Britain’s managed pub and restaurant groups saw total sales drop 72.6% over the festive season, in what should have been the sector’s busiest trading period of the year, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker. Trading figures for the five weeks from 30 November to 3 January showed drink-led managed pubs and bars were worst hit, with total sales down 83.7% and 87.2% respectively on the same period last year. Managed food-led pubs and pub restaurants were down 78.2%, while group-owned restaurants saw total sales drop 57.9%. Regionally, London, which was largely open at the beginning of December, also fared slightly better than the rest of the country with sales down 66.8% on last year, compared with 73.9% down outside the M25. At the beginning of the festive period Tracker figures showed just over half of the country’s managed pubs, bars and restaurants were trading again after November’s lockdown.
By the end of December the number was less than 10%. At the end of December, underlying annual sales for the whole market were down 50.5% on the previous 12 months. “Restaurants had a marginally less miserable time, benefiting from people out Christmas shopping at the start of month and more importantly from delivery business,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM. “Overall in December, delivery accounted for 23% of restaurant chains’ sales. The tier system had already kept pubs and restaurants across large parts of the country closed from the start of the month, but the escalation of measures saw the sector effectively grind to a total standstill by the end of December.” David Coffer, chairman of The Coffer Group, added: “With most operators now unable to create any turnover whatsoever the accrual of debt has become critical. The crucial date will be 31 March when the moratorium for insolvency is removed and many operators will face more than a year of unpaid property outgoings that landlords will be able to aggressively pursue. Similarly, there are debts relating to rates, taxes, VAT, insurance and repayment of business loans. Altogether a tsunami of debt that needs to be dealt with from a standing start. How our sector, and indeed others, manage this predicament will be more than a challenge.” He added: “Customer confidence, cultural changes, unemployment, and lack of spending power will have an impact certainly in the years following.”