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End of Plan B restrictions brings ‘cautious optimism’ for hospitality boost

Published:  28 January, 2022

Sales of alcohol in the on-trade have continued to lag behind the levels seen in 2020, according to the latest CGA Drinks Recovery Tracker, yet a resurgence is forecast as Plan B restrictions come to an end this week.

According to CGA, average drinks sales by value in Britain’s managed pubs, bars and restaurants in the week to 22 January were 11% below the same week in 2020. It extends a tough period for the licensed sector, after shortfalls of 18% and 12% in the first two weeks of 2022—though these were an improvement on a 25% drop in the last three weeks of 2021.

However, CGA analysts are cautiously optimistic that drinks sales may pick up after Plan B restrictions were eased in England on 27 January. The end of mandatory Covid-19 passes for nightclubs and big events should give a boost to the late-night sector in particular.

The easing this week of some restrictions in Scotland and Wales – including the reopening of nightclubs and end to crowd limits – should give these markets a lift too, but hospitality businesses continue to face constraints here.

CGA’s breakdown of drinks categories showed that spirits sales were exactly flat compared to the same week in 2020, thanks in large part to the popularity of cocktails. However, beer and cider (down 13%), wine (down 18%) and soft drinks (down 12%) were all well behind.

“It’s been a very challenging start to 2022 in the hospitality sector, further weakening drinking-out businesses that suffered a collapse in sales over Christmas,” said Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland.

“We can be optimistic that the end to Plan B restrictions will encourage consumers to get back to pubs, bars and restaurants over the next few weeks, and kickstart what will hopefully be a much brighter year. However, rising costs in many areas have hit both profit margins and consumer spending, and operators and suppliers are going to have to work hard to generate sales in 2022.