Pubs swifter to open up again as restaurants and London lag behind

Fewer than two thirds of Britain’s licensed premises were trading again by the end of July, and the pattern of reopening has been uneven, with pubs ahead of restaurants and London lagging the rest of England, according to CGA and AlixPartners’ Market Recovery Monitor.

The Market Recovery Monitor reveals that independent businesses have been less likely to reopen than bigger companies, with 52% open at the end of July compared to 75% of group-managed sites.

Overall, 87% of food-led pubs and 84% of high street pubs have reopened. By contrast, just 56% of full-service restaurants and 63% of casual dining restaurants have opened their doors, following moves by several large brands to permanently close sites or undergo Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs).

While more restaurants will have been incentivised to reopen by the government’s VAT cut and Eat Out To Help Out initiative in August, the Monitor’s data suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic may substantially reduce the size of Britain’s casual dining and restaurant market. Bars and sports and social clubs have also seen lower opening numbers.

The Market Recovery Monitor also highlights variations in the reopening of the eating and drinking-out sector from region to region, and significant challenges for London in particular.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of sites are now open in the North East and South West of England, for example—12 percentage points more than in the capital (61%), where a steep fall in office workers and tourists has prompted many businesses to stay closed.

Operating numbers are currently much lower in Scotland and Wales too at 59% and 34% respectively, where the sector’s reopening has lagged behind England.

Across the whole of the British market, nearly 71,000 licensed premises out of a potential of almost 114,500 were trading again by the end of July—62% of the pre-lockdown total.

Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA, said: “This new data makes it clear that hospitality’s road to recovery will be long.

“It is encouraging to see so many pubs back up and running soon after the end of lockdown, but that is in sharp contrast to the casual dining restaurant sector—especially in city centres, where footfall remains well below pre-Covid levels as shoppers, diners and drinkers opt to stay closer to home.

“The Eat Out To Help Out scheme and staycation trend will both hopefully encourage more city and town restaurants to return over August, however, much will now depend on consumer confidence and pandemic restrictions.

“The number one challenge for businesses is to respond to people’s concerns and demonstrate that they can have a safe and enjoyable experience when they go out to eat and drink. If they can achieve that, we can expect to see site and trading numbers increase over the summer and autumn.”

The Market Recovery Monitor has been launched by CGA and AlixPartners to track the openings and closures of Britain’s licensed premises over the second half of 2020 and beyond. It is based on CGA’s exclusive Outlet Index, a constantly updated database of the country’s premises.

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