London’s hospitality sector outperforms pre-pandemic trade

The capital’s cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs scooped up £46billion in revenue last year, up from £43bn in 2019, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Rules, London's oldest restaurant
Rules, London’s oldest restaurant

London’s hospitality sector took in more cash last year than pre-pandemic levels, according to data hailed by Sadiq Khan as proof of the industry’s “phenomenal resilience”.

The capital’s cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs scooped up £46billion in revenue last year, up from £43bn in 2019. The London mayor warned however that the sector is still struggling with rising costs and “growing challenges with recruitment”.

The figures, provided to City Hall by trade body UK Hospitality and the consultancy CGA, also showed that sales in London outpaced the rest of the UK. Comparing January-November 2023 with the same eleven months in 2022, the average growth was 7.7% each month in London, and 5.6% nationally.

Separately from the hospitality sector, London’s music industry enjoyed a boost as millions of people attended live music events across the capital.

Three of London’s biggest stadiums welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors at concerts, including more than 225,000 experiencing Beyoncé’s show over five nights at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and 160,000 enjoying The Weeknd at the London Stadium in the Olympic Park.

Harry Styles recorded his highest UK attendance – 320,000 – over four nights at Wembley, and the O2 Arena enjoyed a record-breaking year, with more than 2.5m tickets sold to its events.

The mayor said: “London’s pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants are unrivalled and I’m delighted that they have helped our capital roar back from the impact of the pandemic.

“The success of our world-leading hospitality sector over the last twelve months is alongside some incredible live music events that have brought huge crowds to our capital.

“However, we know much more still needs to be done to protect grassroots live music venues and those hospitality businesses that continue to struggle during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and growing challenges with recruitment.

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“We need [the] government to step-up and do more to appreciate the crucial cultural, economic and social value of these venues and ensure they have the support they need.”

City Hall reported that more than 250 new restaurants opened in London last year, a four per cent increase on 2022.

The British Summer Time (BST) Hyde Park music festival welcomed 555,000 guests across its summer of activity, selling out faster than pre-pandemic.

ABBA Voyage meanwhile attracted over one million visitors in its first year of operation and contributed £177.7m in gross value added (GVA) to London’s economy.

Boxpark – the collection of eateries, bars and entertainment spaces in Shoreditch, Croydon and Wembley – said it made record sales in December 2023, with like-for-like sales up by 2% on December 2022.

Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality’s chief executive, said: “These figures clearly show that hospitality, leisure and tourism remains absolutely critical to London.

“Our venues are somewhere that consumers, both from at home and abroad, prioritise and seek out when they visit, meaning our sector is crucial to maintaining London’s recovery and growth.

“I’m confident this appetite for hospitality and fantastic experiences will continue this year and that it can remain a key driving force behind growth and success in the capital.”

In a recent statement responding to concerns about high costs damaging the hospitality industry, a government spokesperson told the Independent newspaper: “At the Autumn Statement the chancellor announced over £4bn of support for small businesses and the hospitality sector, including 75% business rates relief and freezing alcohol duty rates.

“In 2021 we published the UK’s first hospitality strategy to improve the resilience of the sector and established a hospitality sector council to oversee its delivery. We’re working closely with the industry to tackle the challenges it faces, and we’ll continue helping them to grow and thrive in their local communities.”

They added that the small business multiplier will be frozen at 49.9p for a fourth consecutive year.

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