16 January 2013

Restrained Festive Cheer for Pub and Restaurant Groups

Like-for-like sales up 2.1% on Christmas and New Year 2011

New openings keep total sales ahead 4.7%

Britain’s pub and restaurant groups have reported better Christmas and New Year trading than a year ago – though not by much. Collective like-for-like sales for the six weeks up to January 6 were up 2.1% on the same period 12 months ago, according to latest data from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, the industry’s sales barometer.

Total sales for the festive period, which include the effect of new openings, were ahead 4.7% among the 24 companies in the Tracker sample.

“Operators will be pleased to be up on last year, but with both Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve falling mid-week, and so not affecting normal weekend trading, they would have been expecting a slightly better sales performance than last year,” said Peter Martin of Peach Factory, the business intelligence specialist that produces the sector Tracker, the sector’s biggest and most comprehensive performance barometer, in partnership with Coffer Group, Baker Tilly and UBS.

“The figures reflect the essentially flat marketplace we have experienced for the past year or so, where any sales growth for the leading groups has come from new openings, which in turn has helped them increase market-share at the expense of independents,” said Martin. “While there has been no big festive boost for eating and drinking out overall, neither has there been the decline some sections of the retail market have seen.

“However, behind these headlines numbers, individual companies and brands have often performed quite differently as inter-brand competition also heats up,” he added.

Overall, Christmas period trading was stronger in London than outside the M25, and, over the period as a whole, pubs performed better than restaurants, although both saw a like-for-like increase on last year.

“Although drink-led pubs generally edged pub restaurants in terms of Christmas sales performance, it was still the food element of their businesses that drove the uplift,” added Peter Martin.

Looking at week-by-week trading, the Tracker data collected from operating groups shows a slow start to the festive celebrations with the last week of November and the first two weeks of December all down on 2011 in terms of like-for-like sales.

Sales then picked up strongly in the week that ended on the weekend before Christmas, with restaurants in particular doing well. The week containing the New Year holiday also performed well, especially for pubs.

Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “Operators were generally expecting two full weeks trading pre Christmas last year and thus good like for likes were anticipated. These numbers are a little disappointing overall and to an extent reflect the very strong competition from independent and emerging brands especially in London. The bigger operators are not having it all their own way and innovative new operators are undoubtedly taking market share in the capital.”

Ali Aneizi, M&A and private equity partner at Baker Tilly, added: “The slow start to December, will in part, be due to the continued pressure on corporate budgets and a drop in traditional Christmas bookings identified by some operators. Record wet weather and flooding will not have helped matters. However, the UK consumer continues to spend on eating and drinking out as illustrated by the turn around in results for the latter part of the month and in the immediate build up to Christmas and the New Year.

“Like for likes in December 2011 of 9.9% was always going to be difficult to match, but many operators will be pleased to continue the upward trend posted in November 2012. London continues to outperform the rest of the country, with Inside M25 securing higher like for likes for the 5th consecutive month; and with many well-funded operators aggressively seeking new sites in the capital the competitive landscape in London is set to rise even further. Trading in London will therefore continue to be a double edged sword.”

Jonathan Leinster, head of UBS European Leisure Research, said: “The figures show that LFL sales were stronger inside the M25. With the exception of a few months in summer this pattern was repeated in most of 2012. Total sales growth points to the multiples growing share, but site growth has clearly slowed since it averaged over 4% from September 2011 to April 2012 before starting to decelerate. The deceleration appears to be continuing and if LFL performance continues to be weak we would expect that to continue in 2013.”

The Coffer Peach Tracker* industry sales monitor for the UK pub and restaurant sector collects and analyses monthly performance data from operating groups, representing combined annual turnover of over £6 billion, and is recognised as the established industry benchmark.

Coffer Peach Business Tracker is powered by Demographix

About Coffer Peach Business Tracker:

Peach Factory collects sales figures directly from 24 leading companies.

Participants include Mitchells & Butlers (owner of Harvester, Toby, Browns, All Bar One etc), Pizza Hut, Whitbread (Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Table Table), Gondola (PizzaExpress, Zizzi, ASK, Byron), Tragus (Café Rouge, Bella Italia, Strada), Stonegate (Slug & Lettuce, Yates’), Spirit Group (Chef & Brewer, Fayre & Square), Orchid Pub Co, Marston’s, Wagamama, YO! Sushi, Novus (Tiger Tiger), Fuller’s, Bramwell Pub Co, Carluccio’s, Young’s, Living Ventures, Amber Taverns, Hall & Woodhouse, Intertain, Tattershall Castle Group and La Tasca.