Strong April For Managed Pubs, Bars And Restaurants But Inflation Erases Growth

Britain’s leading managed restaurant, pub and bar groups achieved like-for-like and year-on-year sales growth of 6.9% in April 2023, the latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker shows.

It is a seventh positive month in a row for the Tracker—which is produced by CGA by NIQ in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM UK—and significantly higher than the figure of 1.4% in March. However, growth remains well below the current rate of inflation, and rising costs continue to impact both consumers’ spending and businesses’ margins.

April trading was boosted by public holidays, including Easter and the start of the early May Bank Holiday weekend. Good weather helped to draw consumers out to pubs, where like-for-like sales were 8.1% ahead of April 2022. Growth in the restaurant sector was fractionally behind at 7.6%, but bars had another difficult month, with sales down 9.1%.

Managed groups continued their strong post-COVID recovery in London, where April sales rose10.4% year-on-year—just ahead of inflation. Growth beyond the M25 stood at 5.8%.

Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA by NIQ, said:
“April’s trading figures show the impressive resilience and appeal of managed restaurant, pub and bar groups in a very challenging market. It’s particularly pleasing to see the sustained recovery in London, where COVID restrictions took a heavy toll on hospitality. Consumers clearly remain eager to eat and drink out, and we can be optimistic that their spending will increase when household bills start to ease—but with inflation so high, real-terms growth remains elusive.”

Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said:
“Eating and drinking out sales continue to lag inflation. Pubs and restaurants continue to see sales growth much of which is on the back of price rises. There is much innovation in the sector and competition remains strong. Inflation can breed inflation. Consumers are not surprised by price rises but operators need sales to at least keep up with costs and volumes to increase. Whilst numbers continue to improve, we are not yet seeing this.”

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM UK, said:
“A full month without train strikes undoubtedly contributed to central London pubs and restaurants enjoying like-for-like sales growth of over 10% for the first time since the end of the pandemic. Cost pressures might be easing but they haven’t gone away and the ability to trade without interruption is crucial if the sector is to take full advantage of rising consumer confidence. With rain having dented hopes for a bumper Coronation weekend, operators will be desperate for the sunshine forecast for the rest of this month to help save what many had optimistically been calling ‘mega-May’.”

CGA collected sales figures directly from 75 leading companies for the latest edition of the Coffer CGA Business Tracker.