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Colder August Fails To Chill Eating And Drinking-Out Growth

Britain’s restaurant and managed pub groups recorded another month of steady growth in August, with collective like-for-like sales up 1.3% on the same time last year, latest data from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker shows. Chillier than average weather had an impact, but the sector still delivered a 17th consecutive month of positive growth.

“Restaurants fared much better than pubs, and that was largely down to the colder than average temperatures for the month,” said Scott Elliott, director of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group, Baker Tilly and UBS.

“Casual dining chains saw like-for-like sales up 4.7%, with trading in restaurants outside of London particularly strong. In contrast, managed pubs actually saw like-for-likes fall 0.2% against August 2013, with those outside the M25 down 0.7%. However, it has to be remembered that August last year was the hottest in 10 years, and hot sunny weather always tends to benefit the pub sector,” Elliott added.

“The good news is that these latest figures, from 28 leading chains, show that the public continues to go out and spend on eating and drinking-out, even with the unpredictability of the British weather. They just adapt their choice of venue,” he observed.

Regionally, London outperformed the rest of the country, with like-for-likes up 2.6% against 0.9% for outside the M25. Pubs in London still recorded positive growth.

“The continued investment in new openings, particularly from restaurant groups, saw total sales growth in the sector outstrip average LFLs by some margin. Overall, they were 4.3% up on last August, with casual dining chains 10.6% ahead,” Elliott added.

Looking at the long-term trend, year-on-year like-for-like sales for the sector were running 2.4% up for the 12 months to the end of August, with total sales 5.1% ahead.

David Coffer, chairman of Coffer Group, said: “Although London continues to be an ever more sophisticated and popular location for restaurants and pubs, there is now a definite growth in regions outside the M25. This correlates to increasing prices and rentals in those areas with the effects of recession outside of London now fast diminishing in property and trading terms. Demand for restaurant and licensed premises is at the highest level I have seen in my almost 50 years in the market.”

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at Baker Tilly, observed: “As we leave summer behind there is a continued sense of optimism from larger operators, experiencing an impressive 17 consecutive months of like for like growth. We are seeing a number of chains being more active in restructuring their estates and disposing of poorer performing sites. This increasing churn is leaving many operators in a stronger financial position to fund and manage growth through more efficient allocation of capital and refocusing of management resource.”

Jarrod Castle, leisure analyst at UBS Investment Research, said: “Like-for-like growth for August at 1.3% compares with 2.2% in July and 0.4% in June. Total August sales growth was in line with July and ahead of the 3.1% figure in June. This leaves the 12-month moving average growth rate at 2.2% for like-for-like sales, and 4.9% total sales growth. While managed pubs which saw a LFL declines of -0.2% this was against a tougher comp of 2.4% in August 2013.”

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