Celebrations and Easter holidays boost sales in March

Britain's top hospitality groups achieved above-inflation like-for-like sales growth of 5.2% in March, according to the latest CGA RSM Hospitality Business Tracker.

Many venues saw a boost in trading thanks to events such as Mother's Day and St Patrick's Day, but the high growth metrics were also aided by early Easter bank holiday revenues falling into March, while last year Easter trading took place in April. 

The tracker, produced by CGA by NIQ in partnership with RSM UK, shows that celebrations delivered strong growth for the managed pub sector, where like-for-like sales were up by 7.2% in March. Growth was softer for restaurants at 3.4%, and the on-the-go segment has seen a decline of 5.2%.

While bars recorded a decline of 0.5% in March, this is an improvement on the 13.6% and 7.4% declines seen in January and February respectively, showing the positive impact the early bank holiday celebrations had on the hospitality sector. 

For the first month since November, restaurant, pub and bar groups achieved higher growth outside London than within the capital. March sales inside the M25 were 4% ahead of last year, but ahead by 5.7% beyond it. 

'Cautiously optimistic'

Karl Chessell, director of CGA by NIQ, comments: "These figures are encouraging for hospitality after a slow start to 2024 and show that people remain eager to celebrate holidays and special occasions in restaurants, pubs and bars. While spending remains tight for many consumers, we can be cautiously optimistic that their confidence will continue to increase in 2024 in line with an easing of inflation.

"Operators still face severe headwinds, and it may be some time before they generate sustained real-terms growth, but March showed the sector is moving in the right direction," adds Chessell. 

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