Vibrancy of Britain’s 10 Biggest Cities Revealed as the Sector Builds Back from COVID

Exclusive report measuring the out-of-home social activity of consumers shows the scale of COVID damage in London, but more positive trends in Leeds and other cities

New research from CGA and Wireless Social, the leading connectivity solutions provider for hospitality and leisure businesses, highlights the current vibrancy of the hospitality sector in Britain’s 10 most populous cities.

Based on a combination of sales data from CGA and device log-ins from Wireless Social that reveal the hospitality visits made by consumers, the first edition of the exclusive series of monthly reports ranks vibrancy in key cities over the four weeks to 15 January 2022, including the crucial festive season. It shows that Leeds was the most vibrant city of the 10 with a -0.2% drop in sales compared with the same period in 2019, ahead of Glasgow, Bristol and Birmingham, where restaurant, pub and bar sales held up relatively well in late December and early January.

At the other end of the rankings, London finishes bottom, having suffered a -19% drop in sales—highlighting the severe impact of work-from-home instructions and reduced visitor numbers in the capital. Wireless Social’s data shows check-ins in London were 43% lower than over the same period two years ago.

Sales and log-ins were down on pre-COVID levels in other major British cities. However, separate research from CGA has indicated that while visitor numbers have dropped in recent months, average spend has increased slightly, and consumer confidence has increased since the end of 2021.

CGA’s client director Chris Jeffrey said: “It has been an immensely difficult two years for hospitality businesses in city centres, and these vibrancy figures reveal the damaging impact that COVID constraints have had on footfall and sales in late 2021 and early 2022. With restrictions hopefully now behind us and many workers returning to offices, we should see British cities start to return to pre-COVID norms in consumer activity over the course of this year.”

Julian Ross, founder and CEO of Wireless Social, said: “With the Plan B measures behind us, it’s vitally important that the sector is able to build back and develop in a restriction-free environment. The findings from this inaugural Vibrancy report are sobering, especially with the lens focused on London, but as we’ve seen time and again over the last two years, pent-up consumer demand combined with decreasing COVID case numbers, does positively impact activity across hospitality venues. Going out and supporting hospitality is more important than ever, with stark increases in business rates, VAT and energy bills right around the corner, so we’re hopeful that our next report will see a significant improvement in activity.”

The ‘Top Cities: Vibrancy ranking report’ is based on a powerful combination of in-depth 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 logins. 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

1 Leeds

2 Glasgow

3 Bristol

4 Birmingham

5 Leicester

6 Liverpool

7 Edinburgh

8 Sheffield

9 Manchester

10 London