JD Wetherspoon has revealed that like-for-like sales for the first 15 weeks of the financial year were 8.9% lower than the record sales achieved in the same period in 2019.
During the period, bar sales were 9.6% lower, food sales dropped 8.1% and fruit/slot machines were down by 12.3%.
However, the group said there has been a considerable increase in sales of the range of drinks often consumed by younger customers, for example cocktails (45%), vodka (17%) and rum (26%).
In contrast, draught products, more often consumed by older customers, have been under pressure, with traditional ales down by 30% and stout down by 20%.
Supply chain issues proved to only have a “minor effect” for the group who claimed they were almost always able to find alternatives for products that were low in stock.
Tim Martin, chairman, J D Wetherspoon, said: “With no music in Wetherspoon pubs (apart from 46 trading as Lloyds), a material proportion of our trade comes from older customers, some of whom have visited pubs less frequently in recent times.
“Improvement in trade will therefore depend, to some extent, on the outlook for the Covid-19 virus. Whereas we have an increased element of caution about near-term sales, ‘booster’ vaccinations and better weather in the spring are likely to have a positive impact in the coming months.”
He added: “The last 18 months have presented a considerable challenge to the hospitality industry, with many unexpected twists and turns. As in previous downturns, the company will continue to concentrate on providing high standards of service, reasonable prices and regular, small upgrades to the business.”