Friday 14 May 2021 6:00 am

Pub and restaurant sales bounce back in April ahead of full reopening

Pub and restaurant sales bounced back in April, reaching almost 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in a confidence boost for the sector ahead of its full reopening on Monday.

Managed pub and restaurant groups recorded a 26 per cent drop in like-for-like sales last month compared to April 2019.

The period covers three full weeks of outside-only service in England as well as briefer trading in Scotland and Wales, indicating the level of consumer demand.

Operators enjoyed the benefit of generally good weather and strong consumer confidence in the first fortnight of trading, though low temperatures and rain dampened sales towards the end of the month, according to the latest CGA sales tracker.

The data published this morning shows pubs have outperformed restaurants since reopening, thanks in part to greater availability of outside space.

Pubs’ April sales were 21 per down on April 2019, compared to a 30 per cent drop for restaurants. Bars were the weakest segment, with like-for-like sales down 39 per cent.

On a total sales basis, with the majority of sites still closed, groups saw a 60 per cent drop in April 2021 from April 2019. Restaurants performed better than pubs  on this measure, due to strong delivery and takeaway sales.

“Managed groups made the best they could of trading opportunities in April, amid some tough restrictions and the vagaries of the British spring weather,” said Karl Chessell, who leads on hospitality operators and food at business insight consultancy CGA.

“They have been very resourceful in their use of limited space, and for pubs in particular it has been a good springboard for a fuller reopening from 17 May.

“But the drop in sales of more than half over the last 12 months is a reminder of just how hard the industry has been hit by lockdowns and restrictions. 

“While consumers are eager to get back to hospitality, it is clearly going to be a long and uneven road to recovery, and the sector will need sustained support from government if it is to help reignite the UK economy over the rest of 2021.”