The Tracker, produced by CGA in partnership with the Coffer Group and RSM, revealed like-for-like sales hit pre-pandemic levels in February, helped by the lifting of all Covid restrictions, however high inflation continued to make real-terms growth elusive.
CGA director hospitality operators and food, EMEA, Karl Chessell said: “These figures show managed groups are building momentum after two years of turmoil.
“Delivery and late-night bars are particularly buoyant at the moment, and underlying demand for hospitality experiences remains strong.
“However, margins are being tightly squeezed by fast-rising costs, and the cost-of-living crisis is likely to dent consumer spending as the year goes on.
“Some businesses remain extremely vulnerable, and there’s a powerful case for Government support on tax and other issues to help them fuel the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery.”
Pubs had the toughest February, with sales down 1% when compared with February 2019 while restaurants and bars enjoyed an increase in like-for-like sales by 9% and 7% respectively.
While the growth figures are encouraging, recent editions of the Consumer Prices Index have shown inflation has been running at 5% to 6% over the last 12 months alone.
RSM head of leisure and hospitality Paul Newman said: “The return to offices as well as an uptick in sales from Valentine’s Day falling on a Monday, typically the most subdued trading day of the week, gave a welcome boost to the hospitality sector in February.
“Despite storms Eunice and Franklin, Brits were keen to make the most of their social plans following the easing of restrictions.
“As the cost-of-living spirals upwards, operators will be hoping consumers continue to favour experiences over “things”, especially as the key elements of Covid-related Government support for the sector are set to fall away in April.”
According to the tracker, trade has been struggling to recover in London with managed groups’ like-for-like sales inside the M25 in February 2022 4% below February 2019, compared to a growth of 6% beyond the M25.
Coffer Group chairman David Coffer said: “There were no surprises in the higher level of February like-for-likes compared to 2019. It seems the market is striving to surge ahead but is held back by external pressures.
“I am hopeful overall trading in all sectors will improve, but I am sure we will all be watching the central London statistics very carefully over the next few months.
“Hopefully, the return of overseas tourists, which is so sorely missed, will have a marked and positive effect.”