Pubs and other drink-led businesses were the worst hit, while the overall market saw like-for-likes down 2 per cent against April 2011 – which in contrast saw the positive effects of The Royal Wedding, Easter Holidays and record sunshine.
“As ever, the weather is a major factor in where, or whether, people choose to go out and eat,” said Peter Martin of Peach Factory. “In general, if it’s sunny people go to the pub; when it’s wet restaurants tend to benefit.
“Last April, not only did we have hotter weather, but we had the Royal Wedding and Mother’s Day in the month, as well as the Easter holidays. That benefited the market overall last year, but pubs and pub restaurants in particular.”
An especially good month
It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as total sales in April this year were actually up by 1.9 per cent, reflecting the effect of new restaurant openings. High street casual dining restaurants in particular saw sales increase against the same month last year.
“Despite the fact that bad weather was a major dampener and April 2011 was an especially good month in comparison, with like-for-like sales up 3.8% on 2010,” added Martin. “Operators will nonetheless be disappointed with the results.
“The market remains volatile and these figures cancel out the modest bounce-back in out-of-home food and drink sales seen in March, after a very shaky start to 2012 in January and February. The market will be hoping for real boost from the Diamond Jubilee in June and the Olympics later in the summer.”
Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “Given the poor weather in April, these figures show remarkable hardiness from the sector. As we continue to suffer from poor weather in May we are becoming dependent on the summer for an uplift.
“Many hospitality operators remain nervous about the Olympics and with a strong pound it may be that summer 2012 is painful for some. Yet the real legacy of the Games and the Diamond Jubilee for the restaurant sector, and the hospitality industry as a whole, could very well be the very long-term benefit resulting from the surrounding publicity both will bring.”
Last month’s business tracker painted a different picture entirely; restaurants and pubs benefited from the unseasonably warm weather of March,with collective like-for-like sales up 1.9 per cent and total sales up 6.3 per cent.
Peach Factory collects sales figures directly from 24 leading companies every month. Participants include Mitchells & Butlers , Pizza Hut, Whitbread, Gondola, Tragus, Stonegate, Spirit Group, TGI Fridays, Orchid Pub Co, Marston’s, Wagamama, Novus, Young’s and Fuller’s.