May sales slip 26 percent at managed pubs, restaurants and bars

Coffer CGA Business Tracker data
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Britain’s managed pub, restaurant and bar groups recorded a 26 percent drop in total sales in May from the same month in 2019, the new edition of the Coffer CGA Business Tracker reveals.


The data, which is based on sales figures provided by 57 leading consumer brands, encompasses two full weeks of inside service for hospitality operators from 17 May, preceded by a fortnight of outdoor-only trading. The freedom to serve indoors gave a boost to the managed restaurant sector, although ongoing distancing restrictions held down pubs’ sales by more than one third (34 percent) below 2019’s levels. For the second month in a row Bars were the weakest segment with total sales down 38 percent.

On a like-for-like sales basis, groups recorded a 15 percent drop in May 2021 from May 2019 – a modest improvement on April’s figure of – 26 percent. Pubs (down 22 percent) and bars (down 25 percent) were the two worst performers.

While the return of inside service has led to the reopening of the majority of restaurants, pubs and bars, CGA’s research shows that a significant number remain closed. Profitable trading is not yet viable for many operators, and businesses in the late-night sector and parts of Scotland that have faced stricter restrictions in May 2021 remain particularly vulnerable. The Coffer CGA Business Tracker shows that rolling 12- month sales to the end of May were 48 percent below the previous 12 months – a stark reminder of the huge impact COVID-19 has had on hospitality.

Karl Chessel of CGA said: “May brought a solid if unspectacular return to inside trading for managed restaurants, pubs and bars. Sunny weather helped pubs close the month on a high, but distancing and other trading constraints continue to offset those benefits.”

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at consulting company RSM, argued: “A 15 percent drop in like-for-like sales compared to May 2019 underlines the challenges currently faced by many operators. Businesses are desperate to operate at full capacity and will remain unprofitable until allowed to do so. Further government support is now needed until social distancing measures are fully lifted. A targeted extension to the 100 percent business rates relief for leisure and hospitality properties beyond the current end of June deadline will go some way to ensuring that pubs are still in business.”

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