Managed Restaurants, Pubs and Bars Strong in September but Challenges Continue

Britain’s leading managed restaurant, pub and bar groups achieved a significant bounce in sales in September, the latest edition of the Coffer CGA Business Tracker reveals.

The Tracker, produced by CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, shows total sales were 8% up on the pre-pandemic levels of September 2019. They were 42% higher than in September 2020, when businesses were operating under strict COVID restrictions

It marks a second successive month of year-on-year increases, with restaurants and pubs each recording total sales growth of 8%. For pubs, it was a notable improvement on growth of 3% in August 2021. Bars were again the best performing segment of all, following the easing of restrictions on the late-night sector in July.

September trading was boosted by growing consumer confidence about safety and spending, good weather in many areas and ongoing staycations. However, there was a clear gap in performance between London, where sales dropped 1% on September 2019, and the rest of the country, where they were up 12%. It indicates that the capital continues to be affected by a shortage of office workers and international tourists.

Managed groups in all parts of the country faced mounting challenges on many fronts in September, including staff shortages, supply chain disruption and inflation in key cost areas. The Coffer CGA Business Tracker also highlights the long-term impact of the COVID crisis, with managed groups’ rolling 12-month sales to the end of September 2021 down by 10% on the 12 months before that.

Karl Chessell, director at CGA, said: “These figures demonstrate the resilience of managed restaurants, pubs and bars in the face of strong headwinds, and show consumers’ appetite for eating and drinking out remains high. It’s especially pleasing to see revitalised sales for bars after enduring restricted trading for so long. However, difficulties for London and a 10% shortfall in rolling 12-month sales are reminders that we are not yet out of the woods. Many businesses remain under severe pressure from operational issues and debts, and they deserve targeted and sustained government support to sustain their recovery.”

Trevor Watson, executive director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “These are encouraging figures, however it is absolutely vital that the sector continues to grow revenues to combat higher utilities costs, input costs and wages costs, alongside restored VAT and business rates which are now hard wired in for the next 12 months.”

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, said: “September continued the upward trajectory of like for like sales growth with a creditable 8% uplift compared to 2019.  The stark contrast in results for London, where sales dropped 1% on September 2019, compared to the rest of the country demonstrate that the challenges faced by the hospitality sector are far from over. Consumer demand is robust but many businesses remain vulnerable with staff shortages, utility cost inflation and supply-chain disruption continuing to act as significant barriers to survival, let alone growth. There is a clear need for further targeted support from Rishi Sunak in his Autumn Budget Statement to help operators gear up for the all-important festive trading season.”