Huge debts, rising costs and staffing shortages threaten recovery of UK pubs says BII

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Huge debts, rising costs and staffing shortages threaten the recovery of UK pubs as they begin to reopen as government restrictions – just some of the findings from a survey by The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) of its operator members.

It not only showed the impact of the pandemic but what support is needed from the government to safeguard their futures. The survey revealed 55% of respondents have accrued pandemic-specific debts of more than £20,000 per site, with more than one in four having debts of up to £80,000.

Some 57% will need more than two years to pay back their debts while half of those need more than five years. Staffing remains a huge challenge for pubs with almost one in two struggling to recruit the staff they need. Additionally, 72% of operators need to raise wages for front-of-house staff with 40% of those having to increase wages by more than 10% to attract and retain staff. Similarly, 57% have had to raise wages for back-of-house staff, with 48% of those having to increase wages by more than 10%. A rise in the cost of food has been witnessed by 43%, and 41% have seen drink prices go up.

BII chief executive Steven Alton said, “The resilience, goodwill and determination of our nations’ pubs has been incredible to witness over the course of the pandemic. However, this alone will now not be enough to ensure their businesses survive. The threat is very real as confirmed in The Bank of England’s latest Financial Stability Report, released this week, which points to the particular vulnerability of small hospitality businesses as the economy emerges from covid-19 restrictions.”

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