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Business leaders networking at the Peach 20/20 Conference  

18 Jan 2023

Official: Britain is still going out to eat and drink

The British public threw off their cost-of-living worries in December and went out to eat and drink - with spending in pubs and restaurants well up on the last festive season and just above pre-pandemic levels.

Latest figures from the Coffer CGA Tracker (formerly Coffer Peach) show that like-for-like sales in managed pub, bar and restaurant groups over the month, which of course included both Christmas and New Year, were 1.9% up on 2019 levels and 15% up on the same period last year.

Now you can argue about the effects of inflation on these numbers, but the bottom-line is that the public has not lost the habit of going out, even if domestic budgets are stretched. They might be going out less often, but when they do they are still spending real money.

The relative performances of pubs and restaurants depends on your choice of comparisons. Pubs performed better than restaurants against last year. But restaurant chains, many having disposed of their poorer performing sites, are in a better position compared to 2019 trading with like-for-likes up 4.8% on December 2019, while managed pubs grew sales 1.2% against three years ago. 

Bars did well against last year, but still struggled against 2019 numbers with same store sales down 9%, suggesting perhaps that people still prefer to stay closer to home rather than venture out into city centres.

Some of the uplift will go down to inflation-driven price increases, but the underlying message seems to be one of pent-up consumer demand - and the need to spend time out-of-home with family and friends after COVID. 

Compared to three years ago, trading outside the M25 was strongest, with like-for-likes up 2.6%. But even London, which has been slower to recover and has been hit harder by the rail dispute and the shift to working-from-home and shorter office weeks, saw like-for-likes almost back to pre-pandemic levels, down only 0.4% on 2019. The better news is that the capital was significantly up 23%, even with train strikes, on last year’s disrupted festive season.

Although sales came through higher than many in the sector expected, it’s a stark fact that increased energy, food, drink and people costs will have bitten deeply into how much of that will filter through to the profit line.

Read more and find out how to get access to the full Coffer CGA Tracker report here.

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