The spread of Omicron meant many consumers stayed away from the on-trade in the run up to Christmas with New Year’s Eve only the sixth most lucrative trading day of the month and Saturday 4 December being the most profitable.
While sales across the sector were down 24.4% during December 2021 when compared with the same trading period in 2019, figures were also hit hard in November and pubs were down 35.6% overall against November 2019.
However, sales were in a healthier position than 12 months ago, when a national lockdown in November was followed by the tiering system, with hospitality sales up by 186% when compared to December 2020.
The Top 6 Sales Days in Hospitality in December 2021
- Saturday December 4
- Saturday December 11
- Friday December 10
- Friday December 3
- Saturday December 18
- Friday December 31
Fourth managing director- EMEA, Sebastien Sepierre, said: “The re-introduction of ‘work from home’ guidance, restrictive trading measures and a cautious consumer outlook seriously hampered hospitality’s hopes for a bumper December.
“As the latest Fourth Hospitality Report clearly shows, there is still some way to go to reach pre-pandemic trading and staffing levels.
“However, there are encouraging signs, with staff headcounts in all sub-sectors up on this time last year. Hours worked have been heading in the right direction and businesses are seeing similar levels of productivity to 2019.”
The number of people working in hospitality remained some distance from pre-pandemic levels, which highlighted the significant recruitment challenges the industry has faced, and overall, the hospitality headcount is still behind where it was in December 2019 by 14.8%.
However, the number of those employed in the sector was 18.6% up compared to December 2020 and in December 2021 was the highest it had been since the summer of 2020, when the government introduced the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and furlough was in operation.
The collective hours worked across hospitality were also down 22.9% on December 2019 but up 112.3% compared to 2020, however, productivity in December 2021 was much the same as in December 2019.
Fourth’s Spend Per Labour Hour metric, which calculates productivity by dividing total sales by the total number of hours worked, revealed the Spend Per Labour Hour in December was £26.41, not far behind the £26.75 of 2019, and an improvement on the £19.22 of December 2020.
Sepierre added: “With Covid measures and restrictions set to be lifted and workers returning to offices, businesses can look forward to better conditions to aid their recovery in 2022. With new recruits required and a New Minimum Wage on the horizon they will need to work on ways to attract and retain talent.
“Technology and digital solutions play an important role in helping operators hire, onboard, engage and retain team members. Businesses will ultimately have to be smart with their labour scheduling strategies to ensure consumer demand continues to be met and the guest experience doesn’t suffer.”