The UK casual dining sector is enjoying a boost in sales, but pubs outside the M25 are feeling flat, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker.
Released today, the tracker showed that in February 2015, managed pub and restaurant groups saw a rise of 1.6% in like-for-like sales. This marked a deceleration in growth compared to December's 2.8% rise, but it was nevertheless the 23rd consecutive month of positive sales figures for the sector.
Total sales were up 5.8% on February 2014, which was attributed to the sector's interest in new openings and improved demand from consumers, especially those outside of London. Like for like sales within casual dining rose by 3.4% in February, with brands outside the M25 seeing the biggest rise, of 4.6%.
Conversely, although pubs in London saw a 2.7% rise in like-for-like sales, pubs outside the M25 saw no measurable increase in trading.
The tracker looks at 30 leading companies within the sector, and is produced by business consultancy CGA Peach, in partnership with the Coffer Group, Baker Tilly and UBS.
Trevor Watson, director at Davis Coffer Lyons, part of the Coffer Group, said that a higher level of site availability outside the M25 meant that pub and restaurant operators were able to grow faster away from London, even though businesses within London saw marginally better trading conditions.
He added: "As more and more companies announce ambitious expansion plans, we are seeing more intense competition for new sites throughout the country."
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at Baker Tilly, added that the industry was doing well in terms of creating new employment opportunities. He said: "The sector's capacity for job creation and tax generation singles it out as one of the shining lights that is driving the UK's economic growth prospects."
Brand names to be considered as part of the tracker include Mitchells & Butlers (owner of Harvester, Toby, Browns, and All Bar One), Pizza Hut, Whitbread (Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Table Table), Pizza Express, Spirit Group (Flaming Grill, Fayre & Square), La Tasca, Le Bistrot Pierre, Loungers, Byron, and TGI Fridays.