Thursday, 16 December 2010

Winter Wonderland or Bleak Mid Winter

While you might be wishing for a romantic white Christmas this year, what will it mean for the UK hospitality industry if we get more of the white stuff?

The cost of the recent snow in early December to the UK economy was estimated at £1.2bn per day as people were stranded in their homes and road and rail networks ground to a halt.

Clearly restaurants and bars were among the worst hit, with customers staying at home avoiding unnecessary journeys into town centres, at a time when they should have been entertaining clients and attending office Christmas parties.
Whitbread reported a slow third quarter due to the poor weather, despite a 5.5% uplift in covers at its pub restaurants for the 39 weeks to 2 December.

In the current economic climate, trading conditions for the out of home market remain tough, without the weather adding another obstacle. Traditionally, the festive season is a busy period for the hospitality industry providing a valuable revenue boost that can see operators through the leaner trading post New Year. As the nation braces itself for another cold snap with threats of yet more snow, bars and restaurants will undoubtedly be hoping that a winter wonderland does not turn into bleak mid winter sales.

Although, according to independent online travel directory, some pubs in rural areas did quite well, being seen as a welcoming refuge from the wintery conditions. I for one could not resist the lure of a roaring log fire and a nice pint of ale with friends down my local, especially after a week of working from home in isolation! And there were no signs of trade slowing there, it was packed to the rafters and the tills were ringing.

However, as a nation we need to be better prepared to deal with the snow. A slight dusting and the country comes to a standstill, which is no good for anybody. The government and local authorities need to work harder to keep Great Britain moving. Sweden, France and Canada manage to cope - we need to as well!

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