Hospitality operators enjoyed a bumper Easter weekend after snowfall delivered a dismal March.
Like-for-like sales were up 5.9% over the long weekend, in comparison to a 3.1% decline over the month as a whole, the latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker show.
Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA, said: “It was a month to forget, with the only slight cheer coming for managed pubs outside of London which benefitted by people staying at home and away from work when the snow fell.
“Overall, March was bad news, so the uplift in sales over Easter weekend brought almost instant relief. Again all parts of the market benefitted.”
Snowfall hit restaurants most severely with like-for-likes down 5% across March. Trading across the pub and casual dining sectors was down 4.3% in London and 2.7% outside the M25. Managed pubs fared slightly better, but still recorded a 2% decline in like-for-like sales.
It was restaurants that had the most to cheer about following the Easter weekend, after recording an 8% increase in like-for-likes compared to the four-day weekend year before, with pubs recording a 4.6% rise.
Martin said: “Although snow stops people travelling, the wet and dreary weather over Easter will have helped to tempt people, and in particular families off for the break, to go out to eat – so it should be no surprise that restaurants were the biggest beneficiaries.
“But it’s also worth remembering that Easter 2017 was not good for the market, with sales down on 2016, due to it falling late in April and being disjointed from school holidays in parts of the country. This year it wasn’t.”
Underlying like-for-like growth for companies in the Tracker cohort is running at 0.8% for the 12 months to the end of March, down from 1.1% at the end of February.
Martin added: “Although the public is still going out, their frequency of visits is not really changing, and with new openings still a feature of the market despite some recent high-profile closures, people have more choice and those visits are being spread across more brands. It’s extremely competitive out there, and so operators are right to remain cautious.”