Easter uplift for pubs as restaurant sales plummet

Booze sales in UK pubs saw a strong uplift over the sunny Easter bank holiday, but restaurant sales plummeted nearly 20% compared to last Easter’s figure.

Hands holding glasses with beer on a table at pub in London. A group of friends is enjoying beer time in the city, close up on the glasses.

Pubs and bars saw a 5.3% rise in like-for-like sales over the four-day Easter weekend, with drinks led pubs rising 10.9% on last Easter.

However the overall eating and drinking-out market fell 3.6% over the four-day weekend, as restaurants felt the bite of a later Easter, better weather and strong comparables last year compared to 2017, when the UK was just emerging from the cold snap caused by the ‘Beast from the East’.

This year restaurant chains saw collective like-for-like sales tumble a massive 18.6% compared to Easter 2018.

Karl Chessell, director ofCGAthe business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM said the on-trade cannot escape the major influence weather has on the fortunes of the pub and restaurant sector – and what’s good for pubs is rarely good for restaurants.

“The Easter weekend last year, which fell in March rather than April, was good for trade overall, and particularly restaurants, as although the weather wasn’t stunning, the holiday weekend came in the aftermath of the snow that accompanied the Beast from the East. There was plenty of pent up demand from people wanting to get out, which helped boost sales across the sector by almost 6% against Easter 2017. So although this Easter may have been a bit of a disappointment overall, it was still better than two years ago,” he said.

However, the later Easter did boost April’s sales compared to last year, with managed pub, bar and restaurant like-for-like sales boosted by 2.1% on last year, and restaurant groups seeing a like-for-like decline of only 0.7%. Drink sales in pubs up 2.7%, compared to food, which rose a modest 0.8% on the 2018 figure.

Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure noted that April numbers being down showed the pressure the hospitality sector is under, being reliant on consumer confidence.

“Pubs trade well when consumer confidence is low, but the restaurant sector is also affected by the retail woes we are seeing. This could be a difficult summer whilst we have no resolution to Brexit,” he said.

Meanwhile London saw a fall in like-for-like trading, falling 0.7% on last April, while sales outside the M25 rose 1.7% on a like-for-like basis.

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