GB bar sales down four months in a row

Bar chains in Great Britain reported a double-digit sales drop in April, marking the sector’s fourth month of declines.

By looking at data from 108 chains, the CGA RSM Hospitality Business Tracker revealed that like-for-like sales in April for Britain’s managed hospitality groups dipped by 1.7%.

CGA said this was the first year-on-year drop in monthly sales since September 2022 and a ‘sharp contrast’ with March, when total sales rose by 5.2%.

The biggest decline was seen for bar groups, which plunged by 15.1%. Pub chains reported a drop of 1.5%, but restaurants increased sales slightly by 1.2%. On-the-go sales decreased by 4.2%.

Bar chains suffered their fourth consecutive month of declining sales in April and was the only segment to decrease in March.

CGA noted that last month faced tough comparatives with April 2023, which benefitted from the full Easter holiday.

It also said the slightly weaker sales could suggest drinkers remain cautious about their spending. Weather also had an impact on pub sales as consumers stayed away from beer gardens and terraces, which could have positively affected restaurants, CGA highlighted

Hospitality groups performed better in London than elsewhere, with April sales inside the M25 up by 0.3% on last year, but down by 2.2% in venues outside of the M25.

Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA by NIQ, said: “After 18 consecutive months of year-on-year growth, the hospitality sector had a challenging April.

“It’s a reminder of the very close correlation between the weather and sales, and a sign that some consumers have been saving their eating and drinking out for special occasions and holidays like Easter.

“Brighter weather in May should help to encourage more people out to eat and drink, and the medium to long-term outlook for hospitality remains good – but it’s clear that businesses and consumers alike continue to face some severe cost pressures.”

Saxon Moseley, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM UK, voiced his optimism for the rest of the year with “consumer confidence set to rise” as wages increase and interest rates drop.

He added: “The industry desperately needs a prolonged spell of dry, warm weather as a prelude to a long summer of sporting events, bringing supporters together in their local pubs and bars.”

Despite the recent decline for major hospitality groups, drinks sales in Great Britain’s on-trade returned to growth in May after five weeks of declines, with spirits rising by 5%.

In other bar news, investment group Nightcap is assessing options to acquire sites, subsidiaries, assets or brands from UK-based Revolution Bars Group.

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Author: Nicola Carruthers