Managed pubs, bars and restaurants in the UK saw sales in October up 3% on the same period in 2019, however the rolling 12-month sales – the total amount from the past 12 months – was down 4.5%.
According to the latest data from Coffer CGA Business Tracker, growth was particularly sluggish in London, with total sales in October down 4% on 2019 levels. Outside the M25, the picture was rosier, with sales up by 6%.
Sales were 64% higher than in October 2020, when trading was hugely curtailed due to COVID restrictions.
Growth in pub groups was higher than restaurants, which sales up 3% for pubs, compared to 2% for restaurants, while bars recorded the strongest growth of all – up 13%.
Overall October saw the third consecutive month of growth compared to pre-pandemic levels, even though it fell short of September’s 8% growth.
The report said this indicated the resilience of managed groups, which are still under severe pressure from rising food, drink and energy costs, distribution challenges and recruitment problems.
Businesses continue to feel the effects of COVID and lockdowns, with rolling 12-month sales to the end of October 2021 down by 4.5% on the previous 12 months.
Karl Chessell, director of hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, said that patchy consumer confidence and a host of external challenges were making real-terms growth elusive for managed pub groups, with hopes are pinned on a strong Christmas trading period.
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, noted that post lockdown euphoria had waned with sales growth compared to 2019 lower in October than September as consumers started to feel the impact of rising household bills on discretionary spending.
“Sales comparisons to 2019 are also being impacted by acute labour shortages, forcing many hospitality businesses to cut trading hours with operators, conscious of the need to give their teams a chance to ‘recharge their batteries’ before the all-important festive trading season kicks in,” he said. “It could spell the start of a long, hard winter for the sector if this downward trajectory in sales growth continues for the rest of the year.”
However, Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, saw a more promising trend, noting that the recovery was proving to be longer term process with steadily improving numbers in bars and pubs. “The bar and late-night market particularly is very strong and we see this improvement as sustainable not just in the short term but to 2022 and beyond. Very good operators are performing well in most locations,” he said.