Festive freefall sees pub and bar takings plummet by more than 80%

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Seasonal standstill: 'the escalation of measures saw the sector effectively grind to a total standstill by the end of December, even before January’s return to complete lockdown,' Karl Chessell, director of CGA, said
Seasonal standstill: 'the escalation of measures saw the sector effectively grind to a total standstill by the end of December, even before January’s return to complete lockdown,' Karl Chessell, director of CGA, said

Related tags: Christmas, Finance, Food, Drink, Pubs, Coronavirus

The latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker has revealed the dire consequences of December’s Covid restrictions and enforced closures for hospitality sales.

Figures for the five weeks from 30 November to 3 January found drink-led managed pubs and bars were hardest hit by seasonal restrictions – with respective sales dropping 83.7% and 87.2% versus Christmas 2019. 

What’s more, managed food-led pubs and pub restaurants saw trading in a 78.2% tailspin, while group-owned restaurants saw takings plummet by 57.9%.

Collectively, Britain’s managed pub and restaurant groups saw total sales drop by 72.6% over the festive period. 

Regionally, London, which was largely open at the beginning of the festive period before venues were forced to close under tier three measures on 16 December, fared slightly better than the rest of the country, with sales down 66.8% year-on-year compared to a 73.9% nosedive outside of the M25.

While tracker figures showed just over half of the country’s managed pubs, bars and restaurants resumed trading after November’s lockdown, by the end of December fewer than one-in-10 were operational.

Consequently, at the end of December, underlying annual sales for the whole market were down by half (50.5%) versus the previous 12 months. 

Sector ‘standstill’ 

News of hospitality’s festive freefall comes after the British Beer & Pub Association warned that seasonal restrictions would yield the quietest Christmas on record for pubs with 39m fewer pints and 5m fewer Christmas dinners​ forecast to be sold amid December's pandemic measures.

What’s more, according to an October Hospitality Leaders poll​ – carried out by Lumina Intelligence on behalf of The Morning Advertiser​, MCA Insight​, Big Hospitality​ and Restaurant Magazine​ – two thirds (64%) of operators were in favour of an autumn lockdown in order to give venues the best chance of welcoming revellers over the Christmas period. 

“Hopes that Christmas and New Year would help at least part of the market recoup a little of the income lost earlier in 2020 were dashed when the Government started to impose increasingly severe tier restrictions across England in the run-up to the Christmas break, with further prohibitions for new year, on top of the restrictions in place in Scotland and Wales,” according to Karl Chessell, director of CGA – the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker in partnership with the Coffer Group and RSM. 

“The tier system had already kept pubs and restaurants across large parts of the country closed from the start of the month, but the escalation of measures saw the sector effectively grind to a total standstill by the end of December, even before January’s return to complete lockdown.”

Related topics: Beer

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