Easter delivers sales boost for pub and restaurant groups

16 April 2015

  • Easter weekend like-for-like sales up 5.1 per cent on 2014
  • Follows weaker trading in March 

It was an Easter break to celebrate for Britain’s managed pub and restaurant groups with collective like-for-like sales up 5.1 per cent on 2014’s four-day holiday weekend, according to latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker figures. However, the strong Easter performance followed a weaker March, when trading was marginally down on last year.

Like-for-like sales in March, across the 30 companies in the tracker sample, were down an average 0.3 per cent on the same month last year – ending a run of 23 consecutive months of positive LFL growth for the sector.

'The particularly strong Easter showing right at the start of April will have helped overcome any disappointment among operators with the essentially flat performance in March – with restaurant chains having the most to feel happy about,' said Peter Martin, vice president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group, RSM and UBS.

Casual dining brands collectively enjoyed a 7.6 per cent like-for-like sales increase against Easter last year, with managed pub groups ahead 4.0 per cent. The Coffer Peach figures compared trading over the four-days of April 3 to 6 this year with the 2014 holiday weekend of April 18 to 21.

'Since Christmas sales growth has been slow but steady, so the Easter figures will be particularly welcome – and it may be that the more disappointing March numbers are down to people waiting for Easter to go out in force to eat and drink,' said Martin.

'So far this year, restaurant groups have in general been out-performing pubs. In March they still saw like-for-likes edge up 0.7 per cent, while pubs were down 0.7 per cent, with pub restaurants particularly having a tougher time.'

'This may in part be down to the investment cycle with the effect of much of the spending on pub revamps in recent years now beginning to wear off, while casual dining chains are now more active in rolling-out and reinvigorating their brands,' he added.

London, which so far this year has been the brightest trading area, saw a similar LFL sales dip in March to the rest of the country. Total sales, reflecting new openings, across the Tracker cohort were ahead 3.7 per cent, with casual dining groups up 6.6 per cent in line with their increased roll-out activity.

Looking at the longer term trend, collective like-for-like sales for the full 12 months to the end of March were up 2.0 per cent on the previous year.

Paul Newman, Head of Leisure and Hospitality at RSM, added:

'After weaker like-for-like trading figures in March, operators will be delighted with the significant increase in turnout for Easter. The reasonable weather combined with travel chaos caused by the rail and road disruption seems to have driven consumers to turn their attention to their local eateries, with restaurant sales up almost 13 per cent year on year.'

'For a holiday period traditionally associated with eating and drinking at home with family, Easter is now close to joining Christmas as a benchmark period in operators’ diaries. Its growing importance is indicative of a sector where investment in entrepreneurship has generated inspirational brands and changed not only the face of the UK high street, but also with it the UK consumers’ leisure habits.'

Mark Sheehan, Managing Director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said:

'Eating and drinking out is benefiting from very long term growth. We have seen an evolution of the market with many structural changes - particularly with the continued re-positioning of many pubs. During March we saw a small decline in like-for-likes, however, this was compensated by strong Easter trading - both of which showing the influence the weather has on our sector. The long term trend remains very strong.'

Jarrod Castle, Leisure Analyst at UBS Investment Research, observed:

'The 12-month moving average for like-for-like sales inside the M25 is now 2.5 per cent up, while outside it is 1.6 per cent. However, we note that London and the UK regions have recently seen more similar levels of LFL performance. March like-for-like sales inside the M25 declined by 0.4 per cent, compared to February’s 1.7 per cent growth and January’s 1.8 per cent advance, while outside the like-for-like sales were down 0.2 per cent in March, up 1.6 per cent in February and 1.3 per cent ahead in January 1.3 per cent.'

Pub and restaurant group sales performance for last 12 months

  April May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Jan  Feb March
LFLs 4.4% 0.2% 0.4% 2.2% 1.3% 2.2% 2.2% 3.4% 1.9% 1.3% 1.6% -0.3%
Total 7.0% 2.5% 3.1% 4.3% 4.3% 5.2% 5.7% 6.8% 5.6% 5.8% 5.8% 3.7%

Source: Coffer Peach Business Tracker