The number of small pubs and bars has risen for the first time in more than 15 years, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures show that the number of small pubs and bars – those with fewer than 10 employees – increased by 85 (0.4 per cent) to 22,925 in 2019.

It comes following more than 15 years of closures, according to the report entitled Economies Of Ale: Changes In The UK Pubs And Bars Sector, 2001-2019.

While the total number of pubs fell from 51,120 to 39,130 between 2007 and 2019, total employment grew from 426,000 to 457,000 during the same period.

This employment growth has been driven by customers eating, rather than drinking, with the share of pub employees working as bar staff falling from 37.6 per cent in 2007 to 28.9 per cent in 2019, while the percentage employed as kitchen and waiting staff increased from 29.1 per cent to 43.8 per cent. 

As well as an increase in the number of pubs and bars in the UK, turnover in the sector increased £847m (3.8 per cent) to £23.3bn in 2017, after inflation is considered. This equates to average turnover per pub of £595,000.

The report also revealed that real turnover in the latest year of data is at its highest level since the financial crisis of 2007 to 2008 ended.

The latest research has been published on the back of findings revealed last year that the number of pubs in the UK increased in 2019 for the first time for a decade. 

Senior statistician Hugh Stickland said: "While smaller pubs have been struggling to survive in recent years, bigger pubs have been growing in number. This growth has been driven by food rather than drink and we've seen a big rise in the number of people employed as pub kitchen and waiting staff."