The festive season brought a welcome sales uplift for Britain’s managed pub and restaurant groups. Figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker show collective like-for-like sales for the Christmas and New Year period were up 2.2% on the same six weeks last year.
Both pubs and restaurants fared equally well during the six weeks of festive trading to January 8, with like-for-like increases of 2.2% and 2.1% respectively, although drink-led pub and bar businesses generally out performed food-led operations – which reflects other research by CGA Peach suggesting more people visited pubs this festive season than last.
The results are an improvement on last Christmas’s performance, when like-for-likes were up 1.8% on 2014. The big winner this time was London, with collective like-for-like sales inside the M25 up a bumper 5.1%, compared to a more modest 1.2% for the rest of Britain.
“With all the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and growing cost concerns for the industry around staffing and business rates, these results will come as a welcome relief for operating companies,” said Peter Martin, vice president of CGA Peach, the research and insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM. “They also show that people are still willing and able to go out to eat and drink and enjoy themselves given the right offer and opportunity”, he added.
“The uplift for eating and drinking out also mirrors the upswing in retail sales for the period, showing that spending was on both in-home and out-of-home entertainment. The leading performance of London was also probably a reflection of its increased attraction for overseas visitors with the weakness in the value of sterling,” said Martin.
“One interesting point is that, just like last year, Christmas started late with the increase in spending only beginning in the week leading up to Christmas Day itself, and continuing over New Year. For the first three weeks of the festive period, when most people were still at work, like-for-like sales were either flat or slightly down on the same weeks in 2015,” he observed.
Total sales among the 33 companies in the Tracker cohort for the six-week period, were up 5.4% on the same time last year, reflecting the impact of new site openings.
Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said, “These numbers are reflective of the mood among pub and restaurant operators where optimism is returning. There are going to be cost increases during 2017 and operators need to see sales growth to stand still. After a relatively tough autumn we believe consumers are now returning with more confidence.”
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, added: “The negative post-referendum predictions have failed to materialise and consumers have loosened their purse strings, providing a welcome relief to operators as they manage increased input costs and wage inflation. Attracting transient EU workers has been key to the success and growth of the UK’s hospitality sector. Theresa May’s Brexit negotiation comments now make it clear that new migration rules will need to be agreed providing further uncertainty for the sector in the months ahead.”