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UK Pubs and Restaurants Toast Strong Christmas Trading

UK pubs and restaurants defied the malaise affecting high street retailers and enjoyed strong trading over Christmas and the New Year, new figures have revealed.

Pub, bar and restaurant groups saw collective like-for-like sales grow by 2.5% over the six weeks of the festive season, compared to the same period in 2018, according to the Coffer Peach Tracker, which analyses data from 57 operating groups including Mitchells & Butlers, TGI Fridays and Byron.

While drinks-led businesses performed most strongly, restaurants also experienced a boost, the sector benchmark showed.

Restaurant chains saw a 2.3% uplift in like-for-likes, with managed pub and bar groups up 2.7% on 2018. Drink-led pubs outdid their food-led counterparts, but food sales also did well. Across the managed pub sector, drink sales were up 2.4%, with food up 2.2%.

Regionally, London traded slightly better than the rest of the country, with like-for-like sales across the capital up 2.7% compared to 2.5% outside the M25.

Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the tracker, in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, said: “It has been a challenging year for the eating and drinking out market, so these figures will be a welcome boost for operators. Christmas and New Year is a vital time for the industry, so to see positive growth is good news.

“These results underline the fact that the public still wants to go out to enjoy themselves over the holiday period, but it also emphasises how important this time of year is to the health of the market, and that operators have to keep creating good reasons for people to go out.”

Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, attributed the strong trading volumes to the December election win for Boris Johnson’s Conservative government. He said: “There is a post-election sense of optimism, and food and drink consumers have driven the first wave of this during the pre-Christmas period. This year, we are starting to see cautious confidence in the market although expect that any uplift in trade and consumer confidence will be steady rather than spectacular. We expect market activity in 2020 to be an increase on 2019 levels.”

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