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Solid first week for on-trade groups

Published:  27 April, 2021

Pubs, bars and restaurant groups have made a robust start to post-lockdown trading in England, the latest figures from the Coffer CGA Business Tracker has shown.

For the week commencing 12 April, like-for-like sales were down a modest 24% on the equivalent period two years ago, despite hospitality being limited to outside trading, and facing a strong comparative week in April 2019 that included Easter.

Pubs performed better than restaurants across the week, as consumers celebrated the return of hospitality in outdoor spaces, with like-for-like sales in managed drink-led pubs down 11% year-on-year, and 22% in pub restaurants. 

The group-run restaurant segment recorded a 34% drop, with like-for-like sales weakest of all in bars, down 37%.

“While sales are well down on what we would expect in a normal April, managed groups are returning well after months of closure,” said Karl Chessell, business unit director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA.

“Pubs benefited from the widespread sunshine and the eagerness of consumers to drink out again after so long at home. With the weather set fair and consumers reassured about the safety of outdoor hospitality, we can expect the positive start to eating and drinking out to continue,” he said. 

However, he added, it was important to remember that managed groups have so far been unable to open well over half of their pubs, restaurants and bars in England, and none at all in Scotland and Wales.

Moreover, Chessell highlighted that some consumers remain cautious about going out. 

“Total sales will be far off pre-pandemic levels for some time to come, and businesses will need support from local and central government as they embark on the long road to recovery,” he said.

The Tracker shows that around two in five (39%) of groups’ venues were open for on-site dining and drinking last week, though some other venues were operating for takeaways and deliveries. 

Trading capacity was higher in the drink-led pubs (44%) and restaurants (43%) segments, and lower among pub restaurants (27%) and bars (25%). 

With the majority of sites still closed, total sales last week were 57% down on the equivalent week in April 2019.

Last week, CGA research revealed that nearly half (44%) of adults in England had visited pubs, bars and restaurants since they re-opened for outdoor service on the 12 April, beating last year’s rate of return to hospitality following the easing of restrictions after the first lockdown.