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Easter heatwave boosts drink sales while eating-out market suffers

The hot Easter weekend delivered different outcomes for Britain’s managed pub and restaurant groups, latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker show.

While pub sales surged, restaurants took a hit during the month of April. Pub and bar chains reported collective like-for-like sales up 5.3% for the four-day break compared to Easter 2018, with drink-led pubs up 10.9%.

However, the overall eating and drinking-out market was actually down 3.6% over the four-day weekend, as restaurant chains saw collective like-for-like sales fall by 18.6% against last Easter’s trading.

Collective like-for-like sales for the combined managed pub, bar and restaurant sector were up 1.1% on April last year. Pubs and bars were up 2.1%, while restaurant groups reported like-for-like decline of 0.7%. Within the pub grouping, drink sales were ahead 2.7%, with food up 0.8%.

Regionally, London saw a fall in like-for-like trading, down 0.7% on last April, while outside the M25 was up 1.7% on a like-for-like basis for the month.

Looking at the underlying trends, however, London is still outperforming the rest of the country. Market like-for-likes overall were up 1.7% for the 12 months to the end of April, with London running at 2.5% ahead and outside the M25 up 1.5%.

Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM, said: “You simply can’t escape the fact that weather always has a major influence on the fortunes of the pub and restaurant sector – and what’s good for pubs is rarely good for restaurants. These Easter figures just underline that reality.

“The Easter weekend last year, which fell in March rather than April, was good for trade overall, and particularly restaurants, as although the weather wasn’t stunning, the holiday weekend came in the aftermath of the snow that accompanied the Beast from the East. There was plenty of pent up demand from people wanting to get out, which helped boost sales across the sector by almost 6% against Easter 2017. So although this Easter may have been a bit of a disappointment overall, it was still better than two years ago.”

Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “The Easter numbers are difficult to measure because of the contrasting weather year-on-year and later Easter. The April numbers overall though were down and show the pressure the hospitality sector is under – like many other sectors relying on consumer confidence. Pubs trade well when consumer confidence is low, but the restaurant sector is also affected by the retail woes we are seeing.”

Total sales across the 50 companies in the Tracker, which include the effect of net new openings since this time last year, were ahead 4% compared to last April, showing that although openings have slowed they have not stopped.

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, said: “Fierce competition from new openings continue to hit top line growth whilst additional costs from increased minimum wage and pension contributions bite into margins. The eating and drinking out sector desperately needs a sustained run of positive sales growth just to stand still.”

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