Britain’s top hospitality groups generated year-on-year sales growth of 8.8% in December, the latest CGA RSM Hospitality Business Tracker reveals.
The excellent result capped a solid 2023 for managed pubs, bars and restaurants, who collectively achieved like-for-like growth in every month. December’s figure is a sharp increase from 4.0% in November, and more than double the current rate of inflation in the UK, as measured by the Consumer Price Index.
The Tracker—produced by CGA by NIQ in partnership with RSM UK—reveals like-for-like sales growth of 9.6% for pubs in December, while restaurants enjoyed an 8.3% upswing. Bars bounced back from a long run of negative figures with growth of 5.6%. Trading in the On The Go segment—a new segment for the Tracker—was 3.1% ahead.
For the 12th time in the last 13 months, growth in London was higher than elsewhere. Groups’ sales within the M25 in December were 11.2% up on last year, compared to an 8.1% increase outside it.
Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA by NIQ, said, “December’s Tracker numbers show the enduring appeal of pubs, bars and restaurants over the festive season.
“They are a welcome sign that pressure on consumers’ spending may be easing, and the extra revenue is vital to groups as we enter quieter trading months. However, cost and labour issues mean some businesses remain under severe pressure. All operators will need to stay resolutely focused on the fundamentals of great hospitality in order to sustain real-terms growth throughout 2024.”
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM UK, said, “London’s pubs and restaurants emerge as clear winners when it comes to festive trade for 2023.
“In 2022, train strikes sucked demand out of the sector and these like-for-like sales numbers are reflective of the first proper Christmas for operators post-COVID. Restaurants inside the M25 enjoyed like-for-like growth of 11.8% with pubs not far behind at 11.5%. Outside the capital, sales growth for restaurants was positive but more subdued, with like-for-likes up 8%.
“A bumper Christmas doesn’t resolve ongoing challenges for the sector, particularly for smaller independent operators as they struggle to cope with the growing cost of borrowing, energy bills and ingredients.
“The first quarter is always a particularly acute time for the hospitality sector, with lower footfall, quarterly rent payments and higher VAT bills which have already been blamed for the closure of several high-profile restaurants.
“To have navigated the market post-COVID only to fail now is heart-wrenching for these owners and further casualties look inevitable as hikes in national living wages and business rates from April make more businesses unviable.”