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Wetherspoons sheds older drinkers as cocktail sales rocket

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Wetherspoons sheds older drinkers as cocktail sales rocket
Cocktail sales have rocketed in comparison with Wetherspoons' traditional ales as younger drinkers return to pubs post-lockdown. Photo: Anthony Devlin/Getty

Pub group Wetherspoons (JDW.L) said on Wednesday morning that cocktail sales have rocketed in comparison with its traditional ales as younger drinkers return to pubs post-lockdown.

In a trading update, the chain said in the 15 weeks to 7 November, sales of drinks such as mojitos and cosmopolitans were up 45% on the year before, along with vodka and rum.

By contrast, draught products, more often consumed by older customers, have been under pressure, with traditional ales down by 30% and stout down by 20%.

The company’s pubs trading under the ‘Lloyds’ banner, which feature music, mostly at the weekends, were up 0.5%, probably reflecting a higher percentage of younger customers, the group 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," said Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin. 

"Some customers have been understandably cautious. Improvement in trade will therefore depend, to some extent, on the outlook for the COVID-19 virus."

Food volumes appear to have been affected by some customers working from home, with breakfasts, for example, down by 22% and coffee down by 30%, it said. 

The chain has attempted to get more diners in, launching a special promotion on 10 November. 

The price reduction on a choice of breakfast, pub classic and deli meals, as well as steaks and curries, will last until Monday 28 February.

A total of 660 Wetherspoon pubs will be serving a breakfast muffin (fried egg, sausage, bacon, American-style cheese in an English muffin) with a choice of coffee, tea or hot chocolate for £2.49 and MOMA Porridge with honey or banana, also with a choice of hot drinks, for £1.99.

The pubs will also be offering a choice of pub classics and deli meals including Wiltshire cured ham, eggs and chips, small freshly battered fish and chips, five-bean chilli, paninis and wraps.

Read more: UK grocery inflation at 14-month high as snacks see price hike

In the update, Wetherspoons said that contrary to some forecasts, trade has been positive in the centre of many, but not all, larger cities and towns — and negative in the suburbs. Trade in central London was still 17.4% lower than the comparable period pre-pandemic. 

It has also been lower in airports (-38.8%), stations (-22.4%), and in Scotland (-12.2%) and Northern Ireland (-11.0%), where some restrictions still apply.

Stock was trading around 3.6% lower by 8.45am in London following the update.

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