Late Easter dampens March sales for restaurant and pub operators

April 13, 2017

Britain’s restaurant and pub groups saw collective
like-for-like sales fall back 0.5% in March, according to latest figures from
the Coffer Peach Business Tracker – with the late Easter holiday break being
the chief culprit.

Restaurant chains recorded collective
like-for-like sales down 1.4% in March, with trading in managed pubs flat
compared with the same month last year.

“Easter can usually be relied on to
provide a significant boost to the eating and drinking out market, but with it
falling in April this year, a month later than last time, it has skewed March
trading figures. But with only a 0.5% decrease overall, operators will be
hoping for an extra uplift when April numbers appear,” said Peter Martin, vice
president of CGA Peach, the business
insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM.

“With or without Easter, London saw
strong trading during the month, with a 2.9% like-for-like increase across the
market, driven in particular by robust sales in pubs and bars. The capital
showed no immediate or obvious reaction to the Westminster terror attack
either. However, outside the M25 like-for-likes dropped 1.7% in March.

“With growing cost pressures on the
sector from business rates, food price inflation and wage increases, the fact
that consumer spending on out-of-home food and drink appears at least to be holding
up will be some relief for operators,” Martin added.

The March numbers follow a 1.7%
like-for-like market increase in February, a 1.9% rise in January and 2.2%
growth over the Christmas and New Year period.

However, the underlying annual sales
trend shows sector like-for-likes running at just 0.8% ahead for the 12 months
to the end of March.

Total sales growth in March among the
34 companies in the Tracker cohort was up 2.1%, reflecting the continuing impact
of new openings over the year.

Trevor Watson,
executive
director at Davis Coffer Lyons, said
: “The strength of the
London market shows that the capital is much more resistant to terror attacks,
in commercial terms, than in previous years. Consumer spending in the UK
remains firm, with London benefitting most from the weaker exchange rate which
is under-pinning overseas visitor and staycation spending. The slight dip in
sales at the national level should be recovered in April with the benefit of the
late Easter.”

 

“For operators, Easter is
now a close second to Christmas as a benchmark period,” said Paul Newman,
head of leisure and hospitality at RSM. “An early Easter last year
makes these figures tricky to assess although a 0.5% like-for-like decrease
will be seen positively by many. This is especially good news when compared to
the larger fall in overall retail sales for the same period. The trend towards
experiences continues, with consumers increasing spend on eating and
drinking-out over ownership of shop-bought products.”

 

About Coffer Peach Tracker

The Coffer Peach Tracker industry sales
monitor for the UK pub and restaurant sector collects and analyses monthly
performance data from 34 operating groups, and is recognised as the established
industry benchmark. CGA Peach is part of CGA Strategy.