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Floods and coronavirus take their toll on on-trade

Published:  12 March, 2020

Trading in Britain's pub, restaurant and bar sector fell 3.3% in February as the developing coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis and the severe floods took their toll on eating and drinking out.

The 3.3% decline in like-for-like sales across the on-trade compared to February last year was driven by managed pub groups, which saw collective like-for-like sales fall 4.2%, with restaurant groups down 1.8% and bar chains down 2.8%, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker released today.

The last week in February, when coronavirus started escalating, revealed a 4.4% drop in like-for-like sales.

“The month started with flooding hitting sales in parts of the country, with pubs and restaurants actually closed in some areas. But as the month progressed, the impact of the developing coronavirus emergency began to take its toll on business – and we can only expect that will have an increasingly negative impact on sales in coming months,” said Karl Chessell, business unit director of food & retail at CGA.  

While it was impossible to predict how bad the effect of the coronavirus emergency would be on the market longer term, a recent snap poll by CGA of industry leaders had shown that operators were expecting “major disruption”, he added.

“All we can say from these figures is that all parts of the business are being affected, and the worst is probably yet to come.”

Regionally, London had a tougher time seeing like-for-likes down 3.7% compared to 3.2% decline outside the M25.

Pubs saw decline in both food and drink sales, down 3.9% and 4.6% respectively, while restaurant groups recorded a relatively smaller decline in sales, down 1.8%, with the number of covers served in the month down 4.9%.

CGA, which collects sales figures directly from 58 leading companies, produces the Tracker in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM.

Earlier this week, in more positive news, he latest Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners showed that UK on-trade closures has fallen to lowest rate since 2018.