Scottish bar sales plummet up to 60% following introduction of new drink drive laws, says Beacon

Following the introduction of tougher drink-drive limits in Scotland in December 2014, Beacon, which helps businesses in the hospitality sector improve their profitability, has found that businesses in Scotland have faced a drop of up to 60% in bar sales throughout December and January, with owners fearing the worst for spring and summer.

Beacon also found that the new rules have resulted in new drinking behaviour trends, such as the introduction of smaller glass sizes, earlier lunches and increased interest in mocktails and other non-alcoholic drink alternatives.

After surveying a sample of its Scottish customers, Beacon has found that bar sales are struggling across the country – from city centre hotels to countryside golf clubs, with owners citing the new tougher laws, combined with poor weather for a drop in bar sales from 10% up to a massive 60%. These findings follow pub chain Greene King’s announcement that it saw a 2% rise in pub sales in England and Wales, but not in Scotland throughout January.

Tennant Hilditch, Director of Sales at Beacon, commented:

“The new tougher laws have shown an immediate impact on the hospitality industry in Scotland. Traditional lunchtime drinkers, or post-golf drinkers in the clubhouse have been particularly affected by the new rules. Many of our hotel, bar and golf club customers are fearing the downturn will be particularly bad for their peak tourist periods of spring and the summer holidays and are asking for help from Beacon’s suppliers to prepare for a new type of guest – one who drinks less, would prefer to check out later and enjoys an early lunch.”

Nicki Robertson, General Manager at Best Western Woodlands Hotel in Dundee, said:

“We’ve been hit hardest at lunchtimes, with bar sales down by 50% throughout December and January. Although our evening sales are remaining steady, we just can’t charge as much for low alcohol wine or beer, and at lunchtime, we are finding that many of our guests are just enjoying a jug of tap water with their lunch – it’s great for safety on the roads, but it puts us in the hospitality industry in a difficult position moving into the busy spring and summer seasons.”

As a result of the changes to the drink drive laws Beacon is providing its customer base of over 400 companies across Scotland with three practical tips to help make changes to age old hospitality habits in Scotland, as well as its customer base in England and Wales, to help promote safer roads.

  1. 1.    Later and Longer

Hoteliers should be thinking carefully about their timings – we are hearing of hotels moving their check-out time later, and lunch service earlier, to give drivers more flexibility when driving after drinking after the night before. Whether you push check-out time to 12noon instead of 10am, or bring your lunch forward to 11am to encourage guests to stay and eat before leaving, your customers are more likely to enjoy a drink at the bar the night before, if they know they don’t need to drive early doors.


  1. 2.    Size matters

Consider different serving sizes – a schooner (a two-thirds pint glass) is a great option for those wanting to enjoy one drink before driving, as a pint of beer will now put those in Scotland over the limit. This is also a good option for those enjoying a drink on an evening, but driving the next day – plus, the smaller glass doesn’t need to mean a reduction in price and is therefore a great way for bar owners to keep sales high.


  1. 3.    Mocktails

If you want people who aren’t planning to drink alcohol to still spend money at the bar, and not just choose a glass of tap water, the selection of non-alcoholic options needs to be exciting, and not the standard cola and lemonade. Talk to your suppliers about the options available for mocktails (non-alcoholic cocktails) and low alcohol beers and wines

– there’s so many options available that this can open up a whole new income stream for your bar.”

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