Sales in the contract catering sector were nearly halved in the first quarter of 2021, the new Contract Caterer Tracker service from CGA reveals.
The Tracker showed total sales were down by 45% on the first three months of 2020. The drop in sales was in line with a sharp fall in the number of people using contract-catered venues in businesses, leisure, education and other sectors in 2021.
The number of units open for service in the first quarter of 2021 was down by 18% on 2020. In the private sector alone, first-quarter sales were down by 49% on 2020, due in large part to the closure of offices and other workplaces.
"These figures reveal the full impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the UK's contract catering sector," said Karl Chessell, CGA's director of hospitality operators and food, EMEA.
"The widespread shift to working from home, the short-notice closure of many education and leisure sites and the wholesale cancellation of events have all been devastating for caterers in early 2021.
"While we can expect to see a gradual reopening of society as the year goes on, it is going to be a long road to recovery for contract caterers. With some consumers likely to continue their work and leisure habits of lockdown, and Brexit-related challenges on food supply and prices still in evidence, it will remain a very tough trading environment. The survival of businesses is at stake, and the sector deserves sustained support from government to protect jobs."