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Pubs and restaurant group sales halve in first month back

Published:  13 August, 2020

Britain’s managed pub, restaurant and bar groups saw trading fall to just over half of ‘normal’ trading compared to the same month last year, data from CGA’s Coffer Peach Business Tracker has shown.

The first monthly data showing how UK hospitality has coped post-lockdown shows an industry that is still very much just getting back on its feet

All parts of the market recorded trading well below July 2019 levels, down 50.4%, but restaurants and bars and the London market struggled most.

While pub groups collectively saw total sales fall 44.7% over the month, restaurant groups in the Tracker took a further tumble.

They were down 59.8% and bars down 63.3%. London also took a big hit. Trading was down 58.3% in July, while outside the M25 down 48.5%.

“The figures are a reflection of the fact that reopening of sites has been gradual, and not all by any means are back in business. Plus, those that are open are in general trading at well below normal levels,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, which produces the Tracker in partnership with TheCoffer Group and RSM.

“They also paint a mixed picture, with pubs tending to open up more strongly than restaurants, and London which was hit earliest still struggling to gain traction,” added Chessell.

The Tracker figures show that overall, 76% of the group-owned sites that were trading in February were open again by the end of July. The contrast between pubs, bars and restaurants however, was stark. While 94% of managed pubs had reopened, just 62% of bars and only 36% of group-operated restaurants were back in business.

“Even before lockdown, the casual dining boom had stalled and a number of groups were closing sites and restructuring. The Covid crisis looks to have accelerated that trend, and it is unclear how many of those group-owned restaurants will eventually reopen, certainly under current ownership,” said Chessell.

While sales were down overall, delivery continued its upward swing. Delivery accounted for 13.1% of sales among the casual dining groups in the Tracker in July. This is up from 7.4% in March, when the effects of Covid were first felt, and 5.9% in February.

“The growth in delivery has been a marked feature of lockdown, and is likely to remain an important sales component for those food-led businesses that make it through,” Chessell added.

Among the managed pub groups, drink sales performed slightly better than food, with sales down 41% compared to minus 48%.

“That may be about people wanting to get out of the house for a pint or social glass of wine in those early weeks after reopening. So it will be interesting to see the impact of the VAT cut on food and the Eat Out To Help Out initiative on not just food sales in pubs but whether it will give restaurants more impetus to reopen,” Chessell said.

Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “Despite the fanfare over the July 4 reopening date for hospitality, in reality trade is recovering slowly. The restaurant sector, already under severe pressure pre-Covid has been decimated by the lockdown. The pub sector has proven to be more resilient as expected and is now bouncing back strongly in many areas.

“The August numbers will be helped by more people returning to work, Eat Out to Help Out, and also habits starting to return to usual and so we will see a marked increase in certain areas. Central London, however, still lags the rest of the country.”   

A total of 49 companies, with a collective 7,500 sites now open for business, provided data to the July Tracker.

The companies in the Tracker cohort are all group managed sites, and do not include independent pubs, restaurants or bars.