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April restaurant sales recover from 'big freeze'

17 | 05 | 13

Restaurant and pub sales bounced back in April after the damaging effect of the unusually cold March, a new report has found. 

The latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker statistics show that collective like-for-like sales were up by 0.1 per cent compared to April last year. March's figures had been three per cent lower than the same month in 2012. 

Peter Martin of Peach Factory, the business intelligence specialist that produces the tracker, said the statistics are actually stronger than they appear, as they only take in Easter Monday, where as last year's April included the whole Easter weekend. He added: "The good weather at the end of the month helped to compensate for the loss of that Easter trading."

Total sales, including the impact of new openings, were up by 2.8 per cent compared to the last April. London showed a stronger level of performance than the rest of the country and pubs generally did better than restaurants – with those in the capital doing particularly well. 

There was evidence that casual dining restaurant brands in London turned a corner, as after six months of like-for-like decline, the annual rate turned positive - increasing by 0.3 per cent on a year-on-year basis.

David Coffer, chairman of the Coffer Group, which contributes to the tracker along with Baker Tilly and UBS, said: "The overlap of the Easter trading period has confused data but, nevertheless, the stronger trend in London compared to the rest of the country is still very evident, with the impact of weather conditions also having a great impact on an increasingly fickle and sophisticated public."

Paul Newman, co-head of leisure and hospitality at Baker Tilly, added that total sales within the M25 grew by 5.6 per cent compared to April 2012 and this reflects the "bullish" attitude of operators who have plenty of new openings in the pipeline. 
This is certainly positive news for kitchen and catering equipment suppliers, who stand to benefit from any new venues in the capital and beyond.

However, Mr Newman did warn that there are growing concerns over the potential "overheating" of the new site rental market. He claimed that balancing top-line growth against a deterioration of new site operating margins will require careful management from the companies involved.

Jarrod Castle, leisure analyst at UBS European Leisure Research, said the industry expects the good weather experienced over the early May Bank Holiday to support additional growth in May. 

Earlier this month, managing director of Horizons Peter Backman claimed the food service sector is set for long-term progression. He said the industry is over the worst of the recession, but warned it will take until 2016 for food sales to return to 2007 levels. Mr Backman added that it is the companies that can best adapt to changing consumer habits that will benefit the most in the coming years. 

"Many operators have responded to trading challenges by looking at new opportunities and serving food throughout the day. 

"The real winners have been snacking and the breakfast market. We think the two will grow considerably over the next few years."ADNFCR-16001031-ID-801586920-ADNFCR

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