Pubs and restaurants outperform bars

Bar chains in Britain were hit with their third consecutive month of declining sales in March, however pubs and restaurants continued to grow.

Data from the CGA RSM Hospitality Business Tracker revealed that like-for-like sales in March for Britain’s managed hospitality groups grew by 5.2%.

Bars were the only segment to decline, reporting a like-for-like sales drop of 0.5%. It was a smaller decrease when compared to February (down 7.4%) and January (down 13.6%).

Pubs delivered strong growth with a sales increase of 7.2% in March, while restaurants reported a gain of 3.4%.

CGA said the sector’s performance was impacted by the early Bank Holiday weekend celebrations and holidays.

Saxon Moseley, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM UK, said: “An early Easter break and the arrival of spring weather gave rise to inflation-beating sales growth in March, with pubs the main beneficiaries as friends and family opted to celebrate in their local establishments.

“After two months of sluggish growth to start the year, operators will be hoping these results represent the green shoots of consumer confidence returning to the market as inflation slows and energy prices fall.”

On-the-go (takeaway) sales reported a 5.2% drop last month.

For the first month since November, restaurant, pub and bar groups achieved higher growth outside London than within the capital. March sales inside the M25 were 4% ahead of last year, but ahead by 5.7% for venues outside of the M25.

Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA by NIQ, added: “These figures are encouraging for hospitality after a slow start to 2024 and show that people remain eager to celebrate holidays and special occasions in restaurants, pubs and bars.

“While spending remains tight for many consumers, we can be cautiously optimistic that their confidence will continue to increase in 2024 in line with an easing of inflation.

“Operators still face severe headwinds, and it may be some time before they generate sustained real-terms growth, but March showed the sector is moving in the right direction.”

Moseley also noted several challenges for the sector in the coming months including minimum wage and rates increases in April, and changes to tipping legislation in July.

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Author: Nicola Carruthers