The most recent edition of the tracker, which is produced by CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM revealed total groups’ sales in the first month of 2022 were 3% higher than January 2019.
This was up on December figures when Covid-19 rules were in place and sales slumped by 11% below two years previously.
Pubs were up by 2% and restaurants saw the strongest performing growth with 4% however, bar sales fell by 3% as the requirement for vaccination passes and lingering concerns about crowded venues dented late-night visits.
Furthermore, continuing the trend of recent months, trade in London was weaker than elsewhere with sales outside of the M25 up 6% of January 2019 but within the motorway, it was a drop of 8%, as a result of office workers and tourists slow to return to the capital.
CGA director of hospitality operators and food EMEA Karl Chessell said: “After a bleak December for managed groups, January brought a reasonable revival.
“Growth for restaurants was particularly encouraging, and the challenging London and late-night markets should hopefully pick up as people return to offices and COVID-19 restrictions wind down.
“However, it’s important to note that sales growth remains below inflation. With some businesses vulnerable after a tough end to 2021, and consumers facing mounting costs of living, hospitality’s road to recovery still has a long way to run.”
January saw a steady improvement throughout from a slow start, according to Coffer Corporate Leisure managing director Mark Sheehan.
He said: “It was only on 25 January the Government stopped guidance to work from home where possible.
“As working habits return closer to normal, we expect to see eating and drinking out to rebound steadily.
“London and other city centres are seeing very good numbers [and] there is cautious optimism for the sector.”
January’s bounce back from a disappointing December makes an “encouraging start to the new financial year” said RSM head of leisure and hospitality Paul Newman.
He added: “With trading restrictions finally lifted and the Omicron variant easing, customer footfall numbers and card spending are getting stronger week by week.
“The sector is not without its challenges as Covid-19 reliefs begin to fall away but there is a strong sense of optimism among many operators, particularly around the return of office workers and tourists to city centres.
“We expect to see further consolidation in the sector over the coming months, led by a number of well capitalised larger groups, looking to grow their estates and take advantage of the resurgence of demand in the pub and casual dining sectors.”