Both restaurants and pubs fared equally well in the six weeks of festive trading to 8 January although drinks-led pub and bar businesses generally out-performed food-led operations, the tracker found.
Peter Martin, vice president of CGA Peach, which produces the tracker in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM, said the figures, an improvement on last year's 1.8 per cent rise, would come as a 'welcome relief' for many operators facing uncertainty around Brexit and growing costs relating to staffing and business rates.
“They also show that people are still willing and able to go out to eat and drink and enjoy themselves given the right offer and opportunity”, he said.
The sales rise was led by operators in London where collective like-for-like sales were up 5.1 per cent compared to 1.2 per cent for the rest of the UK.
“The uplift for eating and drinking out also mirrors the upswing in retail sales for the period, showing that spending was on both in-home and out-of-home entertainment. The leading performance of London was also probably a reflection of its increased attraction for overseas visitors with the weakness in the value of sterling,” said Martin.
Total sales among the tracked companies, were up 5.4 per cent on the same time last year, reflecting the impact of new site openings.
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, said the 'negative post-referendum predictions' had failed to materialise with the fact that consumers spent on leisure over the Christmas period a 'welcome relief' as they manage increased input costs and wage inflation.
However, he said operators still faced uncertainty as they entered 2017.
"Attracting transient EU workers has been key to the success and growth of the UK’s hospitality sector," he said. "Theresa May’s Brexit negotiation comments now make it clear that new migration rules will need to be agreed providing further uncertainty for the sector in the months ahead.”