Food and Drink Sales in Britain’s Cities Back in Growth as Workers and Visitors Return

Out-of-home food and drink sales are in growth in all of Britain’s 10 biggest city centres, new research from CGA by NielsenIQ and Wireless Social shows.

The joint ‘Top Cities’ report combines CGA’s sales data with device log-in data from Wireless Social, the leading connectivity solutions provider for hospitality and leisure businesses, to provide a ‘vibrancy’ ranking of Britain’s 10 most populous cities over the four weeks to 4 June 2022.

Sales were between 1% and 13% higher than in the corresponding four-week period in 2019 in each city—the first time that all 10 have been in growth since the report began at the start of 2022.

Glasgow tops the list of most vibrant cities, ahead of Bristol and Manchester, while Edinburgh moves up four places to fourth. London, where workers and tourists have been slow to return after COVID-19 restrictions eased, grew its sales for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The capital also saw its best performance for log-ins, climbing from 6th to 4th place for this metric, likely due to the impact of the Jubilee period from Thursday 2 June to Saturday 4 June.

However, log-ins remain well down in all 10 cities compared to 2019, indicating that growth is being driven by higher spend-per-visit rather than footfall. Cities dropping down the rankings in the latest four-week period include Birmingham and Liverpool. See below for the full list of cities.

CGA client director Chris Jeffrey said:
“Restaurants, pubs and bars have been instrumental in the revival of Britain’s cities since the end of lockdowns, and it is pleasing to see them in growth in all 10 of the biggest centres. The slow but steady recovery of sales in London is particularly encouraging, and we can expect it to continue tracking back towards its pre-COVID-19 vibrancy over the summer. However, city-centre footfall clearly remains some way short of the levels of 2019, and high inflation is making it hard for businesses to achieve growth in real terms. As cost pressures squeeze consumers’ spending, we can expect some challenging trading conditions as we move into the second half of 2022.”

Julian Ross, founder and CEO of Wireless Social, said: “It’s fantastic to see the sector bouncing back and showing signs of growth. The fact that major hubs, like London, are beginning to pick up is hugely encouraging. Despite this, the industry seemingly can’t catch a break, with the recent industrial action on the railways and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis seriously impacting consumer activity and confidence. It’s vital that communities are supporting hospitality when and where they can, to protect and support the industry in what is continuing to be a hugely challenging period.”

The series of ‘Top Cities: Vibrancy Ranking’ reports is based on a powerful combination of sales data from CGA’s Managed Volume Pool of more than 8,000 pubs, bars and restaurants, and Wireless Social’s guest data gathered from more than one million log-ins. It provides the most accurate assessment yet of the vibrancy of Britain’s key city markets for eating and drinking out.

Britain’s 10 biggest cities, ranked by vibrancy
Rankings for the four weeks to 4 June 2022. Numbers in brackets indicate position for the previous four weeks to 7 May 2022.

1 Glasgow (2)
2 Bristol (1)
3 Manchester (4)
4 Edinburgh (8)
5 Leicester (5)
6 Birmingham (3)
7 Leeds (7)
8 Liverpool (6)
9 London (10)
10 Sheffield (9)