Managed pub, restaurant and bar groups in Britain recorded a 26% drop in sales for May 2021, compared with the same month in 2019, according to the latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker.

Restaurants fared better than pubs, with the return of indoor dining in the second half of the month helping to boost sales, which were down 13% on May 2019, compared to pubs which saw a 34% decline.

Bars were the weakest segment with total sales down 38% on the comparable period.

On a like-for-like basis, sales were down only 6% for restaurants, but 22% for pubs and 25% for bars.

“May brought a solid if unspectacular return to inside trading for managed restaurants, pubs and bars,” said Karl Chessell, director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, which produces the tracker in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM.

He said that while the sunny weather helped pubs close the month on a high, social distancing and other trading constraints continued to hamstring the sector.

“While the long-term outlook for the sector remains good, so much now hinges on whether the government sticks to its roadmap to recovery,” he added.

Commenting on the latest figures, Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, said: “A 15% drop in like-for-like sales compared to May 2019 underlines the challenges currently faced by many operators.

“With rumours that the roadmap to reopening the economy could be put back by several weeks, further government support is now needed until social distancing measures are fully lifted.”

Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said it was no surprise that restaurants were coming back faster than pubs and restaurants given the prohibition on vertical drinking.

“The costs of compliance are higher notwithstanding the pressure on labour costs and until we see restrictions lifted, we will see closures increasing. The good news is that the public have shown they want to return to hospitality in increasing numbers and the future once restrictions have gone looks very positive,” he said.