Restaurants see August boost but healthy like-for-likes 'present artificial market impression'

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurants see EOHO August boost but healthy like-for-likes 'present artificial market impression'

Related tags: Cga, Restaurant, Eat Out To Help Out

Managed pub, restaurant and bar groups saw collective like-for-like sales bounce back up to 2019 levels in August thanks to the Government’s Eat Out To Help Out (EOHO) campaign.

Latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, produced by CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, show that with 85% of group-owned sites reopened, total sales across the whole managed pub, bar and restaurant market were still 12.2% below last August’s levels.

However, like-for-like sales in those businesses trading came out flat, so matching the sales volumes seen this time last year.

The sales further demonstrate the success of the Government's EOHO scheme, which ran throughout August, but there are warnings they give 'an artificial impression of where the market is right now'.

Restaurants enjoyed the biggest boost last month, with group-owned sites that were open seeing collective like-for-like sales up 13.5% on August last year.

However, because only 65% of chain-owned restaurants that were trading back in February were open again, total sales across that part of the market were still down 10.9% on last year.

But while food-led businesses forged ahead, drink-led operations still found trading tough.

Managed pub groups, which between them had 95% of their sites trading, had mixed experience, with like-for-like sales down 3.6% on last August and total sales down 9.4%.

Food-led pubs and pub restaurants prospered on the back of the EOHO incentive, with collective like-for-likes up 5.3% on last August and total sales down just 1.2%.

But in contrast, drink-led pubs saw like-for-likes down 11.0% and total sales down 16.3%.

Across the managed pub market as a whole, food sales were up 12%, with drink sales down 15.3% on last August.

Bar groups, which had 74% of their sites trading, had the worst of the month, with like-for-like sales down 27.6% and total sales down 37.0%.

Regionally, London still struggled over August despite the assistance of EOHO, with many office workers, commuters, tourists and international business travellers still staying away.

Like-for-like sales across pubs, bars and restaurants were down 13.4%, with total sales down 28.1%. In contrast, outside the M25 the market saw like-for-like sales up 3.2% and total sales down just 7.9% on last August.

Underlying annual like-for-like sales for the whole market by the end of August were down 21% on the previous 12 months, with total sales down 31.9%.

"Restaurants have had a good month, and although more were open – 65% against only 36% of group-owned sites in July - it is unclear how many of those still shuttered will eventually trade again, certainly under current ownership, and whether they have missed the boat?” says Karl Chessell, director of CGA.

“While in July pubs tended to have the best of the early weeks of reopening, food was undoubtedly the winner last month. We will have to see if that starts to balance out again in September and if the momentum of Eat Out can be maintained with the Government’s new legal restrictions [banning social gatherings of more than six people] in force."

A total of 51 companies, with between them 8,863 sites open for business, provided data to the August Tracker.

Trevor Watson, executive director of Davis Coffer Lyons, warns that the August figures are very much a one off, and cannot be used to indicate any trends.

"The boost to food-led establishments due to Eat Out to Help Out is short term; the longer-term trend is the re-distribution in trade towards residential districts and away from commercial city centres and London in particular," he says.

"The autumn sees the end of furlough and potentially the end of the moratorium on lease forfeiture.

"These twin threats are the biggest possible challenge to the industry, so although the doors are open to many pubs and restaurants, the market is more unstable than it has ever been.  

"Pictures of people eating out in pub gardens, and healthy looking like-for-likes present a misleading and artificial impression of where the market is right now.”

Related topics: Trends & Reports

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