Sales in managed pubs and restaurants were down 26% on a like-for-like basis in April, compared to the same month 2019, however the figures represent a solid return to trading, according to the Coffer CGA Business Tracker.

Given the sales figures cover three full weeks of outside trading only in England, and an even shorter trading period in Scotland and Wales, the numbers were “testimony to the creativity of hospitality”, said Mark Sheehan, managing director, Coffer Corporate Leisure.

The first two weeks of trading saw better weather and strong consumer confidence, however lower temperatures and rain dampened sales towards the end of April.

Pubs outperformed restaurants, due, in part to the greater number of venues which had plentiful outside space. Sales in managed pubs were down 21% lfl, compared to a 30% fall for restaurants. Bars, understandably, were the weakest segment with sales down 39%.

“Managed groups made the best they could of trading opportunities in April, amid some tough restrictions and the vagaries of the British spring weather,” said Karl Chessell, business unit director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA.

Added Sheehan: “The imagination to create outside areas has been inspiring and plays to the strengths of the sector. The support of consumers across the country shows appreciation of the sector generally and operators individually. Undoubtedly there has been pent up demand and it will take some time for businesses to understand where trade levels really are.”

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality, RSM, said: “Many businesses remain in a financially precarious position and are unlikely to be back in profit before 21 June when all Covid-19 related restrictions are finally lifted. Despite these financial pressures, I’ve been amazed by the resourcefulness to seek out new revenue opportunities during lockdown.”

CGA produces the Tracker in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM.