2018 Year In Review and Our Predictions for 2019

07 January, 2019 by Craig Hawtin-Butcher

From property sales to drinks launches, hotel renos to pub demolitions, we reveal the biggest and best stories from 2018 and share the key 2019 trends to look out for.

Well what a year it’s been for pubs and hotels in Australia! We’ve had wonderful launches, mesmerising relaunches, novel buyouts, major takeovers, serious demolitions and sad shutdowns. The emergence of new real estate agencies such as HTL Property has also shaken up the pub property market despite the residential slow-down.

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Renovations and refurbs have changed the face of some of our best-loved venues and brought old ones back to life again, think St Kilda’s Espy, Tilley and Wills’ Greenwood Hotel and Colonial’s Portsea Hotel. Meanwhile Redcape listed on the ASX, the regulators have made their presence felt, the government has cracked down on compliance issues and Sydney’s light rail build continues seemingly without end, particularly for those operators most affected.

Craft continues

Amid it all, many venues have thrived, despite some challenging conditions – notably in Western Australia. We’ve witnessed significant expansion into QLD by NSW operators, steady growth by fantastic smaller operators and the national roll-out of major drinks brands such as Furphy’s. Craft beer has continued to grow in value, with some of the original independents now owned by the majors, while established suppliers such as Coopers are refocusing their businesses having been squeezed by those bigger and smaller than them. We’ve seen wine coming to kegs and cans, the rise of brewpubs and continuing growth in the scale and diversification of venues into multi-faceted entertainment and hospitality spots.

Pop-up foodservice

Foodservice has never been more important to the sector than now, with major operators pulling in pop-up restaurants and headline-making chefs into their venues so that the line between pubs and restaurants is increasingly meaningless. Think Gweilo at the Evening Star in Sydney or Merivale’s Cambodian pop-up restaurant Kingdom of Rice at the Tennyson Hotel.

Little and large

Throughout the year, associations such as the AHA, its constituent state-level groups and of course our own ALIAs have awarded and celebrated the people, the brands, the drinks, the venues and the businesses who are leading the way in this industry and showing exactly what success looks like. Justin Hemme’s Merivale and Justine Baker’s Solotel continue to win the plaudits, while focused independent operators are excelling in their chosen venues, whether the British-themed Duke of Clarence in Sydney, the beer-focused Royal Albert Hotel in Surry Hills, the gaming-minded Jubilee Hotel in Fortitude Valley or any number of other brilliantly managed properties.

With the state elections taking place in March, pressure groups such as the Night Time Industry Association are looking to make their presence felt and help to unlock the opportunities at night-time, while the NSW state government is already promising to cut red tape, re-energise live music venues and review the lockout laws.

Our 2019 predictions

Looking forward to 2019, we expect to see a number of properties changing hands, a renewed focus on foodservice and an increased number of larger venues achieving management efficiencies while catering to a whole host of patron interests. Smaller, niche operators will continue to attract customers through targeted offerings and we expect further sales of strong craft beer brands to the majors. Financial service providers will come under continued scrutiny in the Royal Commission while the likes of Hostplus and Intrust will continue to vie for the hospitality super market, picking up yet more awards along the way. It’s likely that operators see 2019 as a year for consolidating portfolios and fine-tuning operations while remaining open to strong opportunities.

To discover what the experts believe 2019 has in store for the pub sector, make sure you save the date for our Pub Leaders Summit, which this year heads to Melbourne on 20 May 2019. Whatever happens, it’s going to be another year to remember.

Do get in touch with the Australian Hotelier team at any time with your news, views and more – e-mail the editor Craig Hawtin-Butcher.