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CGA: ‘Significant number of sites with outdoor space unlikely to trade’

Published:  29 March, 2021

Two out of five licensed premises have outdoor trading space – around 41,000 outlets – enabling them to trade outside from 12 April, according to the latest Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners. 

It shows around 41,100 (38.2%) of premises in Britain have a garden, terrace, car park or other area in which they could potentially seat guests, with numbers fluctuating widely between segments of the market – four in five (80.5%) community pubs in England are able to offer outside space compared to just 11.9% of casual dining restaurants.

Moreover, a significant number of these sites are unlikely to trade from mid-April, because the limitations of their space and the costs of equipping and staffing them will make it impossible to trade profitably, meaning the number of sites reopening will “probably be much lower, especially if the weather is poor”, said CGA. 

“With huge pent-up demand for hospitality and consumers’ confidence rising, outside trading could give sales a useful kickstart – but there are a lot of variables at play,” said Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA.

“Pubs with beer gardens will be popular if the sun shines, but some restaurants may find it harder to recoup the costs of reopening, especially if the April weather isn’t favourable.

“Well over half of licensed premises have no space at all in which to trade, though they could yet reopen in April if local authorities take a proactive approach and open up street space to serve on,” he said. 

The research also revealed that scope for outside trading also varies substantially by region.

In the largely rural south west of England, just over half (51.1%) of sites have outdoor space, but the number is below a third in London (33.1%). In Wales, where hospitality is due to reopen outdoors from 22 April, two in five (42.1%) sites have outdoor space. But in Scotland, where venues may open outdoors from 26 April, fewer than a quarter (22.9%) have that capability.

Released today, the March edition of the Market Recovery Monitor reflects on the seismic impact of the pandemic 12 months on from the first national lockdown. 

The damage is particularly apparent in the independent sector, which has recorded a net decline of more than 5,000 sites since March 2020, while the managed sector has recorded less than a quarter of that, reflecting larger groups’ greater resilience to the crisis.

There are other signs of durability in the market despite the challenges of the last year, including in major city centres, with the Monitor showing that five big regional hubs – Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham, Edinburgh and Sheffield – have all lost fewer than 3% of their licensed premises since March 2020, while many smaller cities including Plymouth, Aberdeen, Worcester, Exeter and Swansea have all lost more than 10%.