Britain’s leading pubs, bars, and restaurant groups reported their fourth month of year-on-year growth in January 2023, up 10.9% on January 2022 and slightly ahead of the 10.1% inflation rate.

The latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker saw hospitality’s best January in three years, as pubs outperformed other sectors with like-for-like sales growth of 12.9% in January while restaurants were up 10.3%. However, sales in the bars segment were down 3.1%.

The tracker has now recorded year-on-year growth for four months in a row, albeit January trading benefits from comparisons with Omicron-related restrictions in early 2022 while higher inflation means sales continue to lag behind pre-pandemic levels in real terms.

Sales within the M25 rose 19.9% while venues outside the M25 saw sales 8.8% up, as the return of office workers and visitors continued to contribute to strong trading in London.

Karl Chessell, director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA by NielsenIQ, said: “These figures show consumers remain eager to eat and drink out despite the mounting pressure on disposable incomes. It’s particularly pleasing to see such a strong bounce back in London, where sales have been hit harder than in other cities by COVID disruption. Optimism for 2023 must be tempered by ongoing concerns about fragile consumer confidence and the debilitating inflation that businesses face in energy, food, labour and other key costs. But while hospitality faces challenges in the months ahead, it remains a dynamic sector with a bright long-term future.”

Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “These numbers are despite train strikes hitting trade severely. Consumers and workers have worked around strikes and trade is shown resilience. Like-for-likes are still difficult, but consumers continue to return to eating and drinking out despite economic pressures.”

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM UK, said: “After 15 consecutive months of like-for-like sales growth failing to beat inflation, these results represent a significant turning point for the sector even if the comparative period was somewhat subdued due to omicron concerns. This growth underscores the resourcefulness of operators to adapt their January offering to cater to the increasingly popular Veganuary and Dry January campaigns, whilst managing the well-versed cost pressures that the sector is facing. These results will be a welcome confidence booster to an industry that has been in desperate need of some good news and will hopefully herald the start of a sustained period of stronger trading.”