New research shows cities in the north of England remain vibrant places to eat and drink out despite the impacts of multiple challenges including COVID-19, the costs crisis and rail strikes.
The ‘State of the North’ research from Northern Restaurant & Bar and CGA by NIQ reveals that restaurant and bar sales growth since 2019 has been ahead of the GB average of 4.1% in most key northern cities. Average sales per venue in York were 16.0% higher in 2022 than in 2019, and growth in Newcastle (14.2%), Chester (10.5%) and Manchester (6.9%), also outstripped most cities—including London, where sales dropped by 6.5% vs 2019. CGA’s Outlet Index data meanwhile indicates the resilience of the hospitality sector in northern cities, despite the turmoil of COVID-19 lockdowns and trading restrictions. While there has been a net decline of 15.8% in Britain’s restaurants and bars since 2019, the drop has been less than half that in northern cities including Liverpool (-2.4%), Newcastle (-5.8%), Chester (-5.8%), Manchester (-6.3%) and Sheffield (-7.9%). These figures are all substantially better than London, where there has been a net decline of 17.7% of pre-COVID-19 licensed premises The research confirms the dynamism and innovation of hospitality in northern England, from both established groups and entrepreneurial start-ups. “Hospitality operators in cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle have suffered just like the whole hospitality sector, with huge issues around the cost of utility prices, food inflation, and staffing issues,” says Northern Restaurant & Bar group event director Chris Brazier. “While challenges remain, it’s encouraging to see operators being innovative and looking to the future. It offers a much-needed burst of positivity to see so many new concepts, sites and launches, and to see discerning but happy consumers flooding through the doors.” Karl Chessell, CGA’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “These figures emphasise the strength of the restaurant, pub and bar scene in the north of England. Businesses here have dealt superbly with the triple whammy of COVID-19 restrictions, high inflation and rail strikes, and consumers clearly remain as attracted to venues as ever despite the pressure on their disposable incomes. Hospitality makes an enormous contribution to local economies, and while there are some major challenges ahead, with the right support this sector can power Britain’s economic recovery in the years to come.”