Pub and bar enterprises now employ more people serving food than people working behind the bar, newly-released figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed.
In 2003, bar staff made up roughly 4 in 10 employees while those involved in the serving of food – including chefs, cooks, waiting staff, and kitchen and catering staff – accounted for around 3 in 10 employees.
Since 2016, the opposite has been true, with those serving food outnumbering those working behind the bar.
The shift towards customers spending on food rather than drink has driven the growth in employment, with the share of pub employees working as bar staff falling from 37.6% in 2007 to 28.9% in 2019.
Meanwhile, the percentage employed as kitchen and waiting staff increased from 29.1% to 43.8% over the same period as the sector has diversified its offer in the foodservice area.
The ONS acknowledged that the tendency for pub and bar enterprises to employ more people serving food was a reaction to changing consumer habits, accentuated by a long-term trend towards people spending more of their household income on eating out and less on drinking out.
Figures published this week show that, while the total number of pubs fell from 51,120 to 39,130 between 2007 and 2019, total employment grew from 426,000 to 457,000 over the same period.
Despite a small rise in the number of pubs of all sizes this year, the overall number of pubs in the UK had been dropping for over a decade.
Previously, ONS reported that this fall was mainly driven by small pubs – employing fewer than 10 people – closing. The figures showed that the number of medium sized and large pubs was actually growing.
Senior statistician Hugh Stickland said: “While smaller pubs have been struggling to survive in recent years, bigger pubs have been growing in number. This growth has been driven by food rather than drink and we’ve seen a big rise in the number of people employed as pub kitchen and waiting staff.
“The latest year, however, shows the first rise in total numbers since before the financial crisis, with growth in pubs of all sizes. We’ll have to wait to see if this marks a revival for smaller ‘locals’.”