Rising consumer confidence about safety and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions helped Britain’s managed pub, bar and restaurant groups to a modest increase in sales in January, the Coffer CGA Business Tracker reveals.
The latest edition of the Tracker, produced by CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, shows groups’ total sales in the first month of 2022 were 3% higher than in January 2019. It represents a solid recovery from December, when heavy COVID-19 measures were in place and sales fell 11% below the levels of 2019.
Restaurants were the strongest performing segment of the market in January, recording 4% growth on January 2019, while pubs were up 2%. However, bars saw sales slip 3%, as the requirement for vaccination passes and lingering concerns about crowded venues dented late-night visits.
Continuing the pattern of recent months, trading was significantly weaker in London than elsewhere in Britain. Sales beyond the M25 were up by 6% on January 2019, but they dipped 8% within it, with office workers and tourists slow to return to the capital.
Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, said: “After a bleak December for managed groups, January brought a reasonable revival. Growth for restaurants was particularly encouraging, and the challenging London and late-night markets should hopefully pick up as people return to offices and COVID-19 restrictions wind down. However, it’s important to note that sales growth remains below inflation. With some businesses vulnerable after a tough end to 2021, and consumers facing mounting costs of living, hospitality’s road to recovery still has a long way to run.”
Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “January saw steady improvement throughout from a slow start. It was only on 25th January that the government stopped guidance to work from home where possible. As working habits return closer to normal, we expect to see eating and drinking out to rebound steadily. London and other city centres are seeing very good numbers. There is cautious optimism for the sector.”
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, said: “January’s bounce back after the disappointment of December sees the sector make an encouraging start to the new financial year. With trading restrictions finally lifted and the Omicron variant easing, customer footfall numbers and card spending are getting stronger week by week. The sector is not without its challenges as COVID-19 reliefs begin to fall away but there is a strong sense of optimism among many operators, particularly around the return of office workers and tourists to city centres. We expect to see further consolidation in the sector over the coming months, led by a number of well capitalised larger groups looking to grow their estates and take advantage of the resurgence of demand in the pub and casual dining sectors.”