Just one in four licensed venues trading in England after first week of outdoor service

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Just one in four licensed venues trading in England after first week of outdoor service pub restaurant alfresco

Related tags: Alfresco dining, Coronavirus, lockdown

Just under a quarter of England’s licensed premises have reopened for outdoor-only service since restrictions were eased last Monday (12 April), according to latest data from CGA and AlixPartners.

Figures from the Market Recovery Monitor show a total of 20,832 venues were trading again by Thursday 15 April - just 23.2% of England’s 89,953 known licensed sites. 

Reopenings have been more widespread in the pub sector than restaurants, thanks to the wider availability of beer gardens, patios and other outdoor areas.

Four in ten (39.1%) of England’s food pubs have reopened, alongside almost one third of community pubs (31.6%) and high street pubs (29.9%).

Reopening has been more difficult in the restaurant sector, where outdoor trading space is often limited.

Fewer than one in eight (11.8%) sites in the independent-led restaurant segment have opened, though casual dining restaurants (23.5%) have been quicker to return.
By region, openings have been spread quite evenly across the country, reaching a high of 24.4% in central and the east of England, and a low of 21.8% in north England.

All licensed premises in Scotland and Wales remain closed until later this month under devolved lockdown restrictions.

Last Monday marked the first trading day of the year for hospitality venues in England following the extended third national lockdown.

At present businesses are limited to trading outdoors, with indoor settings not able to unlock until 17 May at the earliest.

“With the vast majority of the sector remaining closed until next month’s planned indoor reopening, operators will be hoping that the next phase of Government’s roadmap remains on track," says Graeme Smith, managing director at AlixPartners.

"While reports of strong consumer demand this week are welcome and while operators are driving sales where possible through use of their outside spaces, the stark reality is that this trading represents a small proportion of normal revenues and most will be making a loss.

"Many challenges remain during this reopening phase and the months ahead.” 

CGA data released last week revealed that like-for-like drink sales were up by more than 110% on hospitality's first day of trading (12 April)​ compared to the same day in 2019.

In total, like-for-like sales across the sector were up 58.6% against the same day in 2019, although food sales were down 11.7%.

“The return of outdoor service is a welcome first step on the road to recovery for England’s hospitality sector, and for pubs in particular," says Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA

"Venues that have been able to open have worked hard to give people the eating and drinking out experiences they have missed for so long, but they remain subject to major operational constraints and the unpredictability of the British spring weather.

"Three in four venues in England remain closed, and while some may open over the next few weeks, we will have to wait another four weeks until it is feasible for many hospitality venues to reopen again. Until then, operators deserve support from local authorities to make the most of outdoor trading space—not to mention some sunshine.”

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