Managed restaurant and pub groups across Britain saw a boost for like-for-like sales over Easter this year after a weaker March.
The latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker found that like-for-like sales across the four-day Easter weekend (3-6 April) were up 5.1% compared to the four-day Easter break in 2014 (18-21 April).
Casual dining brands collectively saw a 7.6% like-for-like sales increase over Easter this year, and managed pub groups were ahead by 4%.
This followed a less successful March, which saw like-for-like sales decrease by an average of 0.3% on the same month last year. Even London within the M25, usually the best trading area, saw a 0.4% like-for-like sales dip in March, compared to a growth of 1.8% in January and 1.8% in February.
This changing pattern was attributed to slow but steady sales growth since Christmas 2014, improved weather over Easter, and the suggestion that consumers may have been waiting until the four-day break to go out and spend money on food and drink. It was also suggested that the investment cycle in certain pubs could be wearing off, with casual dining chains appearing to be more active in refreshing their brand offer.
In general, the tracker report found that restaurant groups had been outperforming pubs across the year to date, with pub restaurants having a particularly tough time.
Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, predicted that the long-term trend remained strong for the sector.
He said: "Eating and drinking out is benefiting from very long-term growth. We have seen an evolution of the market with many structural changes - particularly with the continued re-positioning of many pubs. During March we saw a small decline in like-for-likes, however, this was compensated by strong Easter trading - both of which showing the influence the weather has on our sector."
CGA Peach collects sales figures from 30 companies across the sector, including Wagamama, Byron, Las Iguanas, the Peach Pub Co, the Mitchells & Butlers group (Harvester, All Bar One), TGI Friday's, the Casual Dining Group (Café Rouge, Bella Italia), Carluccio's, La Tasca, Gaucho, and the Stonegate group (Slug & Lettuce, Yates's).