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Pubs fare well in May sunshine as restaurant sales suffer

Managed pubs saw collective like-for-likes jump 3.5% for May, with drink-led outlets doing best, according to new data.

The Coffer Peach Business Tracker, produced by business insight consultancy CGA in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM, showed casual dining brands also saw like-for-like sales drop 2.1% against the same period last year.

Overall, the sector saw an 1.4% uplift in trading in May, an improvement from April’s 1.2% decline.

London performed marginally better than the rest of the country with like-for-like sales up 1.6% against 1.4% for outside the M25, with the difference between pubs and restaurants mirroring the national picture.

Underlying like-for-like growth for the 39 companies in the Tracker cohort, which represents both large and small groups, is still subdued, running at just 0.6% for the 12 months to the end of May, but up from 0.4% at the end of April.

There was total sales growth across the companies in the Tracker, which includes the effect of new openings, was 4.5% in May, reflecting continuing if slower brand rollouts, and running at 3.8% for the 12 months to the end of the month.

Furthermore, the latest CGA Fourth Business Confidence Survey in May showed that 75% of company leaders are now optimistic about the prospects for their own businesses, with 47% positive about the market as a whole — both 11 percentage points higher than the last confidence survey in February.

Peter Martin, vice president of CGA, said: “It’s a familiar story. When the sun shines people head for the pub, or more precisely the pub garden. In contrast, restaurants do better when it’s dull and damp. Weather remains the biggest factor when it comes to sales in the out-of-home market. It’s the way it is.”

Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure added, “It’s always easy to blame the weather. But it was a long wait until May when the pub sector got the benefits of some sunshine. Better weather and a World Cup with a record 32 teams should see very strong trading for many pub businesses over the coming period.

Restaurants and food led pubs may have a tougher summer to add to the pressures they are under. In the longer term, we see competition for casual dining chains become little less intense as poorer performing units are closed.”

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