Cities' food and drink sales back in growth as workers and visitors return
Restaurants, pubs and bars in Britain's major city centres are achieving solid growth in sales from pre-Covid levels, new research shows.
The joint ‘top cities' report combined CGA's sales data with device log-in data from Wireless Social to provide a ‘vibrancy' ranking of Britain's 10 most populous cities over the four weeks to 7 May 2022.
It showed that nine of the 10 cities recorded higher sales over the four-week period than in the same period in 2019. Bristol topped 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 research in late 2021, and the two cities have picked up where they left off before Covid.
However, log-in volumes in all 10 cities remained well below 2019 – an indication that sales growth was being driven by higher spend and increased prices rather than by increased frequency. The report also showed that London's sales remained short of 2019 levels, though with more commuters and tourists returning, the capital was getting closer to growth.
Optimism about city-centre restaurants, pubs and bars was tempered by high inflation, with costs rising sharply in food, energy, labour and other key areas. Steep price rises were 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."
Julian Ross, founder and chief executive of Wireless Social, said: "While it's great to see sales activity ahead of 2019 in some parts of the country, it is concerning that London has fallen back down these 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. 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."