While managed pub groups enjoyed a 1.4% increase in collective like-for-like sales, restaurant groups found themselves in negative territory collectively recording a 1.7% decline in like-for-likes against February last year.
Drink-led pubs were the strongest performers, with London also outperforming the rest of Britain, the monthly Tracker figures show.
“The mini heatwave towards the end of the month certainly boosted pub trading, and also helped restaurant sales, as people enjoyed the unseasonal sunshine, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to move the whole market much. The branded restaurant sector is still suffering from declining sales, and despite a better end to the month, early February was generally poor for restaurants,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM.
“While people will remember the sun, it was cold at the start of the month and school half-term holidays appear to have given no more of a boost to sales than they did last year,” added Chessell. “Even within the managed pub market food sales are under pressure. The trading uplift in February has essentially come from increased drink sales, which were up 3.5%, against a 0.9% fall in food.”
London saw overall like-for-like sales growth of 1.0% over the month, compared to just 0.1% outside the M25, with a big difference between the performance of managed pubs and chain restaurants in the capital, with pubs up 3.0% against a more significant 2.2% sales decline for restaurants
In the rest of the country outside the M25, the difference in performance was less stark, with pubs’ like-for-likes up 0.9% and restaurants down 1.2%
Mark Sheehan, Managing Director of Coffer Corporate Leisure said: “There is no quick fix for the restaurant sector. Oversupply in some areas will mean that we may continue to see negative numbers for the foreseeable future, especially within the M25 where competition is fiercest.”
“Whilst there is continued cause for optimism amongst Britain’s managed pubs, the expected pick up for casual dining resulting from the closure of under-performing sites compared to a year ago failed to materialise,” said Paul Newman, Partner, Head of Leisure and Hospitality at RSM. “The fact that sales are continuing to fall is a huge challenge for the eating out sector and underlines the fierce competition for discretionary spend on the High Street, as consumers tighten their purse strings in preparation for Brexit.”