"We are practically at 100% of bookings for the month of December, but customers are finding ways to spend less." The situation described by Roberto Gil Ramos, owner of the Abanto restaurant, in the surroundings of Madrid's Las Ventas bullring, would explain the incongruity that hovers over many current debates about the situation of consumption in Spain. It is assumed that the escalation of inflation has reduced the purchasing power of families, but bars and restaurants are full and reserving a table has become mission impossible in the run-up to the Christmas holidays.

The president of the Spanish Hospitality Business Confederation, José Luis Yzuel, sheds some light on this paradox: "The establishments are full, but there is a certain containment in spending," he explains to EL MUNDO. What is happening is that "the average ticket is going down, because cheaper products are consumed or some dishes, such as dessert, or ordering another bottle of wine, are being given up, but people are still going out." On the contrary, for Yzuel, the consequences that the pandemic has left on society lead Spaniards to want to go out at all costs, without bowing to the escalation of prices: "Today I go out, tomorrow I don't know if I will be able to", is the new social mood.

Roberto's first-hand experience confirms this: "The customer is looking for ways to make the menu cheaper, reducing the number of dishes or the wine cellar and even opting for lower category raw materials." The reality is that, with the arrival of cold weather and, above all, in anticipation of the extra expense of Christmas, which is just around the corner, "the customer has put on the handbrake and has reduced consumption on a day-to-day basis," he says. The rise in prices in the hospitality industry is also behind the slowdown. In the case of Abanto, the Christmas menu is 10% more expensive than last year. "It's the rise corresponding to the CPI and the cost of living, no more, no less," Roberto justifies.

All in all, the hospitality sector expects to break all turnover records this year, driven precisely by the rise in sales prices. This is according to Yzuel, who projects an increase in bar and restaurant revenues of between 5% and 7% compared to 2022, when they had a turnover of around 90,000 million euros (if hotels are added, they reached 130,000 million). However, the president of Hostelería de España admits that the summer was not as good as expected, especially due to adverse weather conditions due to successive heat waves, which reduced consumption on the terraces, and that at the end of September there was growing concern about a possible collapse in the annual turnover.

Concern among brewers

It's a concern once shared by brewers, who remain on alert at this time of year. The data they handle internally in the beer sector, one of the best thermometers to measure the mood of consumption in our country, are less flattering than one might expect, in principle. Brewers' sales fell by 1.5% in the third quarter compared to the previous year, in line with data from the distributors' federation Fedishoreca, which reported negative figures in the summer compared to 2022, with decreases of 1.1% in August and 5.5% in September.

These are data from Cerveceros de España, where they also note a decline in consumption occasions, both inside and outside the home, in the first half of the year of more than 3%. They also recall that beer consumption in the hospitality industry is still far from pre-pandemic levels. Specifically, 8% below the volume of 2019. This lower consumption of beer is also felt in tax collection, which registered a decrease in the excise tax on this beverage of 4.2% in July, 2.4% in August and up to 7.4% in September compared to the previous year. In October it recovered by 7.1%, coinciding with a much hotter period than usual.

Faced with this scenario, the general director of Cerveceros de España, Jacobo Olalla, calls for "stability in the taxes levied on consumption in the hospitality industry and on products that maintain a greater weight in their economic viability, such as beer (which accounts for between 20% and 40% of the turnover of bars), as well as measures to boost the hospitality and tourism sector, boosters of the economy and employment, to avoid a setback in growth indicators."

The government does not currently have any plans on the table to touch these taxes, but, in any case, the hospitality sector remains on guard. "That the fiscal status quo does not change," claims Yzuel, who also warns of the impact that measures such as the new increase in the minimum wage or the reduction of the working day, which Vice President Yolanda Díaz has in his portfolio, will have on the income statements of companies.

  • Inflation