A rush to drink and eat out at British pubs and restaurants has led to a surge in spending since coronavirus rules were relaxed further on Monday, allowing indoor dining for the first time in months.
According to data from Barclaycard, revenues across the hospitality sector jumped 43% this week from the week before, after restrictions were lifted in England, Wales and Scotland.
A desire to return to dining and drinking indoors, boosted by the chilly weather seen over much of the past month, has even pushed hospitality spending above pre-pandemic levels, up 8.6% on the same week in 2019.
Pubs and bars recorded the biggest surge in spending this week, up 162% in transaction values compared with the previous week, while restaurants posted a 58% increase in the total amount spent.
The Office for National Statistics also reported a steep rise in restaurant bookings. It said figures from the booking website OpenTable show that reservations in the week to 17 May rose to 73% of their level two years ago.
The pub company Young’s, which also owns Burger Shack, said customers had flocked back. Young’s reported a £44m pre-tax loss for last year but revenues for the last five weeks recovered to 85% of 2019 levels, even though only 144 of its 210 pubs reopened on 12 April, with another 18 reopening before 17 May. It spent £1.1m before the winter adding new huts, stretch tents, furniture and heaters to cater for customers outdoors.
While some regions are ahead of 2019, fewer Young’s pubs have reopened in central London and the City, and customer numbers have not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Young’s chief executive, Patrick Dardis, expects the business to get back to pre-Covid levels of trade and profit margins by the end of June, assuming the economy reopens fully by 21 June, as planned under the government’s current roadmap.
Rob Cameron, the chief executive of Barclaycard Payments, said: “The reopening of indoor hospitality venues has brought the welcome sound of ringing tills to restaurants, pubs and bars across the country. I’m delighted to see that transaction values have even risen above 2019 levels, thanks to our pent-up demand for going out to spend time with friends and family.”
Barclaycard says the majority of venues that take bookings expect that customers will need to book at least five days in advance to reserve a table this summer. Small businesses have invested an average of £5,551 each to become Covid-secure for their reopening, including installing extra outdoor seating.
In advance of the indoor reopening, bars, cafes and restaurants took on more staff. Online ads placed by catering and hospitality firms last Friday rose to 115% of their February 2020 average level, up from 103% the previous week, the ONS reported, citing data from Adzuna.
Online job vacancies have risen across all sectors, but transport and logistics firms are hiring the most, with ads jumping to 254% of pre-pandemic levels, while wholesale and retail vacancies reached 105%. Overall, UK online job ads rose to 114% of their February 2020 average last Friday, up from 106% the previous week.