How was trade over the Easter bank holiday?

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Trading positive: a number of operators have reported strong trade over the Easter weekend (image: Getty/photoguns)
Trading positive: a number of operators have reported strong trade over the Easter weekend (image: Getty/photoguns)

Related tags Finance Lincolnshire Pubco + head office

A number of operators have reported positive trading over the recent Easter bank holiday weekend.

There were predictions of a boost in sales​ prior to the period, despite Met Office warnings of unsettled weather.

Jez Nash of continental-style bar the Strait and Narrow in Lincoln reported a good trading period in the lead up to and across the Easter weekend including a record day.

Strait and Narrow
Jez Nash of the Strait and Narrow outlined the Easter impact on the business.

He said: “Monday (25 March) through to Wednesday (27 March) were the same and then Thursday (28 March) had a significant increase on previous years.

“On this day customers were spending on more niche premium products. Our more bespoke local business collaboration cocktails, higher end Scandi & UK Craft Beers and Antique Spirits. Summing up we had more customers than we expected and a really high spend per head. 

“Friday (29 March) was our best ever Good Friday. We opened 10 minutes early to serve a group who were waiting and by 12pm we were three deep at the bar and never looked back. Customers were out en masse and spending on continental draught, wines and the more mainstream cocktails such as Pornstar Martinis, Espresso Martinis and Old Fashioneds made with pretty much every bourbon and rum on the back bar. Great crowd and a great day, busy through until 1am. 

“Saturday (30 March) was a normal Saturday for us – to be fair we always trade at a decent level and it was a typical Strait and Narrow day where customers hit us for everything we’ve got – 120 different beers, cocktails and our huge back bar or spirits took a hammering. [It was a] great day to have been here to see the bar does what it does best – putting the right drink in the customers’ hands.”

Easter Sunday (31 March) saw trade at where it was anticipated, which Nash was pleased about.

He added: “Sunday was in line with an average Eater Sunday. Drawing on our previous 11 years, it’s exactly where we expected it to be – decent but nothing crazy, great crowd and a really nice atmosphere.

“After Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we weren’t expecting to break any records and it was just a nice comfortable day’s trading for the team who had really pushed themselves. 

“Monday is a nice wind down day for staff and customers as things get back to normal. No surprises, just a solid days trading made up of mainly locals and industry who wanted some nice drinks before we get back to the normal working week.”

Overall, he was positive about the period with preparation key to the Lincoln venue’s success.

“To summarise, we’re really happy with how it went. We always put a lot of work into preparation and so we were in a good position to smash out some great drinks for the people who came to see us,” Nash said.

The positive sales were hopefully indicative of a change in confidence and the economy, according to operator of top gastropub the Unruly Pig in Bromeswell, Suffolk, Brendan Padfield.

Cracking weekend

He said: “There was sunshine in Suffolk this Easter and in more ways than one – it was a cracking bank holiday weekend’s trade.

“From lunch on Maundy Thursday through to dinner on bank holiday Monday, we were more or less chocka.

“Given the volatility in trade seen over recent months, this was a welcome shot in the arm, so let’s hope for all of hospitality sector, Easter 2024 marks the turning of the corner in terms of levels of confidence for the economy generally.”

Brett Barnes of the Fox & Hounds Barley, Hertfordshire was equally positive about the weekend, describing it as “strong” with sales up by a quarter on one of the days.

Fox and Hounds Barleu

“Easter historically can be somewhat hit and miss;  the plus side of people having four days off work, can be offset by the downside of the fact that they decide to go away for the long weekend,” he added.

“For whatever reason, people seem to have largely stayed in the area this Easter and sales were up about 15% on last year. 

“Friday and Saturday were particularly strong, with drinks sales on Good Friday 24% up on last year. Sundays are always fully booked, so that looked after itself. More of the same please pub Gods!”

Entertainment-focused pub the Kings Arms in Bexleyheath, Kent saw trade in line with expectations across the weekend despite windy weather.

Operator Pete Marshall said the pub hosted live music all weekend and labelled the weekend as “positive” with lots of great customers feedback and lots of fun.

The Kings Arms in Bexleyheath was named Best Pub for Entertainment at the 2023 Great British Pub Awards

He told The Morning Advertiser​: “In terms of sales we did exactly what I thought we would but in a different way – we were flat year on year – there was no bumper but we are around the peak of what the building should be doing anyway.

“Thursday was quieter but we put it down to the weather. The whole town was quiet, we actually lost a front door where the wind blew it off!.

“The flip side was it gave everyone a thirst for Friday night. What we didn’t take on Thursday, we took extra on the Friday.

“We were busy all weekend, which was what we expected but nothing beyond where I thought we would get to.

“Certainly not disappointing but it would have been nice to see a sprinkle more but we did what I was expecting.”

Strong wet trade

Brucan Pubs, which was recently presented with the Best Food Offer award at the Publican Awards​ for the second time, runs sites in the south east of England. 

Director James Lyon Shaw said Easter was better than expected, which was largely due to the unexpected sunshine and warm weather however, unpredictability was a 'hinderance'.


He added: "We averaged 11% up on last year’s LFLs against the Easter weekend and saw a good strong wet trade in the gardens for the sunshine spells.

"The largest hinderance was probably the unpredictability of it all. Pre-booked sales and reservations were looking a bit low, most people just expected a rainy wash out weekend I think so hadn’t made too many plans so trade was very reactive.

"There certainly seems to be signs that there is pent up spending to be unleashed as soon as we get a prolonged period of sunshine."

Hospitality technology provider Zonal estimated Easter weekend bookings were up 40% while the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) worked out an additional 11m pints were served between Thursday (28 March) to Monday (1 April).

However, the trade body highlighted the importance of the ‘bumper’ weekend as pubs and breweries start to feel the pinch of April’s hiked business rates and above-inflation uptick in national living wage.

It stated the increases will cost pubs and brewers around £450m at a time when, despite some growth in the first quarter of the year for the sector, the cost of doing business remains ‘damagingly high’.

Ahead of the increases coming into force, a poll of BBPA members showed almost nine in 10 (89%) of hospitality businesses were concerned about these minimum wage increases, which according to the BBPA will cost the sector an additional £425m, with 60% of those being very concerned.

While the large business rates multiplier increasing by 6.7% in April is set to cost pubs an additional £25m, tightening already thin margins even further.

The BBPA is calling for long-term reform to business rates to ensure all firms pay their fair share alongside fairer energy deals and a reduction in the gap between the VAT charged on food in pubs compared to supermarkets.

BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The Easter trading figures are even better than expected and provide a great springboard into the spring and summer months ahead.

Emma McClarkin

“These come at a time when the beer and pub sector is having to absorb a raft of new cost increases and while every single pub and brewer across the country is undoubtedly committed to paying their staff a fair wage, the almost half a billion pound combined cost increases to the national living wage bill and business rates risks stunting the green shoots of growth emerging in the industry.

“There is, however, a clear solution to this situation. The Government must step up and invest in a sector that adds £26bn to the economy, provides almost 1m vital jobs and generates £15bn for the Treasury so pubs and brewers can also invest in themselves and the resulting prosperity will more than pay the Government back on its investment.

“Unlocking the economic and societal value pubs and brewers bring will provide massive benefits to every local community where they operate, while also combining to create an engine to create the much-needed economic growth the Government is so keen to nurture.”

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