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May 01, 2012

Spring sunshine boosts hospitality sales

The unseasonably warm weather in March helped boost sales in the pub and restaurant sector, figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker have revealed.

Total sales in March were up 6.3% on the same period last year, which represented a modest bounce back for the sector which has struggled with falling consumer spend and increasing food prices. 

“The good weather will certainly have helped trading, particularly in the pub market, which performed more strongly than high street restaurants,” said Peter Martin, chief executive at Peach Factory, which produces the Tracker in partnership with KPMG and the Coffer Group.  “But the outlook for the rest of the year is less positive.

“The informal eating and drinking-out market has remained fairly stable over the past two years in terms of like-for-like growth,” he added. “We predict another essentially flat trading year.”

The Coffer Peach figures were collected from 24 leading pub and restaurant chains, but according to the British Hospitality Association (BHA), small and independent operators “were also doing well”, and had benefited from the recent warm temperatures.

“Having a meal out or sitting in a pub garden is part of our lifestyle now, and even though consumers are reluctant to spend lots of money, there are plenty of independent pubs and restaurants that are thriving,” said BHA spokesman Miles Quest.

Quest added that while smaller run businesses couldn’t necessarily compete with big brands’ marketing budgets, they often “offered a personal touch”. “Owners coming to greet diners personally or an owner-managed pub might be the centre of a local community — these are often the things that bring customers back, rather than it just being about the food or location.”

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) added that high street shops also performed well in March due to spring sunshine, but that “underlying economic challenges remained”.

“Consumers are really feeling the pinch, so while it was great to see the warm weather transform the high street for a short period, we know that there are still serious problems in the economy affecting how people spend money,” said BRC spokeswoman Sarah Cordey.