Endeavour, which also has a liquor retailing arm comprising 258 Dan Murphy’s and 1417 BWS outlets, generated a 91 per cent rise in sales to $538 million at its hotels in the 14 weeks ended October 2 as people embraced a return to relatively normal life as the COVID-19 restrictions of last year faded.

Endeavour boss Steve Donohue said the group’s hotels, which have capacity of 44,000 bookings for Christmas functions, had already locked in 30 per cent of those spots, which he said was an extremely buoyant number twice as high as last year when it was sitting at 15 per cent. That reflected confidence about the next few weeks in both hotels, and liquor retailing.

“We’re taking a degree of confidence from those forward bookings for Christmas,” he said.

Mr Donohue said in the liquor retailing market, the premiumisation trend was still strong despite cost-of-living pressures, with people “drinking better” by choosing higher-priced premium products or shifting to the expanding number of low alcohol or no-alcohol versions of beer or wine.

There was no sign of any downturn in spending by consumers at the hotels or liquor stores in the head-up to Christmas after six successive rate rises by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

But it was too hard to predict what might happen in January and February next year. “That will be the more unknown era that we’ll step into,” he said.

Mr Donohue said all parts of the group’s hotels had benefited from strong customer numbers as people returned to going out and trying to have fun. “On average we’re seeing larger groups coming together.” He said there had been a 10 per cent rise in the size of bookings, with larger numbers of people included in group bookings.

Patrons had also enjoyed live music and were using digital systems to order meals from different parts of the pub, rather than relying on the traditional meals area. They were coming in at different times and staying longer. “We are also seeing people wanting to enjoy the hotel over more hours of the day,” he said.

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