The latest edition of the Tracker, produced by CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, shows groups’ total sales in the first month of 2022 were 3% higher than in January 2019. It represents a solid recovery from December, when varying Covid-19 measures were in place across the country and sales fell 11% below the levels of 2019.
Restaurants were the strongest performing segment of the market in January, recording 4% growth on January 2019, while pubs were up 2%. However, bars saw sales slip 3%, as the requirement for vaccination passes and lingering concerns about crowded venues dented late-night visits.
“After a bleak December for managed groups, January brought a reasonable revival,” says Karl Chessell, director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA.
“Growth for restaurants was particularly encouraging, and the challenging London and late-night markets should hopefully pick up as people return to offices and Covid-19 restrictions wind down. However, it’s important to note that sales growth remains below inflation.
“With some businesses vulnerable after a tough end to 2021, and consumers facing mounting costs of living, hospitality’s road to recovery still has a long way to run.”
Continuing the pattern of recent months, trading was significantly weaker in London than elsewhere in Britain. Sales beyond the M25 were up by 6% on January 2019, but they dipped 8% within it, with office workers and tourists slow to return to the capital.
“January’s bounce back after the disappointment of December sees the sector make an encouraging start to the new financial year,” Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM.
“With trading restrictions finally lifted and the Omicron variant easing, customer footfall numbers and card spending are getting stronger week by week. The sector is not without its challenges as Covid-19 reliefs begin to fall away but there is a strong sense of optimism among many operators, particularly around the return of office workers and tourists to city centres.
“We expect to see further consolidation in the sector over the coming months, led by a number of well capitalised larger groups looking to grow their estates and take advantage of the resurgence of demand in the pub and casual dining sectors.”