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No Christmas cheer for restaurant and pub groups

Published:  19 January, 2018

Restaurant and pub groups across the UK recorded a marginal decline in sales during the festive season, with drink-led businesses claiming the best of the festive trade.

Managed pub and restaurant groups saw collective like-for-like sales decline nationally by a slight 0.1% in the six weeks to 7 January compared to the same period the previous year, according to the latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker released today.

Managed pub groups did better than casual dining restaurants, delivering a small 0.6% increase, while restaurant chains recorded a 1% decline.

Across the managed pub market, drink sales were up 1.8% compared to a 1.4% drop for food.

In general, food-led operations, both pubs and restaurants, had a worse Christmas than 2016, said Peter Martin, vice president of CGA, which provides the Tracker in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM.

With drink-led pubs and bars having the best trade, it looked like people were more willing to go out to drink than eat this festive season, he added.

“The public still went out to eat and drink, but essentially it was a repeat of last Christmas with better trading in the second half of the festive season, when people were mainly off work, but this failed to provide enough of a boost to beat 2016’s overall numbers,” said Martin.

Although London and the rest of the country both overall turned out flat, the capital saw a bigger contrast in fortunes between restaurants and pubs, with casual dining down 2.6% inside the M25 and pubs up 1.5%.

“Looking across the six week period, the run-up to the holidays saw generally poor trading, with the snow in particular hitting sales. Trading picked up in the last three weeks either side of the core holidays. Every year the Christmas period seems to become more concentrated,” said Martin.

Although the sector would be disappointed it didn’t beat 2016’s numbers, the results did reflect the flat trading seen in the market over the past year, and also came on the back of increases for the past two Christmases, he added.

Total sales growth among the 37 companies in the Tracker cohort was 3.4%, compared to the festive period last year, reflecting the continuing if much more subdued effect of new openings, according to the Tracker, which collects and analyses performance data from 37 operating restaurant and pub groups.