Collective like-for-like sales tumbled 57.6% in March amongst the pub, restaurant and bar sector as the nationwide lockdown began, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker.
According to its data, the entire sector was “hit hard”, with a slowdown in sales, which started in February, continuing over the first two weeks of March before the lockdown announcement later in the month.
Managed pub operators reported a 57.8% decline in like-for-like trading against the year orior, whileh restaurant groups and bars saw a decline of 56.2% 60%, respectively.
London trading was down 60.4%, while trading outside of the capital was down 56.8%.
Karl Chessell, director of CGA, who produced the tracker, said: “The drop in sales that began in February and escalated in the next month, meant that even by the end of March, the eating and drinking out sector had fallen into a year-on-year decline.
“With shutdown wiping out April sales, apart from a small amount of delivery income, and May likely to be the same, the devastating effect on the market is self-evident.”
He added: “Even if there is an early easing of restrictions, which is far from certain, reopening of the market will almost certainly be phased and gradual.
“We are looking at a substantial loss of revenue right across the sector.”
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, who helped to produce the tracker, said: “These latest results simply underline what we already know: that the eating and drinking out sector has been at the coalface of Covid-19 disruption.
“There has been tremendous support from the government but more still needs to be done to protect the 3.2 million jobs of those who work in the sector.”
He added: “Great uncertainty remains not only as to the extent of the current shutdown, but also as to what the lifting of lockdown might look like.
“More support is needed with property-related costs and this includes support for landlords themselves who remain liable to pay business rates for empty sites.”
The tracker noted that delivery accounted for 7.4% of sales among casual dining groups in the period, up from 5.5% in January, however.
Chessell added: “Although there has been growth in delivery and there is plenty of evidence to suggest more consumers are turning to delivered food during the lockdown, the picture is patchy.
“As well as more companies establishing delivery options, there are also a number of major players that have closed down their delivery businesses altogether for safety reasons.”