The number of UK pubs and bars increased in 2019 for the first time in a more than a decade as the industry looks to have turned a corner following years blighted by closures.
The total number of pubs and bars in the UK increased by 315, or 0.8%, last year, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It said the resurgence also highlighted a return to growth for smaller pubs and bars for the first time in 15 years.
The number of small pubs and bars, those with fewer than 10 employees, increased by 85, or 0.4%, in 2019.
Small pubs closing has driven the decline in numbers in recent years, the ONS said, with the total number of pubs falling from 51,120 in 2007 to 39,130 in 2019, despite improvement last year.
The number of people employed in the pub industry has increased for the past eight consecutive years, however, driven by growing numbers of larger, food-oriented pubs.
Staff numbers increased from 426,000 in 2007 to 457,000 in 2019, despite the stark fall in pub numbers over the same period.
The shift has resulted in an increase in customers going to pubs to eat rather than drink, with the proportion of employees working as bar staff falling from 37.6% to 28.9% over the 12-year period, kitchen and waiting staff rose from increased from 29.1% to 43.8%.
High Stickland, senior statistician at the ONS, said: “While smaller pubs have been struggling to survive in recent years, bigger pubs have been growing in number.
“This growth has been driven by food rather than drink and we’ve seen a big rise in the number of people employed as pub kitchen and waiting staff.
“The latest year, however, shows the first rise in total numbers since before the financial crisis, with growth in pubs of all sizes.
“We’ll have to wait to see if this marks a revival for smaller ‘locals’.”