Britain’s managed restaurant, pub and bar groups achieved solid growth from pre-COVID-19 levels in March, the new Coffer CGA Business Tracker shows—but with high inflation hitting both margins and spending, hospitality’s recovery from COVID-19 remains fragile.
The Tracker, produced by CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, reveals groups’ like-for-like sales in March 2022 were 4% higher than in March 2019. It continues a gradual upturn this year, after a like-for-like drop of 1% in January and 3% growth in February. Bars performed the strongest of the Tracker’s three sectors in March, with like-for-like sales growth of 8%, as consumers continue to seek high tempo and experiential visits. Restaurants were close behind with 6%growth, thanks in large part to flourishing delivery sales, while pubs were up 2%. Trading in London continues to lag well behind other parts of the country, the Coffer CGA Business Tracker shows. Managed groups’ like-for-like sales inside the M25 in March were flat, compared to 6% growth beyond the M25. Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, said: “Two years on from the start of the pandemic and unprecedented turmoil in hospitality, these figures show managed groups are building back steadily. It’s particularly pleasing to see bars performing so well, as people return to late-night visits. However, like-for-like figures are well below inflation, and with soaring costs in energy, food and other areas hurting both operators and consumers, real-terms growth will be extremely challenging for some time.” Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “Whilst restaurant and bar sales are continuing to increase, these numbers are well below inflation. After a long challenging period for operators the recovery is slow and the challenges faced by the sector are wide. These numbers are improving though and returning workers and tourists in increasing numbers should help lift London over the coming months.” Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, said: “After the disappointment that there would be no sector-specific support in the Chancellor’s spring statement, March’s like-for-like sales increases will come as a welcome relief at a time when the last elements of COVID-19 support have fallen away. The sector is being challenged with extreme cost inflation pressures at the same time as consumers are facing increased restrictions on their discretionary spending. The extent to which customers can bear higher prices in order to protect already slim profit margins will be critical as businesses navigate their way through what will be testing times over the next 6 to 9 months.” CGA collected sales figures directly from 59 leading companies for the March edition of the Coffer CGA Business Tracker.