Unseasonably warm March weather has helped drive up like-for-like sales at the biggest pub and restaurant groups by 1.9% for the month, according to the latest Coffer Peach Tracker.
When new openings were included, the rise in total sales at the 24 leading pub and restaurant companies whose progress the tracker follows stood at 6.3% above the year before.
"The good weather will certainly have helped trading, particularly in the pub market, which performed more strongly than high-street restaurants," said Peter Martin of Peach Factory, the business intelligence specialist that produces the tracker, in partnership with KPMG, UBS and the Coffer Group.
"The sector will be relieved to see some growth back in the system, after seeing like-for-like sales drop 2.1% in January and 3.7% in February. Luckily both are weak trading months, so seeing sales pick up in the run-up to Easter will be welcome," added Martin.
"March's figures essentially put the sector back on an even keel. The informal eating and drinking-out market has remained fairly stable over the past two years in terms of like-for-like growth, and we continue to predict another essentially flat trading year," Martin added. "However, these multiple chains have continued to increase total sales over the past year, as they expand their estates through new openings and gain market share, largely at the expense of independents."
Month-on-month, March sales were up 31.3% on February, mainly reflecting the effect of comparing five weeks of trading in March against four in February.
David Coffer, chairman of Coffer Group, said: "These figures underline the very firm indication across the entire UK market that there is definitely a wind of change in terms of consumer mentality about eating and drinking out. As ever, London-centric businesses are definitely seeing dramatic increases of turnover leading up to the unique celebratory period of the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games. There seems to be an increasing belief among operators that the Olympics will bring an excellent improvement in trade rather than aggravation."
By Neil Gerrard
E-mail your comments to Neil Gerrard here.
Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with Catererandhotelkeeper.com jobs