No Christmas cracker for restaurant and pub groups

January 19, 2018

Britain’s managed pub and restaurant groups saw collective
like-for-like sales marginally down by 0.1% over the six-week Christmas and New
Year period, according to latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker.

“The public still went out to eat and
drink, but essentially it was a repeat of last Christmas. Better trading in the
second half of the festive season, when people were mainly off work, failed to
provide enough of a boost to beat 2016’s overall numberssaid Peter Martin, vice president of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in
partnership with Coffer Group and RSM.

The results, which cover the six weeks up to January 7, show that
managed pub groups did better than casual dining restaurants, delivering a small
increase in trade with collective like-for-likes up 0.6% on last year.
Restaurant chains saw collective like-for-likes down 1.0%.

“It
looks like people were more willing to go out to drink than eat this festive
season, with drink-led pubs and bars having the best of trading. Across the
managed pub market, drink sales were up 1.8%, while food was down 1.4%. Food-led
operations, both pubs and restaurants, generally had a worse Christmas than
2016,” added Martin.

Although
London and the rest of the country both overall turned out flat, London 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 be coming more concentrated,” said Martin.

“Although
the sector will be disappointed it didn’t beat 2016’s numbers, the results do
reflect the flat trading we’ve seen in the market over the past year – and they
also come 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.

Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “Despite very negative press
particularly associated with restaurant sector trading, the eating and drinking
out market is not in free fall. Trading over the important December trading
period was flat with pubs trading better than restaurants. There is no question
that the trading environment is competitive but these numbers are not the car
crash that has been widely portrayed. 2018 will be a challenging year and we
expect to see bars and pubs trading more robustly than restaurants.”

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM,
added:
“Increased drinks spend across the managed pub market
over the festive period was not enough to offset disappointing casual dining
like for likes, rounding off a flat year for the sector and failing to give
operators Christmas cheer. Since the New Year a number of high profile brands
have already announced site closure plans and with consumer confidence waning
and uncertainty ahead of Brexit, we expect our restructuring teams to be kept
busy in the months ahead.”

The Coffer Peach Tracker industry sales monitor for the UK
pub and restaurant sector collects and analyses performance data from 37 operating
groups, and is recognised as the established industry benchmark.