This final comment of the year comes after an afternoon trying to find a bar which was open and/or staffed (this hack is prepared to serve themselves, also the theme of a successful bar concept in the Netherlands) in the West End at the height of the Christmas season.
The depressing truth was that there was very little daytime drinking to be had, no matter how much you were willing to shell out. And this was on a non-train-strike day.
So without even a spirit to lift the Christmas spirits, should we be strewn bereft across the floor like so many French football players or is there hope that the New Year will be brighter?
The immediate future suggests that strikes will be ongoing and Dry January may prove mandatory for many unless they have access to one of those self-propelled train carts beloved of the silent movies.
But there are signs that we are no longer screaming into our pillows in quite the same way that we were during the glorious 45 days Liz Truss was prime minister. The Bank of England has forecast that it expects inflation fall “sharply” from the middle of next year. One of the reasons is that the price of energy will be back under control. Another is that there will be less demand for goods and services, so less pushing up their prices.
This latter reason is not so brilliant for the sector. However, falling inflation means people will feel richer again and this may encourage them back out to pubs, bars and restaurants.
These pubs, bars and restaurants are proving popular, when you can find an open one, with the Barclays Consumer Spend report for November reporting a 4.1% increase in spend at pubs, bars and clubs which was 2.4% higher than the growth seen in October 2022, with Brits possibly spending more time in pubs to watch sporting events such as the T20 Cricket World Cup.
Restaurants saw another month of decline with spend down -10.3% compared to November 2021, however the rate of decline was lower than the past 2 months, October (-11.3%) and September (-12.2%) and this low growth compared to a very strong post pandemic growth rate in November 2021 (129.8%).
For the hotel sector, a public under financial pressure is a public inclined to holiday domestically and everyone likes that.
And for those of us who remain unafraid to lay many an issue at the door of Brexit, the current PM may have campaigned for Leave, but he is also an accountant and very eager to prove what big chums he is with French president Macron. It is hoped that this will lead to constructive talks which may ease some of the most extreme consequences of the strategy.
So, after a year when chill winds seemed to hit the sector from all sides, hopes of a fairer breeze as we bend into 2023. But first, the best of the season to you all.