RURAL pubs have reported mixed fortunes this summer, despite the strain of the credit crunch.
Rising beer prices, the smoking ban and now price hikes on fuel and living costs have made trading in rural areas more difficult.
Yet due to landlords modernising their pubs and turning more and more to food, many are surviving at a time when beer sales figures are down almost 10% from last year.
In fact sales of lager and beer are at their worst since the great depression of the 1930s.
Robert Splaine, manager of The Nag’s Head in Bridge Trafford, believes that selling food is his saving grace for his establishment.
He said: “I dread the post arriving every morning. It really is a bad time.
“If it wasn’t for the fact that we serve food, then we just wouldn’t be here. That would be it!
“You have to put on food now, I don’t know any pubs anymore that just serve beer.
“To save money I rely heavily on my wife and my daughter, Jan, who works more hours than God sends! I also have to put my pension money into the pub and it shouldn’t be like that.”
The Tiger’s Head Inn, in Norley, is bucking the trend as following a change of ownership 12 months ago, beer sales are far from being on the slide and is the pub’s main source of income.
Licensee holder Chris Gleave said: “In our short time here we haven’t seen a drop in takings actually.
“We are a wet-led pub! In that our takings from alcohol sales far outstrip the food sales. It’s something we need to market more that we serve good food.
“Our reputation is growing but these things do take time. But at the moment we are doing OK.”
Putting food on the menu is seemingly the future recipe for success for Cheshire’s rural pub industry.
Although there are a reported 80 pubs a week closing nationwide, there are those who are still pulling in the punters.
Landlord Andrew Nelson, of The Pheasant Inn, Higher Burwardsley, said: “As we are mainly a food business we have not seen much of a decline in beer sales.”
Landlord Stuart Turner, of The Farmer’s Arms in Huxley, said: “We are going fine, our beer sales are around about the same as last year.
“And of course we are known for our good value food. We are getting new customers as well as existing ones and that is the key.
“We don’t know how deep the recession is going to go but at the moment we are doing OK.”