The latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker, which monitors the performance of 23 major pub and restaurant operators including Mitchells & Butlers, Whitbread and Gondola, also discovered total sales were up 13.7 per cent.
“Much of the increase can go down to the fact that there was no snow this December, which disrupted trade last year,” said Peter Martin of Peach Factory. “However, the underlying trend is still encouragingly positive.
“Last December, like-for-like sales were down 4.2 per cent on 2009, with total sales falling 3.4 per cent, as snow badly disrupted business in the run up to Christmas. Nevertheless, even allowing for that, December 2011 like-for-like figures are still a healthy 5.3 per cent up on two years ago,” added Martin.
“Despite the continuing economic gloom, people are still going out to eat and drink – particularly over holiday periods. The leading pub and restaurant operators have worked hard to keep their offers fresh and relevant, and have come through the downturn in relatively good shape – certainly better than p[arts of the retail market.”
Service and value
Trevor Watson, director at Davis Coffer Lyons, added: “Notwithstanding the favourable weather in December 2011 as against 2010, these figures are a strong endorsement of how well pub and restaurant operators are doing in driving their businesses forward.
“Against a background of fragile consumer confidence, consumers are still choosing to spend their leisure time and money eating away from the home. This is because operators are continuing to offer improvements in service and value.
“Brands with representation in regional shopping centres, leisure parks and airports in particular are experiencing relatively strong trading conditions, while traditional high street locations are generally finding trading more challenging.”
Despite the positive results, Jonathan Leinster, Head of UBS European Leisure Research,doesn’t believe it marks a new trend for the pub industry.
Leinster said: “Today’s numbers suggest that pub spending around the holiday period was far more buoyant than results from high street retailers might imply, although we don’t expect this to mark a new trend.
“UK pubs stocks have continued to weaken, down on average 27 per cent in the last year, in part due to on-going concerns over UK consumer spending.
“We believe that consumers do find value in some of the pub offerings and maintain ‘Buy’ ratings on JD Wetherspoon, Marston’s and Greene King.”