Pubs Leading the Reopening of the Hospitality Sector

Pubs swifter than restaurants to reopen following the lifting of lockdown restrictions with two-thirds of licensed premises back trading by the end of July.  


Around 62% of Britain’s licensed premises are now back to business having reopened by the end of July after months of closure. Following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, almost 71,000 out of a potential 114,500 businesses were back serving their patrons.


Pubs have been ahead of reopening in comparison to restaurants and are leading the way for the reopening of the hospitality sector. Overall, 87% of food-led pubs and 84% of high-street pubs have reopened. By contrast, only 56% of full-service restaurants and 63% of casual dining restaurants have reopened following moves by several large brands to permanently close sites or undergo company voluntary arrangements.


Despite the government’s VAT cut and the Eat Out To Help Out initiative launched in August to tempt diners back to reopened premises, the monitor’s data suggested the pandemic may substantially reduce the size of Britain’s casual dining and restaurant market.


Furthermore, the picture looks uneven when looking at comparing independent licensed premises and those run by larger companies. The Market Recovery Monitor reported a large difference in the rates of reopening, with independent businesses having been less likely to reopen, as 52% were open at the end of July compared to 75% of group-managed sites.


The Market Recovery Monitor also highlights variations in the reopening of the hospitality sector from region to region. London has been slower on the road to reopening, where a steep fall in office workers and tourists has prompted many businesses to stay closed, according to CGA and AlixPartners’ Market Recovery Monitor.


Scotland and Wales also trail at 59% and 34% respectively, with their lockdown measures not being lifted until later than England’s 4th July go-ahead. But, nearly 73% of sites are now open in the North East and South West of England. The South and South East were the regions with the most sites open.


Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA, said: “This new data makes it clear that hospitality’s road to recovery will be long.


“It is encouraging to see so many pubs back up and running soon after the end of lockdown, but that is in sharp contrast to the casual dining restaurant sector—especially in city centres, where footfall remains well below pre-Covid levels as shoppers, diners and drinkers opt to stay closer to home.


“The Eat Out To Help Out scheme and staycation trend will both hopefully encourage more city and town restaurants to return over August, however, much will now depend on consumer confidence and pandemic restrictions.”


He added, “the number one challenge for businesses is to respond to people’s concerns and demonstrate that they can have a safe and enjoyable experience when they go out to eat and drink. If they can achieve that, we can expect to see site and trading numbers increase over the summer and autumn.”


The Market Recovery Monitor has been launched by CGA and AlixPartners to track the openings and closures of Britain’s licensed premises over the second half of 2020 and beyond. It is based on CGA’s exclusive Outlet Index, a constantly updated database of the country’s premises.