Like-for-like sales at some of the UK's largest restaurant and pub groups rose nearly 2 per cent during September, marking the sixth consecutive month this year of positive sales.
However, experts involved in compiling the figures for the Coffer Peach Business Tracker warned operators not to be complacent as sales compared to those in August at the 13 operators surveyed actually fell 9 per cent.
Richard Hathaway, head of Travel, Leisure and Tourism at KPMG, one of the authors of the report said: "While year on year sales at the UK’s large pub and restaurant groups continue to hold their own, the fall in monthly sales in September is a sobering reminder that autumn is traditionally a tougher period and is likely to be even more so this year. We are seeing differing fortunes across the sector, just in the last week Whitbread posted a robust set of results, while others such as Tootsies went in to administration.
"It is tougher out there for the smaller operators, scale and brand recognition seems to be a key element of survival in these straightened times, as consumers seek out the best experience for the best price. There is a ray of light as the festive period approaches, but for some the challenge will be getting there."
The Coffer Peach Business Tracker, run by Peach Factory in partnership with KPMG, UBS bankand Coffer Group collects sales data from some of the biggest pub and restaurant groups in the UK including Whitbread, Mitchells & Butlers and Gondola.
Jonathan Leinster, head of European leisure and tobacco research, at UBS Investment Bank, said much of the sales growth had been achieved through promotional activity, which is expected to remain a focus for many groups throughout the autumn. :
He added: "Looking into January 2010, we expect consumer expenditure to improve modestly and input cost pressures to begin to diminish, however we are concerned about the effect on margins during the first quarter as the VAT rise will occur during a seasonally weak period.”