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UK hospitality sector grows by 10,000 during pandemic

The hospitality sector in the UK has grown by 10,000 businesses since March 2019, according to an analysis of Office of National Statistics (ONS) data, but the number of pubs, bars and clubs has declined.

Beer shortage: customers enjoy an al fresco pint
Beer shortage: customers enjoy an al fresco pint

Software startups Stampede and Storekit have released new research with ONS data showing that there are more UK hospitality businesses now than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Analysing data from the ONS’ official UK Business Count based on Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes, Stampede and storekit found there were 10,650 more food and drink businesses in the UK in 2021 than in March 2019, and 3,650 more than in March 2020.

The research discovered that licensed and unlicensed restaurants had a net growth of 1,710 business units since 2020, while takeaway and catering businesses grew by 2,305 and 2,105 units respectively over the same period.

“We analysed the data expecting the worst, and would’ve been buoyed just to see hospitality business numbers stay the same,” said Stampede founder and CEO, Patrick Clover. “To see the numbers go up since COVID first struck is phenomenal. It’s a great reflection of the resilience and excellence we see every day in the UK hospitality sector.

However, Clover criticised the lack of government support given to hospitality businesses over the festive season, warning of the “deeply precarious situation” we face as case numbers continue to rise.

The food sector saw almost universal growth in terms of business numbers, with restaurants, takeaways, catering businesses and mobile food stands all growing in number between 2019-2020 and 2020-2021.

But the data revealed a decline in the number of UK pubs, bars and clubs between 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. A continuation of a decade long downward trend, despite a small surge in 2019, it highlighted the net loss of -1300 pubs between 2019 and 2021.

“This research shows how much the sector has changed and matured over the last two years, especially in regards to the adoption of technology,” said Christophe Delacroix, storekit CEO. “I have no doubt that the ways businesses operated safely during the pandemic would not have been possible 10-15 years ago when the outcome of the pandemic could’ve been a lot bleaker for the sector. That being said, with continued uncertainty, home-working and low footfall there’s no denying that the industry is facing an extremely tough few months.”

With 6,985 registered clubs in 2021, from a high of 10,040 in 2010, the researchers predict that the UK will soon have less than 5,000 clubs, exacerbated by the possibility of Covid disruptions continuing.


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