TCG reports Christmas and New Year uplift

tattershall castle christmasBar and pub operator TCG has reported strong trading over Christmas and New Year, with an average 7% uplift in turnover across its estate.

The increase followed targeted capital expenditure and promotions linked to occasions such as post-shopping coffees and informal festive dining alongside efforts to make the most of corporate party bookings.

Chief operating officer Nigel Wright said “Our festive performance reflected investment earlier in the year. Corporate bookings, for example, were up thanks to an earlier, more structured drive to secure this business, while several of this year’s capex sites enjoyed massive, even record-breaking, sales over the holiday period.

“We saw significant divergence in the sales uplift, by type of pub, by week and by region. Christmas 2013 was very much a ‘moveable feast’, with the busiest sectors of the market changing as the extended festive season progressed.”

Nigel said there was a definite upturn in consumer confidence this year. “Whether they were in our more aspirational London venues, in young bars, high street or community pubs, there were more people going out to celebrate than there have been for some years – provided they were getting value for money.

“In our food-led businesses in particular, our sales managers did a great job of getting large parties booked in early.”

London venues including Henrys Café Bars in Covent Garden, Piccadilly and West India Quay were very strong. Henry’s Covent Garden set a new record, with sales of more than £125,000 in the week to December 22.

Overall, TCG saw a 10% increase in food sales across the business. New menus launched in November and strong Christmas offers proved “very popular”, Nigel said.

“Formal food bookings peaked on ‘Food Friday’, December 13, although we also saw an upturn in walk-in food sales in the following week to customers meeting friends and colleagues after a shopping trip or for an informal office party. In cities and town centres, trade rose sharply day by day in the run-up to Christmas Day itself.

“As in previous years, the last Friday before Christmas saw many businesses either shut down for the festive season, or employees start an extended holiday, making it by far our biggest Friday of the year for drink sales. Our northern businesses in particular really benefited on this traditional close-down day, although the big sales uplift is starting later in the day each year.

“After ‘Mad Friday’ there was a clear shift towards community local pubs, helped by both high-profile sports-led sessions and ‘family-and-friends’ occasions, with customers typically staying closer to home.”

Among TCG’s community pubs, the Fatling in Hornchuch, Essex, which reopened in November after a £225,000 refurbishment, saw a site sales record of £56,000 during Christmas week.

Nigel added: “It wasn’t all about alcohol though, with the combination of last-minute shopping trips and an early start to sales prompting many shoppers to seek out a reviving hot drink – helped by our new seasonal hot drinks range including flavoured coffees, hot chocolate, mulled wines and cider.

“Young bars were very busy on the key nights for town centres. Venues including Norwegian Blue in Manchester, Off The Wall in Chester, the Corn Exchange in Preston and Squares in Nottingham had some massive days and nights.

“As well as students back home catching up with friends, there were plenty of working singles making the most of the extended break from the office.”

The company’s star performer on New Year’s Eve was the Tattershall Castle floating bar on the Embankment in London (pictured). Offering spectacular views of the Thames firework display, it was fully booked again with record ticket sales this year.

Nigel said: “Overall, our diverse range of businesses offered the very best service levels and festive hospitality, tailored to their specific local markets, which should help to ensure that many people who visited our pubs and bars this Christmas will be back for more in 2014.”

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