Britain’s managed pub and restaurant chains saw collective like-for-like sales slightly ahead in January despite stories of doom and gloom.
The latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, produced by business consultancy CGA in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM, showed a 0.6% increase on the same month last year.
While restaurant groups across the country collectively recorded flat trading – up 1% in London and down 0.3% outside the M25 – managed pub operators were ahead 1% nationally, driven mainly by drink-led businesses.
London traded better than the rest of Britain in January, with collective like-for-like sales ahead 1.6% compared to 0.4% outside the capital. Managed pubs in London were up 2%.
Phil Tate, chief executive of CGA, said these latest figures suggest the market remains “relatively stable” and that people are continuing to go out to eat and drink.
He added: “But that doesn’t disguise the fact that the market is experiencing increasing cost pressures on a number of fronts and that competition is intense. Brands that may have over-extended themselves are now feeling the pain.”
David Coffer, chairman of the Coffer Group, said the results show “a degree of resilience”, especially in drinks-led businesses.
He said: “As it is traditional for consumers to seek out such venues during a recessionary or challenging political and economic period, we feel that this trend will continue and that there will be further growth in the drinks-led sector and also a recovery in well-run, sophisticated restaurant brands.
“Some would say ‘an adjustment’ in the restaurant sector was overdue following a lemming-like expansion programme from London to the provinces over the last five years or more. We believe that lessons have been learnt and that possibly expansion will be comparatively slower, but operators will be redirecting investment into quality products, service levels and value.”
He added: “It still remains a difficult period for the food and beverage sector but the outlook still remains optimistic and positive.”
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, added the trend would be viewed with “cautious optimism” because of dry January, and following recent high-profile casual dining casualties, flat trading and fierce discounting “will have done nothing to quell fears that there is more of the same to come”.
Total sales growth among the 39 companies in the tracker cohort was 3.7% compared to January last year, reflecting the continuing if much more subdued effect of new openings. Underlying like-for-like growth for the sector was running at 1.1% for the 12 months to the end of January.
The Coffer Peach Tracker industry sales monitor for the UK pub and restaurant sector collects and analyses performance data from 39 operating groups.
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