The country's biggest restaurant and pub chains are still defying the economic gloom, with like-for-like sales rising once again in October.
Although retail numbers fell during the month, on the back of weak consumer confidence, like-for-like sales were up 0.9% compared with the same period the year before, according to the Coffer Peach Business Tracker. Total sales, which include the effect of new openings, were up 5.1%.
The Coffer Peach Business Tracker monitors monthly performance across 24 major pub and restaurant operators, including the likes of Mitchells & Butlers, Whitbread restaurants, Pizza Hut, Punch Pub Co, Gondola (owner of PizzaExpress), Tragus (Café Rouge and Bella Italia), Wagamama and TGI Friday's. The October figures come on the back of a 2.8% like-for-like rise in September, a 0.6% increase in August and a 1.0% advance in July.
"People may be reluctant to go out and buy more ‘stuff', but they are still willing to go out to eat and drink. It's about the experience, especially if it's good quality and great value," said Peter Martin of Peach Factory, the market consultancy that produces the sector tracker, in partnership with KPMG, UBS and the Coffer Group.
"Quality is still the main factor in choosing where to go out, but value is becoming increasingly important, and with the cost of eating in and eating out narrowing in many parts of the market, it remains an attractive proposition even for those with families," Martin added.
Bigger operators were continuing to invest in their concepts and offers, and competition remained fierce, he said. Consumers were increasingly turning to brands, which offered quality, value, consistency and reliability.
According to the British Retail Consortium/KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, like-for-like retail sales were down 0.6% last month, with total sales up just 1.5% on October 2010.
Trevor Watson, director at Davis Coffer Lyons, said: "The figures show that operators have been able to sustain and indeed grow top-line sales. Some operators have benefited from the unseasonably warm and dry autumn. Management emphasis continues to be focused on defending margins against a background of rising costs in just about every key line of the P&L account."
Richard Hathaway, KPMG's head of travel, leisure and tourism, added: "Despite the turmoil in the eurozone, the performance of Britain's leading pub and restaurant operators remains remarkably robust. Although like-for-like growth remains modest, continued positive figures in the current environment are a credit to the quality of the sector's brands and customer offerings. Total sales growth of 5.1% demonstrates that operators continue to invest in new sites and upgrading or refreshing of existing portfolios."
By Neil Gerrard
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