London operators enjoy 3% boost as rest of UK sees damp March trading

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Restaurant and pub groups in London saw a 3% increase in like-for-like sales last month compared with the rest of the country which collectively suffered a 0.5% decrease in sales.

According to a new report from sector sales monitor, Coffer Peach Business Tracker, a late Easter holiday break is the prime culprit for poor March sales. Restaurants in particular were hit and saw a 1.4% decline whilst pub groups were flat.

“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% decrease overall, operators will be hoping for an extra uplift when April numbers appear,” said Peter Martin, vice president of CGA Peach.

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“With or without Easter, London saw strong trading during the month, with a 2.9% 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% in March.

Martin added: “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.”

In the report, 34 companies were tracked, including Fuller’s, Greene King, Marston’s, Mitchells & Butlers, Restaurant Group, Whitbread and Young’s.

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

However, the underlying annual sales trend shows sector like-for-likes running at just 0.8% 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%, reflecting the continuing impact of new openings over the year.

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