Britain’s eating and drinking-out market continued to slow-down in April, according to latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker. Collective like-for-like sales across managed pub and restaurant groups were down 0.8% against the same month last year, and follow a modest 0.6% increase in March.
While restaurant groups saw like-for-like trading increase 2.5%, pub groups experienced a 2.7% decline on April last year. Regionally, London outperformed the rest of Britain, with like-for-likes up 1% against a 1.3% fall outside the M25.
“April’s performance can in part be put down to the cold weather, to Easter being in March rather than April this year and also to the general slow-down in the wider economy in the run-up to the Brexit vote, but the underlying fact is that the overall market has been essentially flat since the start of the year, with April’s numbers coming on the back zero growth in February and only a small uptick in March,” said Peter Martin, vice president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group, RSM and UBS.
“The cold weather in the month also helps to explain why restaurants did better than pubs, as poor weather always tends to favour restaurants and good weather pubs,” added Martin. “But taken together we are seeing a slowdown in market growth.”
“Industry sentiment at the start of the year was that 2016 was going to be a tougher year than last, and that seems to be panning out. Optimism levels among operators are still positive, but down on 2015,” he said.
Total sales for the month among the 31 companies in the Tracker cohort were up 3.1% on 2015, reflecting the fact that groups are still opening new sites, if at a slower rate than previously.
The underlying annual trend shows sector like-for-likes running at 1.5% up for the 12 months to the end of April.
Trevor Watson, Executive Director, Valuations at Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “The global business environment is now learning to deal with a period of long term uncertainty. This has led to UK economic indicators weakening – it is not just about Brexit. Announcements from Tata Steel, BHS and Austin Reed are all leading to more cautious consumer sentiment. Against this background, the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker statistics are only to be expected. With the number of new openings continuing to exceed closures, the pressure on operators is unlikely to diminish for the rest of the year.”
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, added: “This month’s figures again show a disappointing like-for-like trend, particularly outside of London. This slowdown in growth is in part driven by an increasing number of exciting new concepts taking market share from the established, mainstream operators whose results dominate Business Tracker.
“This disruption is provoking these operators to review their brand portfolios and is driving increasing trade M&A activity in the sector, as witnessed by Whitbread acquiring a stake in Pure and Pizza Express acquiring upmarket pizza delivery chain Firezza. We see this trend set to continue throughout the remainder of the year.”
Jarrod Castle, leisure analyst at UBS Investment Research, observed: “The 12-month like-for-like moving average growth rate has slowed and came in at 1.0% in April, compared to March at 1.2%, February 1.1% and January 1.3%.”