The figure encompasses two full weeks of inside service for hospitality operators from 17 May, preceded by a fortnight of outdoor-only trading.
Freedom to serve indoors gave a boost to the managed restaurant sector, where total sales were down 13% on May 2019. However, ongoing distancing restrictions held down pubs’ sales at 34% below 2019’s levels, despite a sunny Bank Holiday weekend helping them to end May strongly.
Bars were the weakest segment for the second month in a row, with total sales down 38%.
“May brought a solid if unspectacular return to inside trading for managed restaurants, pubs and bars,” says Karl Chessell, director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA.
“Consumers have been eager to get back inside restaurants, and sunny weather helped pubs close the month on a high, but distancing and other trading constraints continue to offset those benefits.
"While the long-term outlook for the sector remains good, so much now hinges on whether the government sticks to its roadmap to recovery. Any delay to the removal of restrictions from 21 June would badly set back hospitality’s fragile recovery just as it starts.”
On a like-for-like sales basis, groups recorded a 15% drop in May 2021 from May 2019 — a modest improvement on April’s figure of minus 26%. Restaurants were down only 6%, but pubs (down 22%) and bars (down 25%) again lagged behind on this measure.
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% below the previous 12 months; a reminder of the huge toll that the Covid-19 has taken on hospitality.
“This is a critical period for the sector. Not surprisingly restaurants are coming back faster than pubs and bars given the prohibition on vertical drinking," says Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure.
"Hospitality is fighting for survival. The costs of compliance are higher notwithstanding the pressure on labour costs and until we see restrictions lifted we will see closures increasing.
"The good news is that the public have shown they want to return to hospitality in increasing numbers and the future once restrictions have gone looks very positive.”
A total of 57 companies provided data to the latest edition of the Coffer CGA Business Tracker.