Cardiff pub gets £1.4M facelift

After being closed for five years, the pub has been totally transformed with a huge investment to bring it well and truly back to life.

The Unicorn Inn has added a garden room with communal tables and a chef’s table for an immersive dining experience. This garden room features bi-fold doors that open onto a charming terrace. The pub also boasts a comfortable lounge and dining area, as well as a cozy locals’ bar.

For those who prefer al fresco dining, there are various seating options available. You can enjoy the new terrace or opt for picnic tables and benches nestled within the garden surroundings.

When it comes to the menu at The Unicorn, visitors can expect a selection of high quality traditional pub dishes while remaining affordably priced. Families will be pleased to find a special menu designed with children in mind.

“We’re delighted to have brought The Unicorn back to life – it’s now a stunning pub inside and out and is our flagship pub in Wales,” says Lawson Mountstevens, managing director of  Star Pubs & Bars. “With so much housing on its doorstep, local offices and a retail park nearby and no other pubs in the vicinity, the area is crying out for a pub like The Unicorn, which offers something for everyone. 

“The news of its reopening has so delighted residents that the church bell ringers are ringing the bells to celebrate its opening day. It will become the beating heart of the community, a place where residents can come together. It is also in walking distance for many, which plays into trends for people wanting to socialise locally.

“The Unicorn brings the investment that we have made in Wales in the last three years to over £4m and demonstrates our commitment to the Welsh economy.”

Thatchers gets fruity

Thatchers Cider has extended its range of fruit ciders with a new Apple & Blackcurrant variant.

The 4% ABV Apple & Blackcurrant will sit in Thatchers fruit cider range alongside Blood Orange, Cloudy Lemon and Rosé. It is described as a “rich, refreshingly fruity cider, created with the sweetest dessert apples, a fresh berry aroma and bold natural blackcurrant flavour”.

Thatchers Commercial Director Jonathan Nixon said, “Our new Apple & Blackcurrant flavour is different to any other dark fruit or berry ciders on shelf and provides a clear opportunity for retailers to benefit from the strong rate of sale that ciders from Thatchers generate, thanks to our total dedication to quality and great taste.”

Weekly Newsletter from PROOF Insight

This week: PROOF – Wine Premiumisation; Real living wage rise; Bumper English wine harvest

Research news

Pub profits boosted by premiumisation strategies

This week, Fuller’s Chief Executive stated that its pubs are faring well despite the cost-of-living crisis as they attract more affluent customers. Despite rising inflation, he revealed that the pub group is seeing premiumisation across the estate, with their most premium products seeing the fastest growth. This trend is reflective of consumers wanting to enjoy good quality drinks on the occasions they choose to go out.

When it comes to wine, recent research from PROOF Insight highlighted the importance of including premium wines on the list. As the category experiences falling demand across the on-trade, with current volumes sitting at 74% of what they were four years ago, premium wines can provide that necessary boost in profits. Given that wine drinkers are typically more affluent and 77% of them are inclined to treat themselves to an expensive wine now and then, they are prepared to spend more for quality.

One particular pub group illustrated this; it added premium wines to a select number of sites and subsequently saw the volume mix shift towards the more premium end. As a result, these sites generated higher profits than the other sites.

While having a value offering is important to help consumers manage their costs, it is equally important to have premium products for those consumers looking to treat themselves particularly when it comes to wine drinkers.

Find out about wine premiumisation

Sources: PROOF Insight, The Morning Advertiser, PROOF Insight Consumer Research October 2023

Industry news

Almost half a million workers receive a 10% pay rise

Workers on the Real Living Wage have received a 10% pay rise today. About 14,000 firms are signed up to the voluntary scheme, with a textiles manufacturer stating it had driven a 60% reduction in staff turnover. The scheme may be financially unviable for some hospitality firms, with Fuller’s boss Simon Emeny warning that high business rates could lead to more pub closures. To date, the pub sector has been better protected from closures, contracting -2.0% in the year to September, versus -3.6% for total licensed premises.

Sources: BBC News, Morning Advertiser, OUTLET 12 months to June 2023

Bumper harvest for English wine following strong growing conditions

For English wine, the growing season in 2022 was warm, allowing vines to maintain strong health following the winter. The flowering period also saw good weather, producing a large yield of fruit. The second half of summer saw cooler weather, slowing the ripening process and allowing complex flavours and aromas to develop. These conditions, alongside additional vine planting across their estate, has allowed Gusbourne to record their largest ever crop, with similar announcements from Ridgeview and Nyetimber.


