The poor weather in April hit sales at the biggest pub and restaurant groups, which were down 2% for the month, according to the latest Coffer Peach Tracker.
Pubs, and in particular wet-led establishments, were worst affected by the heavy rains throughout the month, while high-street casual-dining operators saw sales up compared with last year.
When new openings were included, however, total sales at the 24 leading pub and restaurant companies whose progress the tracker follows stood at 1.9% above the year before.
"As ever, the weather is a major factor in where, or whether, people choose to go out and eat. In general, if it's sunny people go to the pub; when it's wet, restaurants tend to benefit," said Peter Martin of Peach Factory, the business intelligence specialist that produces the sector tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and UBS.
"Despite the fact that bad weather was a major dampener and April 2011 was an especially good month in comparison, with like-for-like sales up 3.8% on 2010, operators will nonetheless be disappointed with the results. The market remains volatile and these figures cancel out the modest bounce-back in out-of-home food and drink sales seen in March, after a very shaky start to 2012 in January and February."
Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: "As we continue to suffer from poor weather in May we are becoming dependent on the summer for an uplift. Many hospitality operators remain nervous about the Olympics and with a strong pound it may be that summer 2012 is painful for some.
"Yet the real legacy of the games and the Diamond Jubilee for the restaurant sector, and the hospitality industry as a whole, could very well be the very long-term benefit resulting from the surrounding publicity both will bring."
By Kerstin Kühn
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