Bars and restaurants hit with price hikes, rail strikes and World Cup
The HOSPITALITY sector in Tunbridge Wells saw a ‘disappointing’ Christmas period, local representatives have said, after being hit by spiralling energy costs, rail strikes and even the World Cup affecting income.
While this December 2022 saw better sales than two festive periods of the pandemic, nationally, the industry has been trading about 20 per cent down from the last Christmas unaffected by Covid in 2019.
Alex Greig, Owner of Fuggles Beer Café in Grosvenor Road and in Tonbridge, who also sits on the Tunbridge Wells Business Improvement District (BID) board told the Times: “This Christmas was better than the last couple of years with Covid, but it was still disappointing.
“The last three years have been carnage and I think the next six to twelve months is going to be crucial for the industry.”
He added: “A lot of businesses rely on December to bring in most of its profits for the year but there have been many things that have impacted the month aside from Covid this year.”
Nationally, it has been reported that the economy was given a boost in the last quarter due to the World Cup, but Mr Greig says this was only felt by those venues showing the tournament.
“The World Cup in December impacted many businesses that couldn’t show the games and we lost a lot of bookings because of it.
“The ongoing train strikes have made people more likely to work from home and not go out during lunch or after work.
“The rise of inflation and the cost of energy has also made the cost of everything go up, including our prices which we don’t want to do.”
Matthew Sankey who owns Sankey’s Seafood Kitchen & Bar on Mount Ephraim and is also Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s ‘Business Champion’ added: “Christmas 2022 was far better than Christmas 2021. We saw a wonderful first quarter of 2022 as the public came out and rallied round our high streets.
“The biggest danger is the cost-of-living crisis. We all rely on our customers having a healthy disposable income and since the Truss ‘mini-budget’ this has been decimated nationwide.
“This is exacerbated in hospitality, as the costs here are arguably two-fold as the food inflation meets a reduce amount of disposable income. It’s a perfect storm.”
The news comes after the Government has announced reduced support for businesses with their energy bills.