Britain's managed pub, restaurant and bar groups saw total July sales down 50.4% on July 2019 as the sector re-emerged after lockdown, latest data from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker shows.
All parts of the market recorded trading well below July 2019 levels, but restaurants and bars and the London market struggled most. While pub groups collectively saw total sales down 44.7% over the month, restaurant groups in the tracker cohort were down 59.8% and bars down 63.3%. London trading was down 58.3% in July, with outside the M25 down 48.5%.
Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the tracker in partnership with the Coffer Group and RSM, said: "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, 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."
Overall 76% of the tracker's group-owned sites that were trading in February were open again by the end of July, but while 94% of managed pubs had reopened, just 62% of bars and only 36% of group-operated restaurants were back in business.
Chessell added: "Even before lockdown the casual dining boom had stalled and a number of groups were closing sites and restructuring. 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."
Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: "Despite the fanfare over the 4 July reopening date for hospitality, in reality trade is recovering slowly. The restaurant sector, already under severe pressure pre-Covid has been decimated by the lockdown. The pub sector has proven to be more resilient as expected and is now bouncing back strongly in many areas.
"The August numbers will be helped by more people returning to work, Eat Out to Help Out, and also habits starting to return to usual and so we will see a marked increase in certain areas. Central London, however, still lags the rest of the country."
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, added: "Business interruption support from Government has been critical in saving the UK eating and drinking out sector. Nevertheless, July's results lay bare the challenges that remain for operators. The return of consumer confidence is essential but this could take months. Key support including the rent moratorium and furlough scheme end in the autumn presenting a watershed moment for many.
"Urgent consideration should therefore be given to extending the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act. The end of the Act brings the spectre of directors becoming personally liable for debts if they are found to be trading whilst insolvent from October 1. An extension would give pub and restaurant businesses more time to restructure their finances as sales begin to recover. The current Eat Out to Help Out scheme has given the sector some breathing space but more help is needed if jobs are to be saved."
A total of 49 companies, with between them more than 7,500 sites open for business, provided data to the July tracker.
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