More than a third of hospitality businesses at risk of failure.

Closure of Digger’s Rest in Jupp’s constituency features in National Press

‘We are not even full for Christmas’ – England’s restaurants count their lost bookings

Joe Middleton (Extract)

More than a third of hospitality businesses are at risk of failure in early 2023 due to cost increases, the UKHospitality survey found. Figures from the Insolvency Service showed that the number of restaurants and food outlets across the UK entering liquidation has increased by 46% in the three months to September.

While Hunt’s autumn statement included a £13.6bn package to support business rates payers, industry experts were critical of the lack of focus on economic growth.

Arwen Beaton (right) publican at the Digger’s Rest in Woodbury Salterton, Devon, with Daniel Kelly.

Arwen Beaton (right) publican at the Digger’s Rest in Woodbury Salterton, Devon, with Daniel Kelly. Photograph: Emily Whitfield-Wicks

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking, we worked so hard and we have walked away with nothing to show for it after almost three years,” said Arwen Beaton, publican at The Digger’s Rest in east Devon after closing its doors for the last time. The thatched pub nestled in the picturesque village of Woodbury Salterton was taken over by Beaton, 48, and her partner Daniel Kelly, 42, in April 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

The couple offered free food delivery to vulnerable people and opened a shop selling essential items to locals, before reopening after lockdown.

“At the beginning of this year we were in a good place, we had somehow got through Covid and everything was looking positive and then we were hit with massive cost increases,” said Beaton.

Energy costs at the pub “tripled”, food prices went through the roof with key items such as cooking oil more than doubling and the pub operator which owns the premises increased the rent by 10%.

Beaton said that for the first time customers were “talking about their finances at the bar” and footfall began to decline as they went from seeing regulars once a week to less than once a month.

In August, The Digger’s Rest was 30% down on the previous year’s takings , forcing it to close its doors for good on 7 November.

Beaton said that three other pubs within a five-mile radius also shut up shop in recent weeks, adding that rural pubs in particular were “part of the community” and when they are gone “you will struggle to get them back”.

Emma McClarkin, the chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said the industry remained on a “knife-edge” and it was “very disappointed” that a 12.5% rate of VAT was not implemented.

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality, welcomed the business rates support but said the chancellor failed to outline “any plan for economic growth” and there is “nothing to give firms confidence, let alone invest”…

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said it had “provided an unprecedented package of support including VAT cuts, business rates holidays and government backed loans worth around £400bn”.