Bad weather at the end of September held back sales growth at the UK's leading pub and restaurant groups, with collective like-for-like sales up just 0.7% on the same month last year, according to the Coffer Peach Business Tracker.
A total of 25 major restaurant and pub companies provide data for the tracker, which had previously shown a 2.1% like-for-like sales increase for the sector in August. Total sales for September, including the effect of new openings, rose by 4.1%.
"The first week of September saw a big boost in sales, but the downpour in the last week was a wash-out for business, and especially pubs, leaving overall trading essentially flat," said Peter Martin of Peach Factory, the business intelligence specialist that produces the sector tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group, Baker Tilly and UBS.
"It goes to show that the weather remains a major influence on trading patterns for the eating- and drinking-out sector," Martin added. "In September, the wet weather particularly depressed alcohol and pub sales, while food and eating out held up better."
Regionally, the Coffer Peach figures showed little overall difference between trading inside and outside the M25, although pubs had a better time in London and high-street restaurant brands did relatively better away from the capital.
"The good news is that, even with that set-back, the bigger operators were still in positive growth and collectively continuing to gain market share," Martin concluded.
Underlying figures for the 12 months to the end of August show combined total sales for the 25 companies providing data for the tracker were up 5.8% on the previous 12 months, with combined year-on-year like-for-likes running ahead by 1.7%.
Trevor Watson, director at Davis Coffer Lyons, said: "The September results serve to remind us that consumer confidence remains weak. Although the corporate operators are growing market share, there is significant pressure on leisure spending for most households. Operators must continue to deliver value for money now more than ever. The need to continue to drive margin is intense, as the recent failure of Waverley TBS indicates. The forthcoming Christmas period will be crucial to all."
Paul Newman, co-head of leisure and hospitality at Baker Tilly, added: "Leading operators will be disappointed that the 2.1% like-for-like sales increase in August did not last through September. Last year's comparative sales were always going to be tough to beat, when the warmest end to September for over 100 years gave a late season boost to the industry. That was in stark contrast to this year's downpours that persuaded consumers to stay at home.
"On a positive note, total sales growth at 4.1% was more encouraging and demonstrates a robust and confident sector which continues to attract long-term investment from pub and restaurant operators through the roll-out of new sites and private equity interest."
Jonathan Leinster, head of UBS European Leisure Research, said: "This year, month-on-month ike-for-like sales data has not shown a consistent trend, but we would note that in current calendar year the average ike-for-like sales growth has been only just positive, with four out of the first nine months showing ike-for-like sales declines. This is a significant deterioration from 2011, which saw ike-for-like sales at over 3% and only one month that saw an actual ike-for-like decline. Indeed, 2012 appears more like 2010 than 2011."
By Neil Gerrard
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