Tuesday 27 July 2021 2:23 pm

Return to pub trumps return to work for Brits in first week since Freedom Day

Freedom Day’s easing of restrictions on 19 July sparked a return to drinking holes and restaurants for more Brits last week than it did a return to the office, according to new data tracking average footfall.

Overall hospitality footfall in the UK now stands at 80 per cent of pre-Covid levels, and the lifting of all trading restrictions on businesses on 19 July caused a spike in customers in most regions across the UK.

Footfall in bars across the country surged last week by an average of 10 per cent, with London bars in the lead as 18 per cent more thirsty city dwellers returned to order at the bar, according to analysis by Wireless Social.

Over-35s were the most keen to return to late-night spots, bars and restaurants to splash their hard-earned lockdown cash, with the biggest increase in footfall (8 per cent), closely followed by the young professional age group of 25-35-year-olds (7 per cent).

Casual dining restaurants across the UK also saw an average increase in footfall of 6 per cent.

“Now that we are seeing consumer confidence levels continue to rise and with the opening up for late night venues, we’re hoping to see footfall not just increase, but start to climb back up to pre-Covid levels,” said Julian Ross, CEO and Founder of Wireless Social, as he warned this would be a gradual process and not an immediate “flick of the switch” for the hospitality industry.

But Brits were a little more reluctant to return to the office after the government’s “work from home if you can” guidance was scrapped.

Offices in the UK were on average 60 per cent occupied last week following “Freedom Day” – a three percent increase on the week before, according to data from smart buildings software platform Metrikus.

But this wasn’t necessarily a sign of reluctance, and was instead very much “business as usual”, said Metrikus’ COO Michael Grant.

“In the UK we’ve seen steady, linear growth in office use since the beginning of February 2021. Every week we watch our index rise between 1.5 and 2 points, with very little variation.

“This should reassure us that the return to offices will be sustainable and lasting – demand hasn’t fluctuated wildly in response to external events.

“Our high last week was 68.2% on the Tuesday, and that’s totally in-line with the six-month trend,” Grant added.

It comes as a record over 600,000 people were “pinged” into self-isolation by the NHS track and trace app last week – which has led to businesses across the country suffering from severe shortages of staff.

The government has since introduced a few isolation exemptions for workers in key sectors, such as food supply and refuse collection, and introduced a daily testing scheme instead.

Hospitality businesses have not been included on the government’s isolation exemption list yet, despite their pleas for help amid severe staff shortages owing to the “pingdemic.”