by Max Gosney
Food pubs basked in a 30% sales boom during May bank holiday, easing fears over a predicted slowdown in consumer spending.
Pub chefs across the UK reported record-breaking business despite high-street retailers' pessimistic prediction of a dip in summer sales.
Gastro pubs have bucked the spending freeze, which saw average three-month high-street sales crash to their lowest level since 1992 according to a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) survey.
Anthony Williams, head chef at the Williams Arms in Braunton, Devon, said: "There was no evidence of consumer slowdown on bank holiday weekend. We were extremely busy and profits were up by about 30%.
"This year is definitely better for business than 2004 and we're having to turn away customers some lunchtimes."
Caterers continue to thrive despite CBI figures reporting a tough time for furniture and homeware shops. Steve Prescott, head chef at the Eagle & Child in Parbold, Ormskirk, Lancashire, said: "May was a very good month and we were up on like-for-like sales by about 10%.
"I don't think we've had a quiet period since before Christmas and it looks set to continue for the rest of the year." Consumer confidence also spread north of the border according to Tony Budde, proprietor/head chef at the Unicorn Inn, Kincardine-on-Forth, Fife, Scotland. "May bank holiday was the busiest week since we opened the doors. Takings were up by 40% and we had to beg, steal and borrow extra ingredients from suppliers," he said.
However some pub chefs stressed caution over future consumer spending. Paul Bloxham, proprietor at the Cabinet at Reed, near Royston, Hertfordshire, said: "Although we enjoyed a fantastic month I noticed a lot of people paying with cash. When the £50 notes come out you know people have reached their credit-card limits."