This year the 'local pub' will see a resurgence due to the continued trend of people working from home and avoiding city centres, says Christie & Co.
The business property adviser has launched its annual report, Business Outlook 2021: Review. Realign. Recover, in which it said the trend of localisation will have a positive impact on the sector's property market as it drives demand for pub settings in rural and coastal locations.
"We're all working from home, so when we have been able to go out and socialise, we've been staying local to where we live – or where we now work," Stephen Owens, managing director of pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, told The Caterer.
"We've got a greater connection to our local shop, the local butcher and our local restaurant, so it makes sense that we would have more loyalty to those businesses. Especially the businesses which managed to remain connected to their customers during lockdown. For instance, pubs that sold takeaway meals through the pandemic, or a local craft beer bar that turned into an off licence – there's a connection between the operators and their customers which results in loyalty."
The localism trend has also been affected by the lack of foreign holidays as UK residents turned to staycations during the summer months, a trend that is expected to be repeated this year.
"Those country businesses and tourist destinations have massively benefitted – they've been booked up two or three weeks ahead, which was unheard of before Covid," Owens said.
"People have got used to holidaying in the UK and it's a good experience. It will be a long time before we return to the levels of international travel that we did in the past."
Meanwhile, the outlook is bleaker for city centre pubs, sports bars and late-night venues. "The businesses in city centres, where we would go to have a drink after work, will take longer to recover," Owens said. He added that clubs will be the last to reopen, with some hope that their reopening could coincide with students returning to university in the autumn.
He described the landscape as a sellers' market, as there are plenty of buyers and a lack of supply. The buyers – which he said are a mixture of individual lifestyle and first-time buyers looking for pubs for less than £650,000, as well as experienced operators – are keen to find properties that they can get ready for a potential sector reopening later in the spring, but are struggling to find suitable properties during lockdown.
"The government has offered a wide range of support – and arguably there should be more – but it's allowed the sector to go into a period of hibernation through rates relief, furlough and grants. So owners have not been in the situation where they've had to sell, but as we come out of lockdown and those packages are removed, that's when the cash pressure will cause sales."