Nine out of Britain’s 10 biggest cities recorded higher sales in pubs, bars, and restaurants over the four weeks to 7 May compared with the same period in 2019, according to data from CGA and Wireless Social.
Bristol tops the list of most vibrant cities, up from position number five, with Manchester, Birmingham, and Glasgow also achieving sales growth of more than 8%, its latest Top Cities: Vibrancy Ranking report shows.
In the longer run, Manchester and Liverpool have achieved the highest sales growth since the start of the research in late 2021. These two cities have picked up where they left off before Covid-19 thanks to strong sales growth and new openings.
In London, however, sales remain below 2109 levels.
“While it’s great to see sales activity ahead of 2019 in some parts of the country, it is concerning that London has fallen back down these rankings from the growth it experienced last month,” says Julian Ross, founder and CEO of Wireless Social.
“The shift to flexible working, with the majority of office workers still spending part of the week at home, has hit the capital hardest; but, with summer on the horizon we can all be hopeful that this will drive traffic in major tourist hot spots.”
Device log-in volumes still remain well below 2019, indicating sales growth is driven by higher spend and increased prices instead of higher frequency.
“We continue to see a release of pent-up demand, especially for late-night dining and drinking, and the steady return of workers to offices has been a welcome boost,” says CGA client director Chris Jeffrey.
“However, footfall remains some way off what might be expected at this time of year, and Covid issues have been swiftly followed by intense cost pressures on businesses and consumers alike.”
Optimism about city-centre restaurants, pubs and bars is being tempered by high inflation, with costs rising sharply in food, energy, labour and other key areas. Price rises are also starting to impact on consumer spending.
“In the face of inflation hitting a 40-year high, ongoing price increases and a labour market with a record number of vacancies, the sector is still battling unprecedented challenges and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” adds Ross.