Strange brews & news

All in good spirits, UK’s paranormal pubs!

UK’s pubs have seen their share of spooky goings on. Take The Red Lion Public House in Avebury, Wiltshire where there have been reports of a ghostly carriage, drawn by phantom horses in the inn’s courtyard. Then there is The Black Bear Inn in Tewksbury, Gloucestershire, home to an apparition of a headless man wearing an army uniform and dragging a chain through the corridors. Fancy a paranormal pint? A quick search will reveal your local haunt.

Sources:,, Historic England: Licence to Chill: 10 of England’s most haunted pubs

Investments, acquisition & openings

  • AG Barr acquires soft drinks brand Rio for £12.3 million
  • Fenwick has opened a fourth site under its Fuego tapas concept in Kingston, South-West London
  • The Real Greek will open sites in Braintree and Sheffield
  • Red Oak Taverns will purchase 17 leased pubs from St Austell Brewery in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset
  • Boca a Boca, the Ukrainian-born Spanish concept, will open a site in London’s Fitzrovia
  • Azzurri Group will open an ASK Italian site in Merry Hill shopping centre, Dudley
  • Chi, the Asian street food concept, has opened a new site in Derby
  • A luxury Chinese restaurant and karaoke venue will open at the Merrion Centre in Leeds next week
  • Caravan, the restaurant, bar and coffee concept, will open a new site in London’s Covent Garden
  • Burnt Faith, the UK’s first brandy distillery, has opened the Brandy House Bar in London
  • Sommellier Honey Spencer and partner Charlie Sims will open Sune, a neighbourhood restaurant on Broadway market in November
  • Amber Beverage Group has announced an investment of $37m to build a new Walsh Whiskey distillery

Sources: Propel, The Times

Product launches & campaigns

  • Soho Street Cocktails and Prezzo have released two ready-to-pour cocktails in their restaurants: Spiced Apple and Pear Martini and Morello Cherry Sour
  • Bud Light will return as the official beer sponsor for the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship)
  • Seedlip has partnered with actor Rege-Jean Page on their new campaign encouraging consumers to “choose different”
  • The Scotch Malt Whisky Society has released a 40-year old whisky to celebrate their 40th anniversary
  • 1800 Tequila has partnered with Mike Skinner, from the band The Streets, on a limited edition bottling designed to represent their new single
  • Mossburn Distillers has released a 12-year-old blended malt aged in former Bourbon casks
  • Bladnoch distillery has released a selection of peated whiskies
  • Laphroaig has released Elements 1.0, a new whisky made using Islay malt
  • Floyd Mayweather Jr, the former champion boxer, has released a Canadian whisky called “The Good Money Whisky”
  • BrewDog has applied for a trademark covering brandy, suggesting a potential move into the category

Sources: Spirits Business, Drinks Industry

To keep up-to-date on the latest drinks industry research and news, follow PROOF Insight on LinkedIn.

Thatchers Cider Garden Makeovers

Three pubs across the UK have each received fantastic £10,000 garden makeovers from Thatchers.

The Old Mill in Woolacombe, The Haxey Gate in Doncaster, and the Kings Head in Norfolk were the three winners of a national competition where pubs simply needed to purchase three or more kegs of Thatchers ciders, to be automatically entered into the draw.

The manager at the Old Mill, Mark Galpin said, “We are lucky to have a spacious multi-level outdoor area but it lacked lighting when dark, so we couldn’t make full use of it once the sun had gone down. With new umbrellas, jumbrellas, lighting, and even fixed table numbers, we’re delighted with the new look garden that now adds to our customer experience.”

James Palmer, at Thatchers says, “It’s great to see the difference a vibrant outdoor space can make to a pub. Attractive outside space, whether a garden or courtyard, however large or small, has an increasingly growing appeal to customers, whether with garden furniture, planters,  lighting or even an events stage.

“And a pub garden isn’t just for summer. With lighting, heaters and cover, gardens are playing a key part in increasing capacity for venues throughout the year.

We’ll drink (cider) to that!

