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Eating and drinking out-of-home sees early January uplift

Eating and drinking out-of-home sees early January uplift

The British public is continuing to go out to eat and drink, but the UK’s leading pub and restaurant chains are having to work extra hard, particularly with promotions, to keep customers coming through their doors. Aggregated sales figures from 11 of the biggest pub and restaurant operators show that in January like-for-like figures were ahead 5.6% against January 2008.

An increase in discounted offers and an extended New Year holiday were among the factors that helped the leading groups attract business. However, operators are still expecting a tough 2009.

The data comes from the newly launched Peach Business Tracker, run in conjunction with UBS and KPMG, which monitors sales trends among the leading groups. The Peach Business Tracker collects and collates sales data on a regular monthly basis from 11 of the UK’s biggest operators, to provide a unique picture of the health of the eating and drinking out-of-home market.

On a month-on-month basis, January food and drink sales were 12.5% below those of December.

Peter Martin, chief executive and founder of Peach Factory, which has developed the Business Tracker project, said: “Far from eating-in being the new eating-out, as some retail chains would have us believe, people are continuing to go out, and the major players are working hard to maintain that.

“This month’s figures for food and drink sales may be more robust than many had expected, but they suggest that the public continues to want to go out to eat and drink when the experience and offer is right, and that well-run pubs and restaurants provide a welcome respite from the gloom of the down-turn.”

Richard Hathaway, head of Travel, Leisure and Tourism, at KPMG commented: "The figures suggest the eating and drinking out sector is showing resilience in the downturn, but the test will be whether January’s sales bounce continues and translates to the bottom line. The plethora of promotional activity will have helped drive sales in the sector, but could ultimately impact profitability.

"There is also the impact of discounting on brand value to consider, although during such difficult times, survival and generating cash are the priorities. The good news is that consumers currently remain tempted to eat and drink out, only time will tell if this remains the case."

Companies participating in Peach Business Tracker include Mitchells & Butlers, JD Wetherspoon, Whitbread Restaurants (including Beefeater, Brewers Fayre and Table Table), Spirit Group, Gondola (owner of Pizza Express, Zizzi and ASK), Bay Restaurants (operator of Slug & Lettuce, La Tasca and Ha! Ha!), Town & City Pubs (owner of Yates’s), Tragus Group (operator of Bella Italia, Strada and Café Rouge), Barracuda Group (including Smith & Jones and Varsity), Wagamama and Carluccio’s.

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