Pubs are one of the things that make Britain great. Some of my fondest memories are of going to pubs with family and friends. From going on a country walk around my home in the Cotswolds and stopping in at the Woolpack to enjoy a refreshing locally brewed real ale with the family, to completing the crazy Circle Line Challenge in London, there really is something for everyone. This even includes all day sessions in Stroud’s infamous Lord John Weatherspoon’s with school friends not too long ago… (potentially one memory to be forgotten).
The pub culture and social scene in the UK is truly unrivalled and although several of the Austrian pubs I was lucky enough to visit on my whistle stop tour of Niki’s stomping ground put in a strong show, I’d go as far to say British pubs are the best in the world!
Why They’re Important
We’ve had quite a few people asking how we feel about pubs opening back up and how it will affect sales. We were as excited as anyone to get to the pub when they opened for outdoor service back on April the 12th, for several reasons. Two definitions which will help me explain why are included below:
- On-Trade sales: Sale of beer from a brewery to a pub or restaurant who sells the beer in their premise for consumption in the premise.
- Off-Trade sales: Sale of beer from a brewery to someone who will consume or resell the beer away from a ‘premise’
- Premise: A business who has a license for people to buy and consume alcohol on their property, like a pub or restaurant
For example, the 18,000 independent craft beers that QWERTY Beer Box has bought from breweries counts as Off-Trade sales because after we package them up and add all of our tasting notes, the beers are delivered to your home for you to enjoy.
Pre Covid-19, On-Trade beer sales contributed around 85% of total sales for the 50 independent breweries we work with. As the breweries adapted to the pub closures and restrictions over the last year, starting to can and bottle more of their beer into smaller packs and focusing on D2C (Direct to Consumer), this ratio flipped, with Off-Trade sales contributing to 85-90% of total brewery sales by February 2021.
For the breweries that remained open this required significant and painful changes. QWERTY Beer Box is very proud to have supported our brewery friends during this, with inclusions in our regional collections and access to our national, independent beer loving communities. However, many of these breweries have been operating at between 20-50% of pre-Covid output levels. Therefore, although a heavily Off-Trade sales focus was necessary for the lockdown survival, it is not a sustainable long term model for most breweries.
To the rescue - Pubs. Local pubs provide the bedrock for small independent breweries in our communities and they are vital to the success of breweries all over the UK. Without them we would see many of our favourite local breweries and their owners, like Frits of Buckland Brewers and Greg and his team at Stroud Brewery, cease to brew.
A New Normal
I think lockdown and the closure of pubs has made people realise how important they are as a social space. They’re a place where you can go after work and chat freely with your mates over a cold one, grab a bite to eat or meet to watch the game. This was certainly missed by the masses over the last year.
From a survey of 500 people we conducted we found that these were the things people missed the most about their locals, and this resonated with us. What we also found interesting was that many of these people had taken to ordering their beer online during lockdown, whether from breweries directly or intermediary businesses such as QWERTY Beer Box, who champion the breweries. This gave beer drinkers access to a wide array of independent beers not available in their local pub or supermarket, a choice and behaviour that many said they continue after lockdown was eased.
This is where we see QWERTY Beer Box’s niche. Not competing against pubs, but working alongside them to ensure beer lovers across the country can get the best of both worlds. Going to their local pub with friends and family to socialise and get their favoured ‘go to’ beer and then experience a range of regional, independent craft beers when they’re home with QWERTY Beer Box. That's the life!