Britain may have fallen out of love with shopping on the High Street over the festive period, but consumers continued to go out to eat and drink over Christmas and the New Year, latest industry figures show.
Pub, bar and restaurant groups saw collective like-for-like sales grow by 2.5% over the six weeks of the festive season, compared to the same period in 2018, with food and drink spend both increasing, according to the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, the sector’s established benchmark.
“It has been a challenging year for the eating and drinking-out market, so these figures will be a welcome boost for operators. Christmas and New Year is a vital time for the industry, so to see positive growth is good news,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM.
“These results underline the fact that the public still wants to go out to enjoy themselves over the holiday period, but also emphasise how important this time of year is to the health of the market, and that operators have to keep creating good reasons for people to go out,” Chessell added.
Trading was positive across all parts of the market. Restaurant chains saw a 2.3% uplift in like-for-likes, with managed pub and bar groups up 2.7% on 2018. Drink-led pubs out-did their food-led counterparts, but food sales also did well. Across the managed pub sector, drink sales were up 2.4%, with food up 2.2%.
“For the first time, the Coffer Peach Tracker has been able to pull out separate figures for bar companies in the Tracker cohort, providing a more detailed analysis of the trading landscape. While the whole market performed well, the star performers were bar businesses, which saw a collective 3.9% uplift in like-for-like sales,” added Chessell.
Paul Newman, Head of Leisure and Hospitality at RSM said: “Operators will be celebrating a festive gift that ends a challenging year on a welcome high. Like-for-likes improved for both restaurants and wet-led businesses despite strong performance in the same period last year on top of the heavy rain and the political uncertainty affecting much of December. With consumer confidence finally improving, brands will look to carry this sales momentum into the New Year by capitalising on the trends for veganuary and alcohol alternative drinks without resorting to heavy discounting.”
“There is a post-election sense of optimism, and food and drink consumers have driven the first wave of this during the pre-Christmas period,” said Mark Sheehan, Managing Director at Coffer Corporate Leisure. “This year, we are starting to see cautious confidence in the market although expect that any uplift in trade and consumer confidence will be steady rather than spectacular. We expect market activity in 2020 to see an increase on 2019 levels.”
Total sales over six week festive period, which include the effect of new openings since this time last year, were ahead 5.4% compared to same period in 2018.