Restaurant and pub sales soar as UK economy reopens

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/04/12: A couple raises their pints of beer on a warm sunny morning in a beer garden of a pub in London.
According to the Met Office, warm weather is forecasted for the next few days in the south east of England. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
While British pubs reopened on 12 April, albeit only to outdoor beer gardens, they were able to welcome customers back for an indoor pint on Monday. Photo: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Britain's economy is firing on all cylinders as it emerges out of the coronavirus lockdown as consumers splash the cash, according to figures charting the UK's rush for the first socially distanced indoor dining and drinking.

Sales at hospitality venues soared this week as more UK restaurants and pubs resumed trading on Monday under the third step in prime minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown.

According to research by Dojo, 23% more restaurants were able to reopen on 17 May, compared to a week ago, with spending increasing 40% in comparison to last Monday. Spend was also 12% higher than an average Monday in July last year.

While British pubs reopened on 12 April, albeit only to outdoor beer gardens, they were able to welcome customers back for an indoor pint on Monday.

This meant, 67% more pubs were able to start trading after being shuttered for five months. As a result, pub spend levels quadrupled compared to a typical Monday trading, and was up 30% compared to July 2020, Dojo says.

"Hospitality has taken a big hit during lockdown and it’s great to now see restrictions slowly lift," said Jon Knott, head of customer insights at Dojo. "The data highlights just how many venues across the UK have not been able to seat customers outside, and so now they have the opportunity to welcome people back, potentially at full capacity."

Read more: Economy reopening lifts UK private sector to 23-year high

Meanwhile, Britain's private sector grew at its fastest pace in over two decades in May as the reopening of the economy drove business confidence to a record high.

IHS Markit/CIPS Flash UK Composite PMI data showed on Friday that its measure of private sector growth hit the highest since the index began in 1998, with hotels, restaurants and other consumer-facing services posting the strongest demand.

This lifted IHS Markit’s purchasing managers index (PMI) to 62 in May, from 60.7 in April this year.

Service sector firms reported a jump in activity in May as vaccinations speed up and lockdown eases.

The reading for the UK's biggest sector — services, which has been hammered by the coronavirus crisis, rose to 61.8 from April’s 59.2, the highest rise since 2013.

It came as separate figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the volume of goods sold in shops and online soared 9.2% in April, beating analysts' expectations as non-essential retail reopened.

Compared with April 2020, during the first national lockdown, sales were up 43%, according to the ONS. Sales were also 9.9% higher than the last month of trading before the pandemic hit.

Another report showed consumer confidence jumped in May to levels last seen before the original lockdown in March 2020.

The GfK Consumer Confidence Index improved to -9 in May from -15 in April, the highest since March 2020.

"The financial mood of the nation has bounced back to its pre-lockdown figure of minus 9 this month, meaning confidence has made up all the ground lost to COVID-19," said Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK.

GFK’s gauge of optimism about the economic outlook over the next 12 months jumped by 15 percentage points.

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