Pub, restaurant and bar sales plummeted by almost three quarters in December as escalating restrictions made it a “dreadful” Christmas for hospitality firms, according to new figures.
The Coffer Peach business tracker of sales across hospitality groups revealed that total sales dived by 72.6% over the festive period, typically the sector’s busiest time of the year.
The figures – which are compiled by consultancy CGA, industry advisers The Coffer Group and finance firm RSM – showed that bars were particularly hard hit by restrictions which thwarted Christmas parties and large gatherings.
Sales in bars dived by 87.2% against the same period last year.
The five-week Christmas period started with a week of lockdown in England before venues were able to reopen with tiered restrictions, although the vast majority of venues were in Tiers 3 and 4, and therefore forced to close their doors, by the end of the period.
Drink-led pubs were also heavily impacted by restrictions, with sales plunging by 83.7%.
Food-led pubs reported a 78.2% sales slump for the period, while restaurant groups were the most resilient as sales fell by 57.9%.
Karl Chessell, director at CGA, said restaurant chains had a “marginally less miserable time” as they benefitted from Christmas shoppers at the start of the month and stronger delivery sales.
The data revealed that around 23% of restaurant group sales came from deliveries during the period.
David Coffer, chairman of The Coffer Group, said: “It doesn’t need a genius to work out why these dreadful trading figures have materialised.
“The big question is how do we come out of the spin? With most operators now unable to create any turnover whatsoever the accrual of debt has become critical.
“The crucial date will be March 31 when the moratorium for insolvency is removed and many operators will face over a year of unpaid property outgoings which landlords will be able to aggressively pursue.
“Altogether a tsunami of debt which needs to be dealt with from a standing start.”
The latest figures showed that London-based companies fared slightly better than the rest of the country with sales down 66.8% on last year, compared to 73.9% down outside of the M25.
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, said: “December’s results lay bare the stark reality facing the hospitality sector.
“The Government’s tier restrictions led to most sites shuttering early in the month, compounding pressure on costs with operators already committed to serious outlays with suppliers to meet anticipated festive demand.
“With new year lockdown measures unlikely to be lifted before Easter – in an optimistic scenario – the hospitality industry is left facing its greatest challenge yet.”