Britain's managed pub and restaurant groups saw sales wiped out in November as lockdown hit in England and tough trading restrictions continued in Scotland and Wales.
According to data from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, drink-led managed pubs were badly affected, with total sales for the month 88.8% down on November last year, with bar operators down 90.2%.
Group-owned restaurants faired marginally better, as some were able to rely on delivery business, but still saw total sales tumble 65.9% against the same month in 2019. Total sales in food-led pubs were down 85%. Across the market as a whole, total sales were 79% below November 2019.
Lockdown in England came into force on 5 November, closing all licensed premises, and carried on throughout the month. With only limited opening permitted in Scotland and Wales, by the last week of November just 6% of Britain's managed pubs and restaurants were trading, with weekly sales down 88% across the market and trading in drink-led sites almost non-existent.
Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with the Coffer Group and RSM, said: "November was a wipe out for the sector, and came on the back of difficult trading in both September and October as the roll-out of more regional Covid-19 restrictions depressed sales.
"Although August with the Eat Out to Help Out initiative saw healthy sales in food-led businesses, since then trading has become progressively harder. Total sales for the sector were 21% below 2019 levels in September and 33.9% down in October before hitting the buffers last month. With half the country still in effective lockdown in Tier 3, and severe limits on trading in the other half in Tier 2, it is hard to see the sector finding much to celebrate in the run up to Christmas, always the market's most important sales period."
At the end of November, underlying annual like-for-like sales for the whole market were down 43.7% on the previous 12 months.
Trevor Watson, executive director, valuations, Davis Coffer Lyons, said: "November was another complete write-off for most operators. Sadly, with effectively the whole country in Tier 2 or 3 for the first half of December at least, prospects for a reasonable bounce-back in the most important month of the year are very weak indeed. The prospects for any loosening of trading restrictions in key markets such as London and other major cities look poor.
"Operators must resign themselves to very difficult conditions for the next few months, with the restrictions on household mixing and the need for substantial meals doing immeasurable harm to wet-led trade, which is the heart and soul of so many communities. We hope and pray this Christmas that vaccine progress will soon enable the politicians to swing their policies in favour of saving the economy as well as saving lives."
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality, RSM, said: "It's difficult to put into words the impact of November's national lockdown when so many hospitality businesses are looking for a silver lining to one of the worst years on record. With growing unrest within the Tory party, it's clear the government is becoming more divided when it comes to the stricter measures within tiers.
"The negative impact on one of the countries key sectors has become too much to bear for many and further material support is desperately needed. With the Bank of England reporting that excess savings of £100b have been built up by UK households during Covid-19 lockdowns, the sector will be hoping that the start of the vaccine roll-out will release pent up demand in pubs and restaurants that are able to open over the festive period."