The latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker found that collective like-for-like sales among 27 of the UK’s top restaurant and pub groups edged up by 0.1 per cent last month, compared to the 3 per cent fall caused by ‘the big freeze’ in March.
“Last April’s figures included all of the Easter weekend,” said Peter Martin of Peach Factory. “This year’s only took in Easter Monday, so the performance is actually better than the headline numbers suggest, as the Easter holiday is always a busy time for eating and drinking-out.
“The good weather at the end of the month helped to compensate for the loss of that Easter trading. Total sales, including the impact of new openings, were ahead 2.8 per cent of last April.”
Regionally, London performed more strongly than the rest of the country, and pubs generally did better than restaurants – with London pubs being the star performers.
And, according to the Tracker, the recent squeeze on growth on casual dining restaurant brands in London may have turned a corner. For the past six months, the trend has been one of like-for-like sales decline, but last month the annual rate turned positive, up by 0.3 per cent on a year-on-year basis.
David Coffer, chairman of the Coffer Group, said: “With the continuing draconian measures of central London planners and their resistance to new restaurant and leisure development, it will be interesting to see the effect of this policy over the next year.
“There may well be fewer openings but higher concentrated turnover per unit as stragglers get sold to more professional operators. The proposals of the West End Commission, if adopted by all stakeholders, will also have an impact on central London trade, as vehicular access is increasingly restricted.”
Paul Newman, co-head of leisure and hospitality at Baker Tilly, added: “The longer term trends are becoming increasingly encouraging, particularly in London. Year on year total sales growth of 5.6 per cent inside the M25 is reflected in the bullish attitude of operators we are speaking to, with plenty of new site openings in the pipeline.
“However, concerns continue to gather pace over the potential overheating of the new site rental market. Balancing top line growth against a deterioration of new site operating margins will need careful management.”
Participants to the Coffer Peach Business Tracker include Mitchells & Butlers, Pizza Hut, Whitbread, Gondola and Young’s.