Weekly Newsletter from PROOF Insight

This week: PROOF – Women in Wine Survey; Climate change & beer production; Modernising recruitment

Research news

Sexism, gender bias, harassment and underrepresentation in leadership: the top issues facing women in wine

Research by Proof Insight – the drinks and hospitality insights agency, and Curious Vines – the community that connects women in wine, highlights the challenges facing women working in the UK wine industry. Sexism, gender bias, harassment and underrepresentation in leadership were found to be the top issues that women want addressed, based on responses from over 700 women.

More than three-quarters (78%) of women feel that sexism/gender bias is an issue in the UK wine industry, and the same proportion (76%) that there is an issue of women being underrepresented in leadership roles. Over 1 in 3 women in wine have faced harassment whilst working, including 1 in 2 18-34-year-olds. Hospitality and sales roles were the more affected; 3 in 4 women in sommelier/ hospitality roles say they have been affected by sexism/gender bias and 62% have faced harassment. 45% in sales face discriminatory pay and conditions.

There is a risk of these issues draining talent: 44% of women have considered leaving the wine industry because of challenges faced, showing how inaction would be to the industry’s detriment. It is hoped the research can now be used to “kickstart conversations for real action to create a new world in wine, where we protect, retain and uplift female resource”, as commented by Queena Wong, Founder of Curious Vines.

The results were presented in-person to industry bodies including WSTA, Drinks Trust, WSET, IMW, UK Sommelier Academy and WineGB. For a copy of the webinar recording, please contact PROOF: [email protected]

Sources: PROOF Insight & Curious Vines, Women in Wine report

Industry news

Research paper suggests climate change is putting beer production under threat

A study focusing on the historic hop-growing areas in Germany, Czech Republic and Slovenia, warned that European hops will become increasingly difficult to grow unless action is taken. A decrease in hops yields and a drop in alpha acid levels, which adds bitterness compound, will make the brewing process more expensive. However, Global Technical Director of Charles Faram hop suppliers, suggests there is an opportunity to grow more hops in England which will have the ideal climate and will provide a good alternative.

Sources:, The Drinks Business

Modernising recruitment process could help with hospitality staff shortages

The number of vacancies in the three months to September 2023 is 36% above those in the three months to March 2020. Buzzworks shed light on their recruitment problem, stating their current annual staff turnover is 45% while their goal is 25%. Buzzworks’ Managing Director suggests it is worth adopting faster, tech-driven methods inspired by other industries rather than using traditional job applications and CVs. He cited their latest successful £30,000 recruitment campaign on Tiktok which received a flood of applications and filled all vacancies.

Sources: ONS, The Caterer, Propel

Strange brews & news

A pint or a coffee? Why not both?

BrewDog has launched a coffee stout in collaboration with Grind, the sustainable coffee company. The release comes after Grind opened a café in Brewdog’s bar in Waterloo, London last year. Craft beer has followed cocktails in exploring coffee flavours, particularly when it comes to dark beers. From a consumer perspective, the cocktail market has become saturated with coffee flavours – only 10% of cocktail drinkers want to see more bitter (including coffee) flavours in cocktails going forwards.

Sources: Retail Times, PROOF Intelligence – The Future of Cocktails

Investments, acquisition & openings

  • JD Wetherspoon has put its sites in Republic of Ireland outside of Dublin up for sale
  • Elegant Hotel Collection has launched 25 luxury hotels with plans to reach 50 globally by summer 2024
  • Boutique bowling venue operator, Lane7 is to open its largest UK venue in Birmingham
  • 150 cover restaurant to open in Milton Keynes by Dipna Anand, offering Punjabi and South Indian cuisine
  • Ketel One Vodka owner, Nolet Group, has acquired remainder of Dutch distiller Lucas Bols

Sources: Drinks Business, Restaurant, Langton Capital

Product launches & campaigns

  • Pernod Ricard and The Coca-Cola Company are collaborating to launch Absolut Vodka & Sprite RTD
  • Molson Coors announce plans to launch Happy Thursday, a line of spiked RTD with 4.4% abv, targeting 21-26-year-olds
  • The London Essence Co has added Aromatic Orange & Fig and Raspberry & Rose to its range, they are available in 500ml bottles in retailers
  • St Austell becomes the first pubco to join food waste app Olio
  • Redbreast whiskey has launched a limited edition bird feeder edition of its 12yo whiskey, in collaboration with BirdLife charity
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme has launched an Irish whisky named ‘Old Oak’ from Northern Ireland

Sources: BeverageDaily, Drinks Business

To keep up-to-date on the latest drinks industry research and news, follow PROOF Insight on LinkedIn.