UK bar sales rose 5.6% in December

Sales in UK bars bounced back in December 2023 after a ‘long run of negative figures’, but they remained behind pubs and restaurants.

The latest CGA RSM Hospitality Business Tracker found that sales for Britain’s managed pubs, bars and restaurants were up by 8.8% last month, compared to December 2022.

Within this, pubs had the highest sales growth (9.6%), with restaurants (8.3%) and bars (5.6%) following.

CGA said December’s 8.8% figure for bars, pubs and restaurants is a sharp increase from 4% in November.

The news comes as a relief for the sector, which has dealt with costly rail strikes over the festive season, and seen licensed venue numbers in Britain drop below 100,000 last year, while pub and bar closures in Scotland also hit ‘record numbers’.

However, while positive, UK Hospitality acknowledged that this was still the ‘bare minimum’ needed for venues to survive. It said the improved sales performance is unlikely to be enough to cover increased operating costs.

Chief executive of UKHospitality, Kate Nicholls, commented: “I’m pleased that pubs, restaurants and bars all saw sales growth of at least 5% compared to 2022, but in reality this was the bare minimum they needed to keep up with extremely challenging trading conditions.

“As we’re now heading through the quieter winter months, these results will help many to keep going but I would urge the public to support their local venues. If we don’t use these valuable community assets, we will lose them for good.”

The environment in the UK for venues to operate successfully is becoming increasingly difficult, especially after the UK government announced the biggest alcohol tax hike the industry has seen in 50 years.

Although the hike has been frozen, until 1 August 2024, Nicholls is urging the government to support the sector.

She added: “There is a critical role for the government to play in supporting the sector this year, as closures continue to mount.

“We are urging them to act by capping the planned business rates hike in April and reducing the rate of VAT for hospitality, leisure and tourism, to the benefit of businesses, consumers and the economy.”

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Author: Rupert Hohwieler