Pub boss says Christmas parties this year will be smaller

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The boss of one UK’s most popular pub groups predicts that office Christmas parties this year will be more suburban and smaller.

Phil Urban of Mitchells & Butlers, which owns Browns, All Bar One and Harvester, told the BBC that seasonal work celebrations would be “different”.

He stated, “We won’t be seeing so many big office parties scheduled.”

The group was severely affected by the pandemic, and has since reduced its annual losses but raised concerns about rising energy and wage costs.

Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) reported a pre-tax loss of £42m for the year to 25 September, although this was an improvement on the £123m loss it posted the previous year.

Total revenue at the group fell to £1.07bn from £1.48bn, while like-for-like sales fell 9.6% after the group was affected by Covid-related restrictions.

The company stated however that sales of like-forlike products have increased by 2.7% in eight weeks compared to pre-pandemic.

M&B, which employs more than 40,000 people across 1,700 sites, announced 1,300 job cuts last year.

Urban stated that the trading environment is still challenging, and costs headwinds are continuing to exert pressure on this sector.

We have strengthened our balance sheets and are now able to generate cash and profitability.

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Mister Urban spoke out to BBC Today about Christmas party bookings. He said that people are realizing that they didn’t get the chance last year and that more were being made.

But he predicted that we might see some of the smaller groups gather in suburbanity and perhaps not in central cities.

Paul Jackson is the managing director of Searcys. The company runs central London’s restaurants and Bath. He said there was a steady uptake in party bookings but that people have been delaying in confirming their plans.

We are getting more reservations for group events. He said that the Orangery at Blenheim palace is set to increase its bookings starting in 2019.

There is an underlying reluctance in making large bookings immediately, as well as waiting until last minute. This may be because of a small concern over the possible return of restrictions.

Many workers are less likely to be compelled to travel into cities for work events, as more people now work remotely.

Russ Mould from AJ Bell, an investment director, said that pub and restaurant owners have traditionally flourished in December after Christmas parties.

According to him, nervousness could result in a reduction of staff party numbers for many companies due to Covid rates remaining high.

Management won’t like to put employees at risk of getting sick and many still have concerns about being in a crowd.


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