The survey of sales at the 27 major restaurant and pub companies in the UK show that December 2013 saw the biggest monthly increase since February with London performing particularly well.
Like-for-likes at restaurant and pub groups in the capital were up 4.4 per cent while managed pubs were the best performers were managed pubs with sales up 6.5 per cent.
"That's not to say it was all about going out for a drink," said Peter Martin of CGA Peach. "Even in those drink-led pubs and bars, food sales saw higher growth than drinks. Food sales in those pubs were up overall 5.8 per cent, compared to 3.2 per cent for drink.
"While London pubs had an especially merry time, outside of the M25 it was casual dining restaurant chains that had the best of the seasonal business, with like-for-like sales up 4 per cent on 2012."
Weathering the storm
Martin said although weather in the run up to Christmas had been better than in 2012, heavy rain towards the end of December did have an impact in some areas.
“The weather as always played its part," he said. "Last year, the run-up to Christmas was hit by snow and freezing temperatures, keeping people at home, with heavy rain towards the end of December. Floods were a factor last year as well as this in many areas.
“Taking that into account, we would have expected better trading in pubs and restaurants this year, but what will have particularly cheered operators is the strong trading throughout the three key busy weeks from 15 December onwards. All were up on the same weeks last year as more people went out to enjoy themselves. It shows that given the right occasion and offer, the public will go out and spend in the country’s pubs and restaurants."
Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, which compiles the report with CGA Peach, Baker Tilly and UBS Investment Research, said the trend for strong sales was predicted to run into 2014 'and beyond'.
“Pub and restaurant sales are - for the first time - increasing in real terms and these figures show that sales are catching up with the country’s increasing ‘feel good’ factor," he said. "Whilst the retail sector has seen some high-profile failures, within the restaurant and pub market trade is generally more robust with most operators enjoying a good Christmas. Leisure is continuing to attract investment and investors are now beginning to reap the rewards."