July was a disappointing month for the UK's biggest pub and restaurant groups, as damp weather caused like-for-like sales to drop by 0.2% compared to the same period last year.
But the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker data, harvested from sales figures across 25 companies including Mitchells and Butlers, Gondola (PizzaExpress, Zizzi, ASK, Byron), and Stonegate (Slug & Lettuce, Yates') did show a total sales figures rise of 3.6%, illustrating the increasing market share of the major players.
Peter Martin of Peach Factory, the business intelligence firm that helps produce the tracker, said: "This is being driven by a consumer move towards brands, the importance of value as well as quality in customer choice and the continued roll-out of new sites by established operators."
"The weather has not helped progress this year," he added, "but tracker data still shows the annualised like-for-like sales growth rate for the leading groups is currently running at 2.2% year-on-year, with total sales running at around 5.8% up.
"This may be only in-line with inflation, but this sector is beating the economy as a whole when it comes to growth - and is something the Government should perhaps recognise."
Meanwhile Martin indicated that the week running up to the opening ceremony of the Olympics was the worst-performing week of the month, and one that pushed an otherwise flat month into negative territory.
"However, the full impact will not be seen until the August figures are published, although we do know from provisional figures that for the market as a whole the first full week of the Games was marginally up on the same week last year," Martin said.
This month's figures also showed that pub and pub restaurant operators were delivering better like-for-like figures than high street casual dining.
"This is most marked within the M25 where restaurant groups are up against increasingly intense and diverse competition. Pubs seem to be doing better in London, and are providing part of that competition," Martin said. "In the market overall, chains are finding more growth away from the capital."
Trevor Watson, director at Davis Coffer Lyons, part of the Coffer Group, said: "Although these statistics don't at first sight look a gold medal performance, the fact that the overall figures are broadly neutral should probably be treated with both satisfaction and a degree of caution.
"Comparing trading figures in the restaurant and pub industry across the summers of 2011, 2012 and 2013 will be challenging as the English Riots of 2011 and the Olympic Games of 2012 distort trading patterns at the local level.
"The statistical background is complex, with underlying UK population growing, but visitor numbers to the UK (which has a profound effect on London trade) disappointingly down in H1 2012, as the Eurozone crisis continues and sterling strengthened."
By Neil Gerrard
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