In the wake of the third national lockdown, pent-up demand for pubs and bars has meant that drinks sales increased exponentially on the first day of trading. It is reported that alcohol sales in the hospitality sector soared by more than 110% in many areas. One pub landlord likened the demand to “Christmas trading”.
According to CGA data, bars and restaurants that did re-open on Monday saw like-for-like sales rise by 58.6% against the same day in 2019. Jonny Jones, the managing director for CGA UK & Ireland, commented: “The first day of trading after England’s lockdown showed a fairly solid performance and demonstrates how consumers were keen to enjoy their first drink out”.
Unfortunately, this new apex did not extend to food sales, with trade decreasing by 11.7%. This can presumably be explained by the lack of indoor seating, which has adversely affected the likelihood of customers extending their visits to eat. Businesses are currently limited to outside seating, but this is due to change on May 17th when indoor hospitality is to become viable once more as per the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
These figures are cautiously positive and will lead to more optimistic speculation as to the recovery of the hospitality industry. However, it is worth remembering that only around 41,100 venues have outdoor space that either predates the pandemic or has been acquired in the wake of it.
Furthermore, even pubs with outside space are operating in a limited capacity. Emma McClarkin, the CEO of the British Beer and Pub Association, has reminded us that “even though they seem full, the reality is pubs are operating with just 20% of the space they’d usually have… It is, for this reason, we need pubs to open indoors and out as soon as possible and the restrictions to be removed to allow us a chance at trading viably”.
This is the point that Sacha Lord, night-time economy advisor for Greater Manchester, and hospitality entrepreneur Hugh Osmond, have made in their challenge to the government’s current roadmap out of lockdown. You can read the full story of their High Court challenge here.
Nevertheless, these figures are great news for an industry starved of positivity over the past year. People going out to support local businesses, in whatever way they can, is always good news.
Words by Rebecca Clayton