CGA’s Drinks Recovery Tracker shows that average sales by value in managed pubs, bars and restaurants in the seven days to Saturday (19 March) were 7% ahead of the same week in March 2019.

After two weeks of sales just 1% off the levels of March 2019, it continues the steady recovery of the drinking-out market since the removal of COVID-19 restrictions. However, with cumulative inflation since 2019 running well above the 7% mark, sales remain well below pre-pandemic patterns in real terms.

St Patrick’s Day provided the best trading day of last week, with drinks sales on Thursday (17 March) up by 37% on the same day in 2019. Knock-on celebrations kept sales well ahead on both Friday (up 7%) and Saturday (up 11%). Saturday trading was also lifted by rugby fans watching the final round of Six Nations fixtures in pubs and bars.

“Last week’s trading figures show the hard work of Britain’s pubs, bars and restaurants to build back from two years of disruption is paying off,” says Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland. “They also emphasise the value that good weather and celebratory occasions like St Patrick’s Day can bring to the On Premise, and with more sunshine, Mother’s Day and Easter on the horizon, operators can be cautiously optimistic about trading. However, confirmation this week of high inflation and the end to hospitality’s VAT relief, and mounting pressure on consumers’ disposable incomes, remind us that a return to pre-COVID-19 normality is still some way off”

At a category level, spirits was again the star performer, with sales rocketing by a quarter (25%) on the same week in 2019. However, St Patrick’s Day also helped both beer (up 7%) and cider (up 10%) to 2022 highs. Soft drinks sales were flat, but wine sales were down 10%.