The performance of the UK's managed pub and restaurant groups was disappointing over the six-week Christmas and New Year period, with total like-for-like sales marginally down by 1%.
Pub groups did better than casual-dining restaurants, with total like-for-like sales in the period up to 7 January up 0.6% year-on-year, while restaurant chains saw collective like-for-likes down 1%, according to the latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker.
Peter Martin, vice-president of business insight consultancy CGA, which produces the tracker in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM, said: "It looks like people were more willing to go out to drink than eat this festive season, with drink-led pubs and bars having the best of trading.
"Across the managed pub market, drink sales were up 1.8%, while food was down 1.4%. Food-led operations, both pubs and restaurants, generally had a worse Christmas than 2016."
Better trading in the second half of the festive season, when people were mainly off work, failed to provide enough of a boost to beat 2016's overall figures.
However, Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said the eating and drinking out market is not in freefall, despite "very negative press" around performance. "There is no question that the trading environment is competitive, but these numbers are not the car crash that has been widely portrayed. 2018 will be a challenging year and we expect to see bars and pubs trading more robustly than restaurants."
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, added: "Since the New Year a number of high-profile brands have already announced site closure plans, and with consumer confidence waning and uncertainty ahead of Brexit, we expect our restructuring teams to be kept busy in the months ahead."
The 37 companies surveyed for the Coffer Peach Tracker include Whitbread (Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Table Table), PizzaExpress, the Restaurant Group (Frankie & Bennys, Chiquitos, Brunning & Price), and Casual Dining Group (Café Rouge, Bella Italia, Las Iguanas).
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