London is faced with a changing beer market. By the late 1990s, beer sales in pubs nationwide were flat. This situation is expected to worsen as the local population aged. The demographic segment responsible for 65% of beer consumption, males 19 to 34, was shrinking. Another factor which is responsible for the market's softness was the public's increased awareness of the advantages of healthy and responsible living. All this led to a flattening in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Hence, the pubs had to respond to a change in consumer tastes.
Based on the data of the British Beer & Pub Association, in the last 10 years, food sales in Britain's 30,000 managed pubs have risen by 165%. In the 30,000 smaller tenanted pubs, the increase is deemed to be lower but it is regarded as substantial. Some 80% of all British pubs now offer food compared with about half in the mid-1990s. For example, a spokesman for Mitchells & Butlers (M& B), which operates about 2,000 pubs stated that food sales at M& B are expected to overtake sales of beer next year.
John Hutson, chief executive of JD Wetherspoon, which has converted 50 of its 600 pubs to non-smoking venues, said he too expected to lose smokers to non-food pubs. Chief Executive Ralph Findlay of Marston’ s stated that pub-goers were tucking into menu staples like fish and chips and steak pies like never before. A government smoking ban which came into force on July 1,2007 had also affected pub revenues. The English pub industry, which has been rapidly expanding its food trade in recent years, has called the government's health bill exempting non-food pubs from a proposed smoking ban as "unworkable and grossly unfair. " Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, has abandoned her efforts to include provision for smoking rooms in pubs in the public health bill. Pub industry leaders said they feared such an exemption would provide a setback to the progressive trend in the number of public houses offering customers a balance of food and drink.
The Portman Group issued this statement: "We strongly believe that alcohol consumed with food is much more responsible.
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