. 

The pub is ‘all things to all people’

Pubs are unique in that they can deliver on so many different occasion types. At their core, pubs are a facilitator of sociable experience, putting them in prime position to succeed as consumers increase both casual and spontaneous trips to hospitality. Whether it be high energy, like live music and competitive socialising, or low tempo, like board games and a filling Sunday lunch, understanding your specific consumer need states is key in delivering excellence. 

Resilience in times of trouble

It’s been a turbulent few years for the hospitality market. Pubs have adapted and innovated over the last couple of years, embracing the changing consumer needs for experience while daring to try new things. Levelling up their offer to compete shows how dynamic this typically ‘traditional’ sector really is, and instills genuine optimism for the sector moving forwards. 

Dani said: “It’s been a turbulent few years for the pub sector, and while we are by no means out of the woods just yet, our research reveals signs that the spending confidence of consumers is increasing and some cost pressures are easing.

“Pubs are unique in their ability to provide an environment that is simultaneously informal and welcoming, making them the perfect playground for the memorable, social experiences that consumers are prioritising.

“By striking the right balance of value and quality, suppliers and operators can look forward to solid growth over the rest of 2024.”