Pubs, bars and restaurants saw a final flurry of sales last week as consumers sought to enjoy meals and drinks out ahead of England’s second lockdown.
CGA’s Volume Pool data shows that food sales on the last two days before lockdown (Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 November) were 28% and 11% up on the equivalent days in 2019. These are the best daily comparisons since early September, when venues were still enjoying the halo effect of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme. The strong performance is despite the closure of nearly a third of Britain’s licensed premises ahead of lockdown, and widespread trading restrictions including a 10pm curfew.
The figures are also a sharp contrast to food sales in the final days before hospitality’s first national lockdown in March. In the last two days before venues shut (19 and 20 March), food sales were down by 69% and 74% year-on-year.
CGA’s Drinks Recovery Tracker meanwhile shows that year-on-year drinks sales were down by just 4% and 3% last Tuesday and Wednesday. The final day of trading saw a major injection of sales for spirits in particular, with revenue up by 32% year-on-year, compared to a 55% drop the previous Wednesday. Wine also enjoyed a bumper final day with sales up 25%, and beer and cider saw a strong final week too.
Good sales right up to the final hours of trading suggest that consumers feel much more confident about eating and drinking out than they did as the first lockdown loomed in March. CGA’s consumer research shows that significantly more consumers feel comfortable about visiting the on-trade than uncomfortable—evidence that they have been reassured by the extensive safety and hygiene precautions that venues have put in place in between the two lockdowns.
Consumers were clearly determined to make the most of the last chance to eat and drink out before England’s four-week lockdown,” says Rachel Weller, head of consumer research and marketing. “The confident mindset is strikingly different from earlier in the year, when fears about infection kept many people at home, and it suggests that people have become accustomed to the new normality of pubs, bars and restaurants. There is a long way to go before sales consistently reach pre-pandemic levels, but the enthusiasm of consumers before lockdown bodes well for the time when venues can trade again.”