Last Wednesday (25 September) about 15,000 pubs and restaurants dropped their prices by 7.5 per cent to demonstrate how having a lower VAT rate across the hospitality sector could help boost sales, the economy and drive jobs.
Pub groups JD Wetherspoon, Batemans and Amber Taverns all reported selling up to 20 per cent more food and drink over the day as customers took advantage of lower prices and said the campaign had also helped highlight the fact to customers that despite selling food and drink, hospitality businesses have to add the full 20 per cent VAT rate to their prices, compared to the zero rate for food at supermarkets.
JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “Tax Parity Day was an outstanding success in our pubs across the UK with approximately 20 per cent more pints and meals sold on the day. Customers welcomed the lower prices on food and drink and also engaged with our staff to learn more about the campaign and the reasons behind it. Tax Parity Day was also a great way of highlighting the great British pub.”
"On the day, sales increased between 10 to 23 per cent - the higher figure mainly in the north west sites that had the benefit of the televised Man United versus Liverpool cup game in the evening," said Gary Roberts, operations director, Amber Taverns. "The activity prompted discussion and retained customers a little longer. The exercise did create awareness among customers with many surprised that supermarkets do not pay the same level of VAT.”
Jacques Borel, the leader of the campaign group, said the day had been an 'outstanding success' and had helped reinforce the message that lower VAT could help deliver lower prices to customers and ultimately help create thousands of jobs across the industry.
"Many operators who took part in the day reported a large uplift in sales and report that it was a wonderful way to show customers the benefits to them of our campaign goals," he said. "Tax Parity Day also attracted substantial media interest with numerous TV and radio interviews - and our newspapers clippings file already contains several hundred stories.”
Borel said the fact that many consumers had been surprised by the disparity between supermarket VAT and hospitality VAT would be a key message of the campaign going forward.
Jens Hofma, managing director of Pizza Hut, whose 330-strong business backed Tax Parity Day said it had received a positive response from both staff and customers who had been surprised about the VAT 'injustice'.
"For many it came as a surprise that there is such a large gap in VAT between restaurants and supermarkets," he said. "The reactions received during the day made us feel even stronger about the injustice of penalising the restaurant and pub sector through unequal VAT treatment, despite the fact that we are one of the major providers of much-needed jobs in the country."
Other businesses reporting a sales uplift included Fuller's, St Austell Brewery, McMullen and Whiting and Hammond.