March sunshine saw a 3.8% year-on-year boost in like-for-like sales for chain pubs and restaurants after the Beast from the East hit trade in 2018.
The sharpest year-on-year uplift was seen in London, which recorded a 5.5% increase, while the rest of the country saw sales increase by 3.3%, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker.
Karl Chessell, director of CGA - the business insight consultancy that produces the tracker in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM, said: "March last year was a month to forget when snow brought much of the country to a standstill. Both pubs and restaurants felt the effects with like-for-likes across the board down 3.1%, so these latest figures will be a relief as the sector regains lost ground."
Pub groups outperformed restaurants in the period seeing a boost of 4%, while restaurant chains enjoyed an uplift of 3.6%. The majority of the increase for pubs was seen in drinks, where sales rose by 5.7% compared to 2.7% for food.
Chessell added: "The big test, of course, will come with the results for April and the Easter holidays. Last Easter was a bumper time for the sector with sales ahead 5.9% on the holiday weekend the year before, boosted by the fact that many people didn't go out in March. The pressure to match that this time is now on."
Trevor Watson, executive director of valuations at Davis Coffer Lyons, added: "These results show that revenue levels across the sector returned to March 2017 levels last month. The market remains challenging for many casual dining operators who continue to face unprecedented levels of competition. The wide variety of choice including the popularity of food halls, markets and pop-up street food offers around the country continues to draw custom away from conventional restaurant and pub outlets and are increasingly the social meeting place of choice for younger consumers."
Total sales across the 52 companies in the tracker were ahead 6.1% compared to March 2018.