Renewed restrictions to combat Covid-19 threaten the fragile recovery of Britain’s pubs, bars and restaurants and thousands of jobs, according to a survey.
Sales at managed bars and eateries rose 2% in November compared with two years earlier, the Coffer CGA business tracker showed. Pubs and bars recorded 3% growth and restaurant takings rose 2%.
November was the fourth month in a row that sales exceeded pre-pandemic levels after the hospitality sector was allowed to reopen in July. But growth slowed from 8% in September and 3% in November and was well below the rate of inflation, which exceeds 4%.
The government has announced “plan B” restrictions to limit the spread of Covid-19 with the Omicron variant taking hold. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told people on Wednesday to work from home if possible and floated the idea of more compulsion to encourage people to be vaccinated.
Rising costs of food, drink and energy had already put operators’ margins under strain and added to problems with supplies and staff shortages. Many venues are still struggling after extended lockdowns and are relying on Christmas trade to shore up their finances.
CGA said Johnsons’s restrictions would dent confidence and threaten the future of thousands of barely coping businesses and jobs.
Karl Chessell, CGA’s director for hospitality and food, said: “November’s sales figures demonstrate the resilience of managed groups in the face of ferocious headwinds. They have battled hard to shore up sales ever since their venues reopened in the spring, but the new Covid-19 variant adds yet another threat to trading in the most important month of the year.”
CGA’s warning for pubs and restaurants follows a gloomy assessment of the impact of plan B on UK shops. Springboard said on Thursday the measures would be a “hammer blow” to high streets, causing London footfall to halve from 2019 levels.