Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin has warned brewers they could be making a “big mistake” by weakening beer.
In a cost cutting measure, a number of brands have announced drinks will have a reduced strength. The business mogul now says this could mean pubs and bars could remove their lists.
It comes after Carlsberg announced the strength of its Danish Pilsner will drop to 3.4% volume instead of 3.8%. The brewer said the changes were being announced ahead of a 10.1pc rise in alcohol duty from August, reports the Telegraph.
The pub boss said: “Big mistake, in my view. They thought it would slide under the radar – it hasn’t, obviously.”
Beer is taxed based on the amount of alcohol it contains. It means reducing the volume is an easy way for firms to save money.
As well as Carlsberg, Fosters, Spitfire Ale and Old Speckled Hen have announced reductions in alcohol content over the past year. It has led to the move being dubbed “drinkflation” – as prices often stay the same or even increase.
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Martin says he has “no doubt” it could lead drinkers to abandon brands that cut volume. And when asked if his own chain would continue dropping suppliers, he told the Telegraph: “I don’t want to threaten suppliers but that may be an inevitable consequence.”
JD Wetherspoon recently published an 11% rise in sales over the past 10 weeks compared to pre-pandemic levels. It has also seen an 11.5% rise from 2018.
The company said it had cut its debt pile by almost £600 million since 2020. It has spent around £116 million on new pubs and £82 million buying back the freeholds on boozers.
It has raised £6.5 million from selling 28 venues while a further 22 are either on the market or under offer. Martin denies the sales are linked to economic pressures facing bars.
He said: “The disposals outlined above have been characterized in a small number of newspaper articles as a ‘money-raising’ exercise, provoked by the difficult trading circumstances for the hospitality industry in recent years. This is a misinterpretation.”
He says almost all of the closures are because the venues are too close to other Wetherspoon branches.