Collective like-for-like sales were up 2.5% across pub, bar and restaurant groups over Christmas, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker.
In the six weeks ended 5 January, trading was positive across all parts of the industry. Restaurant chains saw a 2.3% uplift in like-for-like sales, while managed pub and bar groups saw a sales increase of 2.7% against the year prior.
Bar businesses performed best, with a collective uplift of 3.9% in like-for-like sales, but food sales “also did well”. Across managed pubs, drink sales were up 2.4%, while food sales were up 2.2%.
Total sales over the six week festive period were ahead 5.4% compared with the same period in 2018.
Karl Chessell, director of business insight consultancy firm CGA, said: “It has been a challenging year for the eating and drinking-out market, so these figures will be a welcome boost for operators. Christmas and New Year is a vital time for the industry, so to see positive growth is good news.
“These results underline the fact that the public still wants to go out to enjoy themselves over the holiday period, but also emphasise how important this time of year is to the health of the market, and that operators have to keep creating good reasons for people to go out.”
He added: “For the first time, the Coffer Peach Tracker has been able to pull out separate figures for bar companies in the Tracker cohort, providing a more detailed analysis of the trading landscape.”
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, said: “Operators will be celebrating a festive gift that ends a challenging year on a welcome high. Like-for-likes improved for both restaurants and wet-led businesses despite strong performance in the same period last year on top of the heavy rain and the political uncertainty affecting much of December.
“With consumer confidence finally improving, brands will look to carry this sales momentum into the New Year by capitalising on the trends for veganuary and alcohol alternative drinks without resorting to heavy discounting.”
Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “There is a post-election sense of optimism, and food and drink consumers have driven the first wave of this during the pre-Christmas period.
“This year, we are starting to see cautious confidence in the market although expect that any uplift in trade and consumer confidence will be steady rather than spectacular. We expect market activity in 2020 to see an increase on 2019 levels.”
The Coffer Peach Tracker is produced by CGA, in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM. It analyses performance data from 57 operating groups in the industry.