Covid halves July sales in UK pub, bar and restaurant chains

Mark Sweney
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Hugh R Hastings/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Hugh R Hastings/Getty Images

Sales at pub, restaurant and bar chains halved in July compared to last summer, as almost two-thirds of restaurants remained closed and consumer wariness sparked a surge in home deliveries.

Sales in July were down 50.4% year-on-year, with restaurants worse hit than pubs and London suffering more than the rest of the UK.

Bar sales fell 63%, restaurants 60% and pubs 45%, according to the Coffer Peach business tracker, which collates figures from 49 group-owned and managed companies that run more than 7,500 sites.

“The figures are a reflection of the fact that reopening of sites has been gradual, and not all by any means are back in business,” said Karl Chessell, the director of CGA, the consultancy that produces the data with the Coffer Group and the auditors RSM.

“Plus those that are open are in general trading at well below normal levels. They also paint a mixed picture with pubs tending to open up more strongly than restaurants, and London which was hit earliest still struggling to gain traction.”

London trading was down 58% in July, compared with an average of 48.5% for businesses operating outside the M25 orbital road.

The figures show the restaurant industry has been hardest hit. Only 36% of those trading in February before the pandemic were open again by the end of July. Pubs have bounced back fastest with 94% open, and 62% of bars.

Overall three out of four of the pubs, bars and restaurants across the country are open for business again.

“Even before lockdown the casual dining boom had stalled and a number of groups were closing sites and restructuring,” said Chessell. “The Covid crisis looks to have accelerated that trend, and it is unclear how many of those group-owned restaurants will eventually reopen, certainly under current ownership.”

The public’s continued reluctance to return to old habits of eating out has fuelled a boom in home deliveries, which have more than doubled in popularity since the start of the pandemic. They accounted for 13.1% of sales among casual diners in July, up from 7.4% in March and 5.9% in February.

The takeaway delivery group Just Eat reported a 44% increase in revenues for the first half of the year on Wednesday, with profits up 133% to €177m (£160m). The company handled a 36% increase in orders to 257m.

The CGA research pre-dates the start of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which offers 50% discounts off food and soft drinks, monday-wednesday throughout August, subject to a £10 maximum. The scheme has been welcomed by any businesses for providing a boost to trade.