GB’s on-trade looks forward to a Merry Christmas as Brits get into the festive spirit

Last year GB’s on-trade saw year-on-year sales growth of 7% over the festive period. If the weather stays mild, 2019 could prove even better for pubs and restaurants.

As the Christmas decorations start to go up across the nation restaurant, pub and bar operators are stocking up for what could prove to be another bumper season for out-of-home food and drink sales, according to data and research agency CGA.

Two-thirds of people (62%) visit the on-trade to eat or drink over Christmas, with half going out more than they would at other times of the year.

Last year the on-trade saw impressive sales growth over the festive period, helped in part by the mild weather and the fact Christmas 2018 fell mid-week, giving consumers two weekends either side of Christmas Day to visit pubs and restaurants.

This helped boost overall sales of food and drink through managed outlets by 7% on the previous year, with sales of food up 4.3%, and drink sales rising 4.7%, according to the annual CGA Christmas Report 2018.

Restaurants proved the most popular destination type, with 70% of consumers going out to a restaurant during December 2018, a rise on the previous year. Some 64% of consumers say they visit pubs over Christmas, while 23% visit bars and 18% attend Christmas markets.

“Mild and ice-free weather and the way Christmas falls are two of the biggest influencing factors on whether consumers choose to eat and drink out of home over the festive period,” commented CGA director Karl Chessell.

“With Christmas Day and Boxing Day again falling mid-week this year, we should see consumers tempted out – although that does depend on the weather and public sentiment following the General Election. A festive sales boost will be a welcome relief to restaurant, pub and bar operators who have experienced a difficult trading year.”

Key days for going out over the festive period are the Friday and Saturday before Christmas – so-called ‘mad Friday’ – and New Year’s Eve. However, on-trade sales data shows that the festive period is beginning to extend to three weeks of celebrations as consumers start going out from the second weekend of December onwards.

Some 66 million visits are made to the on-trade in GB over Christmas with 43% of consumers spending more on drinking out than they normally do and 45% spending more on eating out.

CGA’s Christmas Report 2019 will be available from January 2020 with extensive detail on consumer interaction with the out of home market over the Christmas period, including sales performance. Contact Rachel Weller at to register your interest.

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