The casual dining sector appears to be holding up well despite somewhat difficult trading conditions, and was given a welcome by school half term last month, according to the latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker.
Like-for-like sales in managed pubs and branded restaurants in Britain grew 1.7% nationally in February against the same period last year, and were up 4.7% in total.
London performed better than the rest of the country, with like-for-likes sales up 2.6% against 1.4% for outside the M25.
Coffer Corporate Leisure managing director Mark Sheehan said: "London restaurants and bars are seeing strong sales growth, which they certainly need. With overheads increasing ahead of inflation the top line growth is very important to food and drink operators. This year has started strongly for operators in the sector.
"However, the business rates revaluation has really focused operators on their occupancy costs and despite the very minor concessions in the budget this is yet another additional negative impact on margins and affecting future growth," he concluded.
The February results follow a 1.9% like-for-like increase in January and 2.2% growth over Christmas and the New Year.
CGA Peach vice-president Peter Martin noted: "With mounting pressures on the sector from business rate hikes, the falling pound leading to higher food costs and the general uncertainty around Brexit, the fact that consumers are still coming through their doors to eat and drink will be a welcome relief for operators."
Total sales growth in February among the 34 companies in the Tracker cohort hit 4.7%, reflecting the impact of new openings over the year. However, the underlying annual sales trend shows sector like-for-likes running at just 1.0% ahead for the 12 months to the end of February.