Late Easter dampens March sales for restaurant and pub operators

12 April 2017

  • March like-for-likes sales down 0.5 per cent nationally.
  • But London bucks trend with 2.9 per cent LFL increase.

Britain’s restaurant and pub groups saw collective like-for-like sales fall back 0.5 per cent in March, according to latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker – with the late Easter holiday break being the chief culprit.

Restaurant chains recorded collective like-for-like sales down 1.4 per cent in March, with trading in managed pubs flat compared with the same month last year.

'Easter can usually be relied on to provide a significant boost to the eating and drinking out market, but with it falling in April this year, a month later than last time, it has skewed March trading figures. But with only a 0.5 per cent decrease overall, operators will be hoping for an extra uplift when April numbers appear,'

Said Peter Martin, vice president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM.

'With or without Easter, London saw strong trading during the month, with a 2.9 per cent like-for-like increase across the market, driven in particular by robust sales in pubs and bars. The capital showed no immediate or obvious reaction to the Westminster terror attack either. However, outside the M25 like-for-likes dropped 1.7 per cent in March.

'With growing cost pressures on the sector from business rates, food price inflation and wage increases, the fact that consumer spending on out-of-home food and drink appears at least to be holding up will be some relief for operators,' Martin added.

The March numbers follow a 1.7 per cent like-for-like market increase in February, a 1.9 per cent rise in January and 2.2 per cent growth over the Christmas and New Year period.

However, the underlying annual sales trend shows sector like-for-likes running at just 0.8 per cent ahead for the 12 months to the end of March. 

Total sales growth in March among the 34 companies in the Tracker cohort was up 2.1 per cent, reflecting the continuing impact of new openings over the year. 

Trevor Watson, executive director at Davis Coffer Lyons, said:

'The strength of the London market shows that the capital is much more resistant to terror attacks, in commercial terms, than in previous years. Consumer spending in the UK remains firm, with London benefitting most from the weaker exchange rate which is under-pinning overseas visitor and staycation spending. The slight dip in sales at the national level should be recovered in April with the benefit of the late Easter.'

'For operators, Easter is now a close second to Christmas as a benchmark period,' said Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM.

'An early Easter last year makes these figures tricky to assess although a 0.5 per cent like-for-like decrease will be seen positively by many. This is especially good news when compared to the larger fall in overall retail sales for the same period. The trend towards experiences continues, with consumers increasing spend on eating and drinking-out over ownership of shop-bought products.'

About Coffer Peach Tracker
The Coffer Peach Tracker industry sales monitor for the UK pub and restaurant sector collects and analyses monthly performance data from 34 operating groups, and is recognised as the established industry benchmark. CGA Peach is part of CGA Strategy.

Pub and restaurant group sales performance for last 12 months

  Apr  May Jun  Jul  Aug Sep  Oct Nov  Dec  Jan  Feb  Mar 
LFLs  -0.8%  -1.4%  1.8%  0.3%  0.6%  1.8%  -1.0%  1.1%  1.1%  1.9%  1.7%  -0.5%
Total  3.1%  2.2%  5.7%  4.0%  4.2%  5.0%  1.9%  4.1%  4.4%  4.4%  4.7%  2.1%

Source: Coffer Peach Business Tracker