It means the Tracker — produced by CGA by NIQ in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM UK — has now been in year-on-year growth for six successive months.
However, March’s rate is the slowest of the first three months of 2023 and substantially below the UK’s current rate of inflation. Pressure on consumer spending, mixed weather and rail strikes all contributed to the challenges facing operators over the month.
“The hospitality industry is not immune to the ‘slowcession’ gripping the nation and these results reflect an industry that is stuck in a rut of modest like for like growth, but way below inflation,” says Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM UK.
“Operators will continue to feel the pinch until persistently high food price inflation begins to retreat but will be hopeful of an uplift in trade in mega-May to reverse this holding pattern of margin erosion.”
Pubs achieved like-for-like sales growth of 2.4% in March, while restaurants were 2.5% ahead of March 2022. The bars segment had a third consecutive month of negative figures, with sales down 13.2%.
The Tracker highlights an ongoing revival in London since the end of Covid-19 restrictions, with trading outpacing the rest of the country. Sales within the M25 were 3.1% ahead year-on-year, compared to 1.2% outside the M25.
“These figures emphasise that trading conditions in hospitality remain challenging and operators have to work hard to grab their share of sales,” says Karl Chessell, director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA by NIQ.
“Consumers’ interest in eating and drinking out remains strong, but after adjustments for inflation it’s clear that in real terms, it is tougher for operators this year than last year.”
Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, adds that while the market remains challenging, there is some optimism among traders.
“Whilst top line growth lags inflation across the board many operators are looking to take advantage of better availability of property to build a selective pipeline of new sites,” he says.
“Much growth in sales is being derived from price increases rather than volume.”