Like-for-like sales at Britain’s top managed pub, bar and restaurant groups were 3.0% behind the levels of September 2021, the latest edition of the Coffer CGA Business Tracker shows.
The Tracker—produced by CGA by NielsenIQ in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM UK—shows groups’ sales were ahead of pre-pandemic levels for the eighth month in a row, with like-for-like growth of 4.0% compared to September 2019. However, the dip from 12 months ago demonstrates the headwinds currently facing the hospitality sector—and with inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index at nearly 10%, sales are much further behind last year’s numbers in real terms. Pubs were the strongest performing of the Tracker’s three hospitality segments in September, with year-on-year sales growth of 1.7%. Restaurants’ like-for-like sales were down by 7.9% on September 2021, and bars’ sales by 16.0%. The Tracker has better news from the London market, as groups’ sales within the M25 rose 3.1% year-on-year. It follows a steady return of visitors and office workers to the capital over the year, and a dramatic influx of people after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Beyond the M25, like-for-like sales were down by 4.5% from September 2021. Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, said: “One year ago businesses and consumers were enjoying the end of COVID-19 restrictions in restaurants, pubs and bars—but September’s dip in sales shows just how tough the market has become since then. Hospitality has done very well to haul trading back past pre-pandemic levels, but soaring costs in fuel, food and other areas are severely impacting companies’ margins. High inflation is making real-terms growth extremely hard, and while the government’s capping of energy prices is welcome, more measures are needed to support businesses over what will be a challenging winter.” Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “Trade in the eating and drinking out sectors continues to improve on 2019 numbers albeit down on 2021 which reflected “feel good” trading on the back of restrictions lifting. These numbers yet again demonstrate the challenges felt by the sector on the back of rising costs. It is the coming months that are most important to pubs, restaurants and bars in the face of worryingly weak consumer confidence.” Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM UK, said: “With interest rates, labour, energy and costs of goods continuing to climb, pub and restaurant owners have a lot to think about as they finalise their menus for the all-important festive trading period. Consumer confidence remains low and with food and drink price inflation in hospitality reported to have hit 15% in August, operators will be juggling how best to protect their own margins without further denting fragile demand by passing on price rises.”