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Pubs boost strong on-trade sales over festive season

Pubs saw some of the best seasonal sales over Christmas on the back of strong drink sales, the latest CGA business tracker has revealed, boosting the performance of the wider on-trade.

Like-for-like sales across the UK’s total managed pubs and restaurants rose 4.1% on the same period in 2017 according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker, which monitors and analyses sales results from 49 pub and restaurant groups, which have a combined turnover of over £9 billion. It includes Mitchells & Butlers, Pizza Hut, Whitbread, Pizza Express, The Restaurant Group, Stonegate, Marston’s, The Alchemist and Liberation Group.

The tracker is produced by business insight consultancy CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM.

Pubs showed a particularly strong performance, the tracker said, up 5.1% on the same time last year, with drinks sales proving the main driver of this growth, up 6.4% in the period, compared to a 3.6% rise in food sales. This was partly due to premiumisation, Karl Chessell, director of CGA said, as consumers increasingly looked for a “memorable experience”.

This trend also benefitted the restaurant sector, he added, indicated by the number of covers served rising only 1.3% from last year, while sales grew 2.4% compared to last year.

Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure said that although the months ahead were going to be “tough”, trading had been robust during the crucial Christmas trading period.

“Pre-booked sales in particular were strong,” he noted, adding that, “consumers were escaping the political turmoil and heading for pubs and restaurants to escape the tedium.”

This was in “stark contrast” to the gloom hanging over retail, Chessell pointing out that the British Retail Consortium suffered “its worst Christmas for a decade with zero sales growth”.

“What will be most encouraging for these pub and restaurant groups is that trading was positive throughout December, following a 1.5% sales uplift in November,” he added.

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, said “helpful” weather comparatives and an extended holiday period for many families had boosted the results, but noted that discounting was already increasing.

“We won’t know until later in the year if increased sales have converted to profit,” he said. “This conversion level will be crucial for operators who continue to face rising costs and more cautious consumer spending.”

However sales were not uniform across the whole of UK, with London proving to be the power-house of the growth across the on-trade, with sales rising 5% in the six weeks to January 6, compared to 3.8% outside the M25.

The tracker is produced by business insight consultancy CGA in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM.

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