Britain’s restaurant, pub and bar groups achieved an eighth consecutive month of year-on-year sales growth in May 2023, the latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker shows.

The Tracker—which is produced by CGA by NIQ in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM UK—reveals like-for-like sales increased by 5.6% in May, which was boosted by a succession of Bank Holidays including an extended weekend for the King’s Coronation. Pubs also benefited from widespread warm weather with like-for-like sales 8.8% ahead of last May. Trading at restaurants was more muted, with sales up by 2.7%. Bars recorded a 6.6% drop in sales to continue a challenging year for the channel.

While managed groups’ total sales showed solid growth, May trading was dampened in many areas by rail strikes, while fragile consumer confidence continues to impact the frequency of visits to pubs, bars and restaurants. Meanwhile, high inflation means sales remained below the levels of May 2022 in real terms.

The Coffer CGA Business Tracker also highlights the ongoing recovery of London’s hospitality sector after the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic. Managed groups’ sales rose by an above-inflation 12.6% year-on-year, thanks in part to an influx of visitors for the Coronation. This was more than twice the level of the 4.9% growth beyond the M25 in May.

Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA by NIQ, said: “Managed hospitality groups continue to be challenged by soaring costs, the squeeze on consumer spending and rail travel disruption, making inflation-adjusted growth tough. Nevertheless, eight positive months in a row have shown that demand for eating and drinking out remains strong, especially around holidays and big national occasions. As inflation falls and discretionary spending stabilises, we can be cautiously optimistic about a return to real-terms growth in the second half of 2023.”

Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “Pub bars and restaurants continue to see sales growth lagging inflation. There is increased competition from a wide range of new offers including experiential concepts and food markets which are competing with more conventional offerings. The sector is hoping the warmer weather in June can help kickstart a real recovery in numbers.”

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM UK, said: “Pub operators were the undoubted winners of May’s triple bank holiday, capitalising on coronation fever as customer purse strings were loosened by the warmer weather and news of energy price cap reductions. With food and drink inflation still at peak levels, restaurant operators felt the pinch with growth still in negative territory in real terms. The next few months will be telling, particularly in London which experienced inflation-busting performance in May compared to the rest of the country. Now that the King’s Coronation is behind us, the capital’s long term recovery is dependent on further momentum from inbound tourism. Chinese tourists remain cautious and are staying closer to home for now leaving operators to wonder if the capital’s revival will be sustained during the summer months or whether May was a one hit wonder.”