Food & drink sales in Britain’s cities back in growth

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Dining out: Food and drink sales in Britain's major cities build back growth (Getty/ Hinterhaus Productions)
Dining out: Food and drink sales in Britain's major cities build back growth (Getty/ Hinterhaus Productions)

Related tags Finance Food London Manchester Birmingham

Pubs, bars and restaurants in Britain’s major city centres are achieving solid growth in sales from pre-Covid levels, new research from CGA and Wireless Social has revealed.

The joint ‘Top Cities’ report combined CGA’s sales data with device log-in data from Wireless Social, the leading connectivity solutions provider for hospitality and leisure businesses, to provide a ‘vibrancy’ ranking of Britain’s 10 most populous cities over the four weeks to 7 May 2022.

It showed nine of the 10 cities recorded higher sales across the four-week period than in the same period in 2019. Bristol tops the list of most vibrant cities, and sales growth was also above 8% in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.

In the longer run, Manchester and Liverpool have achieved the highest sales growth since the start of the ‘Top Cities’ research in late 2021. These two cities have picked up where they left off before Covid, where CGA research showed hospitality was achieving some of its strongest sales growth and new openings there.

However, log-in volumes in all 10 cities remain well below 2019 – an indication sales growth is being driven by higher spend and increased prices rather than by more frequency.

Tempered by inflation

What’s more, London’s sales remained short of 2019 levels, though with more commuters and tourists returning, the capital is getting closer to growth, the report also revealed.

Optimism about city-centre pubs, bars and restaurants is tempered by high inflation, with costs rising sharply in food, energy, labour and other key areas. Steep price rises are also starting to squeeze some consumers’ spending.

CGA client director Chris Jeffrey said: “After more than two years of turmoil, Britain’s biggest cities are getting back to their pre-Covid vibrancy. We continue to see a release of pent-up demand, especially for late-night dining and drinking, and the steady return of workers to offices has been a welcome boost.

“However, footfall remains some way off what might be expected at this time of year, and Covid issues have been swiftly followed by intense cost pressures on businesses and consumers alike. While the long-term outlook for city-centre hospitality is good, significant challenges lie ahead.”

Capital hit hardest

Wireless Social founder and chief executive Julian Ross believed while it was great to see sales activity ahead of 2019 in some parts of the country, it was “concerning” London had fallen back down the rankings from the growth it experienced last month.

“The shift to flexible working, with the majority of office workers still spending part of the week at home, has hit the capital hardest; but, with summer on the horizon we can all be hopeful that this will drive traffic in major tourist hot spots,” he said.

He added: “In the face of inflation hitting a 40-year high, ongoing price increases and a labour market with a record number of vacancies, the sector is still battling unprecedented challenges and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”

The series of ‘Top Cities: Vibrancy Ranking’ reports is based on a combination of sales data from CGA’s Managed Volume Pool of more than 8,000 pubs, bars and restaurants, and Wireless Social’s guest data gathered from more than one million log-ins.

Britain’s 10 biggest cities, ranked by vibrancy (Rankings for the four weeks to 7 May 2022. Numbers in brackets indicate position for the previous four weeks to 9 April 2022)

1 Bristol (5)
2 Glasgow (1)
3 Birmingham (2)
4 Manchester (3)
5 Leicester (4)
6 Liverpool (6)
7 Leeds (7)
8 Edinburgh (9)
9 Sheffield (10)
10 London (8)

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