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Half measures for on-trade groups post lockdown

Published:  14 December, 2020

Around half of Britain’s managed pubs, restaurants and bars were open and trading last week as lockdown ended and the new tier levels came into force in England, but sales were significantly down even in those sites able to open.

Total sales across the sector were down 67.9% on the corresponding week last year, with just 53% of sites open for business, according to weekly figures from CGA’s Coffer Peach Business Tracker

Moreover, in businesses that were open across the UK like-for-like sales were collectively down 44.7% on the same week in 2019.  

Drink-led pubs faced the toughest conditions, with total sales for managed wet-led sites down 76.4% against last year, with like-for-like sales in the 51% of pubs that were trading down 52.9%.

Group-owned food-led pubs and pub restaurants performed marginally better, with total sales down 75.3%, with like-for-like sales in the 62% of sites open down 48.5%.

Restaurant chains, many of which benefitted from take-out and delivery operations, had 52% of their sites open and recorded total sales down 51.6%, with like-for-likes in those restaurants open down 30.2%.

Bar operators only managed to open 40% of their sites, with total sales down 86.2% and like-for-likes down 68.1%.

The “very harsh restrictions” were “savaging sales” at what should be the busiest time of the year, said Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA.

“Restaurants have made a solid return and are best placed to recover sales in the run-up to Christmas. But the widespread and stringent limits in upper tier areas of England are going to make it a very tough festive period for drink-led pubs and bars,” he said.

The figures, alongside CGA research showed that the majority of consumers feel safe in hospitality venues, making an “urgent case for the government to relax restrictions and adequately support businesses that have to stay shut”, added Chessell. 

CGA’s separate Drinks Recovery Tracker also underlines the challenges facing drink-led businesses. 

Drinks sales in England on the first day back (2 December) were down 62% year-on-year, and fell further behind on Thursday (down 69%), Friday (down 70%) and Saturday (down 70%).

The ban on post 10pm consumption saw sales of spirits collapse by 81% over the weekend, but the emphasis on food was more positive for wine and soft drinks - daily sales of which were down by between 38% and 52% towards the end of last week. 

The Coffer Peach Business Tracker, run in association with the Coffer Group and RSM, takes sales data from 60 operating companies, including the major managed groups and a large number of smaller multi-site operators.

At the beginning of this month, CGA and Prestige Purchasing research highlighted how Covid has caused supply chain difficulties for more than nine in 10 hospitality businesses since they reopened in July.