Curfew And Lockdowns Put Pub And Restaurant Recovery Into Reverse

Sales across Britain’s pub, bar and restaurant groups were hit hard in the last full week of September as new restrictions on hospitality were introduced. Like-for-like sales across the sector were down 22.8% on the same week last year, with drink-led pubs down 28.6%, latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker figures reveal.

With 88% of sites trading before the pandemic now open, total sales for the week across the sector were 27.7% below 2019 levels, but were crucially 8.2% down on the previous week, reflecting the immediate impact of new restrictions including the 10pm curfew, local lockdowns, table-only service and limits on numbers socialising. Drink-led pubs saw a 15.3% week-on-week decline.

The reverse in trading follows a strong month for managed groups in August, when the Tracker showed sales drawing level with August 2019.

Sales had started to slip back in early September after the Eat Out To Help Out initiative ended, but looked like they were levelling off, before this latest round of restrictions were announced,” said Karl Chessell, Director for Food and Retail at CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM.

”Rising consumer confidence and government support gave managed groups a major lift in August, but the curfew and other restrictions are a severe setback to progress, and these numbers highlight the difficulties facing groups this autumn. However, operators have proved agile and innovative in their responses to restrictions ever since lockdown, and we will see how they adapt to this new round of challenges,”

Drink-led businesses saw the biggest reverse. As well as drink-led pubs suffering, bar businesses saw like-for-likes down 47.6% for the week beginning September 21, with week-on-week sales falling 13.8%.

Food-focused businesses did relatively better. Pub restaurants and food-led pubs saw like-for-like sales drop 19.3%, with week-on-week trade down 11%. Restaurant groups were more stable, with week-on-week sales slightly up 1.9%, and like-for-likes 14.3% down on the same week last year.

Nearly three quarters (71%) of group-owned restaurants are back trading, but that remains well below the numbers of drink-led pubs (96%) and pub restaurants (97%).

Restaurants have been slower to return since lockdown than pubs, and many sites will not reopen at all. But their week-on-week sales growth suggests they might be better placed to sustain sales through the period of curfew than drink-led businesses, especially if they can encourage people to eat out earlier in the day,” added Chessell.