Groups’ like-for-like sales in February were 3% higher than in February 2019, according to the Tracker, produced by CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM. This builds momentum from January, when comparative sales were 1% down, and a very challenging December 2021, when the Omicron variant pushed trading 11% below December 2019.
Like-for-like sales in restaurants rose by 9% in February with bars, which benefited from the scrapping of requirements for vaccination passes in late-night venues, recording a 7% growth. Pubs had a tougher month, ending down 1% on the pre-Covid-19 levels of February 2019.
While the growth figures are encouraging, they are depressed by inflationary pressures, says CGA, making real-terms growth elusive. Recent editions of the Consumer Prices Index have shown that inflation is running at 5% to 6% over the past 12 months.
“These figures show managed groups are building momentum after two years of turmoil,” says Karl Chessell, director, hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA.
“Delivery and late-night bars are particularly buoyant at the moment, and underlying demand for hospitality experiences remains strong.
“However, margins are being tightly squeezed by fast-rising costs, and the cost-of-living crisis is likely to dent consumer spending as the year goes on. Some businesses remain extremely vulnerable, and there’s a powerful case for government support on tax and other issues to help them fuel the UK’s post-Covid-19 economic recovery.”
Trading is also struggling to recover in London, the Coffer CGA Business Tracker shows. Managed groups’ like-for-like sales inside the M25 in February were 4% below February 2019, compared to growth of 6% beyond the M25.
“I am hopeful that the overall trading in all sectors will improve, but I am sure we will all be watching the central London statistics very carefully over the next few months. Hopefully, the return of overseas tourists, which is so sorely missed, will have a marked and positive effect,” says David Coffer, chairman at The Coffer Group.
CGA collected sales figures from 62 hospitality companies for the February edition of the Coffer CGA Business Tracker.